Kevin Costner’s Horizon Saddles Up for Subdued Box Office Opening 5

In recent weeks, Kevin Costner embarked on a multi-city tour promoting Horizon: An American Saga — Chapter 1, the first of four big-budget Westerns that he directs and stars in. He appeared on local morning shows, did press junkets and visited at least one military installation.

Costner also taped personal messages for various theater chains, all of which are based in America’s heartland. That included sitting down with Greg Marcus, the affable CEO of Marcus Theatres, for a custom Horizon video that’s airing in Marcus cinemas.

It’s the middle of the country that Costner and Warner Bros. are counting on to boost Horizon throughout the Fourth of July corridor and beyond. Last year, the indie film Sound of Freedom, opening on July Fourth, came out of nowhere to become one the biggest hits of summer thanks to middle America. While the two movies couldn’t be more different, Horizon is hoping to ride that same wave of support, thanks to Costner’s own fan base and fans of Yellowstone, the hit TV series he left behind for Horizon.

On Friday, Costner will begin to learn to what degree he’s succeeded when the first of his four Horizon movies rides into thousands of theaters across the U.S. Tracking services from The Quorum to National Research Group all vary in their ranges, but the general consensus is that the Western will launch to $10 million to $12 million.

That’s not the sort of number a filmmaker or distributor wants to see for a film costing $100 million to produce. Many industry veterans believe tracking services aren’t necessarily capturing the audience for Horizon — i.e. older males adults, and particularly males living in smaller towns and cities in the West, South and Midwest.

It’s already stuff of legend how Costner put up $38 million of his own money to make Horizon, when no studio would sign on and finance, despite the fact that he is still remembered around the world for the Oscar-winning Dances With Wolves, which he likewise directed and starred in. Ultimately, Warner Bros. came aboard to distribute and help market the Horizon films for a fee, setting up a dual release plan that sees Chapter 2 hit theaters on Aug. 16. The financing for the films came from Costner’s money, two mystery investors and selling off foreign distribution rights. Costner is also paying for the marketing himself.

In terms of the overseas box office, Costner and international partner K5 international took Horizon Chapter 1 to the Cannes Film Festival, where it made its world premiere. While Costner and the film received a lengthy standing ovation, critics weren’t so kind. It stands at a 49 percent critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Horizon is described as a multi-faceted story covering the expansion and settlement of the American West that spans the four years of the Civil War, from 1861-1865. It is described as exploring “the lure of the Old West and how it was won — and lost — through the blood, sweat and tears of many.”

Costner stars opposite Sienna Miller, Jena Malone, Isabelle Fuhrman, Ella Hunt, Georgia MacPhail, Abbey Lee and Wasé Chief.

The fate of the final two Horizon films is unclear. Costner has started filming on Chapter 3, but needs more funds to complete his vision.

“I don’t want to let this pile of things I have — whether it’s money, whether it’s [possessions] — be so important to me that I can’t think about what I want to do,” Costner told The Hollywood Reporter‘s Scott Feinberg at Cannes, explaining why he put his own money into the movie. “I’m going to keep enough things that my family’s going to be good. … I’d like to have money, I’d like to have nice things, but I thought to myself, ‘That’s going to control me if I let it.’”

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