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Why the Charlie's Angels reboot bombed at the box office

Charlie might be disappointed to hear that his Angels didn't max it to box office heaven.

Following the November 15 release of the Elizabeth Banks-directed Charlie's Angels reboot starring Kristen Stewart, Ella Balinska, and Naomi Scott (alongside Banks herself), Sony Pictures executives are reeling after the movie's disappointing turn at the box office. When the film's opening weekend came to a close on November 17, the numbers didn't lie: according to Deadline, Charlie's Angels had a bleak $8.6 million domestic opening, and earned a paltry $27.9 million internationally across 26 markets. The film had an especially bad opening in China, making just $7.8 million in the lucrative overseas territory. 

From the outside, the Charlie's Angels reboot had a lot going for it: a sharp-eyed director in Banks, who famously helmed the Pitch Perfect sequel (in which she also starred as Gail Abernathy-McKadden-Feinberger); a female-led cast featuring indie darling Stewart, up-and-comer Balinska; and recent Disney movie princess Scott (who starred as Jasmine in the live-action Aladdin); a long-standing property upon which to build its plot; and even Patrick Stewart as the titular Charlie's original assistant John Bosley. 

Unfortunately, the new Charlie's Angels flick was reportedly plagued by problems that contributed to its poor box office performance. Here's why the Charlie's Angels reboot bombed at the box office.

Script problems, fresh faces, and lackluster action may be to blame for Charlie's Angels' bombing

According to Deadline's box office editor Anthony D'Alessandro, the dismal box office returns the Charlie's Angels reboot pulled were partially due to issues with the script, which underwent a number of changes during development and production. There were apparently certain pain points in the script that "could never be resolved" — even with input and rewrites from Banks, Evan Spiliotopoulos, Jay Basu, Craig Mazin, and Semi Chellas. 

After all those script changes, it was reportedly nearly impossible for the Charlie's Angels reboot to "attract top talent" — namely Jennifer Lawrence, Emma Stone, and Margot Robbie, whom D'Alessandro noted "would have potentially jazzed up business." The apparent inability for the production to pull in Oscar-nominated (and Oscar-winning) actresses like Lawrence, Stone, and Robbie is said to have led Sony brass to pick two relative fresh faces to star alongside Stewart. However, Balinska and Scott may have been too fresh-faced for general audiences, with their lack of household name status being a detriment rather than a drawing point for the Charlie's Angels reboot. 

Additionally, D'Alessandro mentioned that the inclusion of Stewart — who is "in a different place in her career professionally, publicly, and privately" than her co-stars — may have caused the new Charlie's Angels flick to flop. He doubled down on Stewart's role in the film's poor opening weekend by saying that after years of arthouse films and low-key projects, it was unlikely that the actress would be able to draw a huge audience for a movie like Charlie's Angels, especially when she's paired with new faces like Balinska and Scott.

But the film's grim box office showing isn't entirely on Stewart and her fellow Angels. The film's lackluster action sequences may also be to blame, with D'Alessandro arguing that the reboot makes the scenes in the previous two Charlie's Angels films look like Star Wars

Did anyone even want a new Charlie's Angels movie?

Another possible reason why the Charlie's Angels reboot bombed at the box office? Many people questioned the mere existence of the film, and weren't convinced that the world needed another Charlie's Angels movie. 

According to D'Alessandro, Sony was sold on the project after Banks threw her hat in the ring for a "Charlie's Angels reboot with a modern feminist spin." But while studio executives had little doubt that the movie should be made, there was no telling how audiences would respond. Sure, it's been years since the original Charlie's Angels films (which starred Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu, and Drew Barrymore) debuted in theaters, but was a reboot really necessary? Based on the film's poor opening weekend, it apparently wasn't.

The Charlie's Angels reboot may be a blow to female-led films

Unfortunately, in the wake of Charlie's Angels' box office hell, there's likely to be a flood of think-pieces about how female-led movies don't bring people to the box office — despite the fact that the opposite has proven true more often than not.

A recent example is Hustlers, the Jennifer Lopez-led vehicle that premiered to great returns in September 2019, telling the real-life story of a group of New York City dancers who fleeced Wall Street Bankers out of their fortunes. The film, fronted by a female cast and made by a predominantly female creative team, ended up earning an impressive $33.2 million domestic debut — marking the largest opening of Lopez's storied career and proving that movies made by and led by women can and will succeed. 

In the end, the issues with Charlie's Angels may have been rooted in its script and production, but it's still disappointing across the board to see the film financially flounder this badly, especially when you pair it with a middling 58 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Stars like Stewart and Banks will absolutely survive this career blip, but as for Balinska and Scott, it's not a great sign that their ambitious effort was DOA at the box office. Going forward, it's clear that studios need to recalibrate and learn their lessons from the mishaps behind Charlie's Angels