Entertainment

'The Birth of a Nation' stumbles at box office during opening weekend

FILE - In this file image released by Fox Searchlight Films shows Nate Parker as Nat Turner, center, in a scene from "The Birth of a Nation." Nate Parker’s Nat Turner biopic “The Birth of a Nation,” opened with a disappointing $7.1 million, according to studio estimates Sunday, Oct. 9, 2016. (Jahi Chikwendiu/Fox Searchlight via AP, File)

Nate Parker's "The Birth of a Nation" was not so fortunate during its opening weekend, premiering to a disappointing $7.1 million across 2,105 theaters. The release was derailed after rape allegations against Parker and his "The Birth of a Nation" co-writer Jean Celestin resurfaced. Both men were accused of assaulting a college classmate over a decade ago. Although they were ultimately acquitted of those charges, news broke this summer that their accuser had committed suicide in 2012. The ensuing controversy overshadowed the strong reviews and may have hurt the film's Oscar chances.

Clearly, not all press is good press.

Jeff Bock, a box office analyst with Exhibitor Relations

The biopic about slave rebellion leader Nat Turner was a sensation at the Sundance Film Festival, where it premiered to a rapturous standing ovation and sold to Fox Searchlight for a record-shattering $17.5 million.

The film stands on its own. ... What it was before at Sundance, the actual celluloid, the image, is still the same, but the perception may have changed and there's not too much anyone can do about it.

Fox Searchlight distribution chief Frank Rodriguez
Summarized by

The Birth of a Nation (2016 film)

The Birth of a Nation is a 2016 American period drama film based on the story of Nat Turner, the enslaved man who led a slave rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia, in 1831. The film is co-written, co-produced and directed by Nate Parker(in his directorial debut) and stars Parker as Turner, with Armie Hammer, Aja Naomi King, Jackie Earle Haley, Penelope Ann Miller and Gabrielle Union in supporting roles.

Nate Parker

In 1999, while a sophomore at Pennsylvania State University, Parker and his roommate and wrestling teammate, Jean McGianni Celestin, were accused of raping a fellow Penn State student. The unnamed accuser stated that Parker and Celestin raped her while she was intoxicated and unconscious and said she was unsure of how many people had been involved.

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