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'Never Say Never,' opening to $29.5 million in North America, posted a lifetime domestic gross of $73 million, making it the most successful concert film of all time domestically. Most box office observers say 'Believe' may only hit $10 million.
'Believe' is badly trailing similar concert documentaries. In August, 'One Direction: This Is Us' debuted to $15.8 million on its way to earning $28.9 million (even that was considered something of a disappointment).
Open Road Films, which is releasing 'Believe' in North America, points out that the movie is playing on only 1,037 screens, compared to 3,100 for 'Never Say Never,' which was distributed and marketed by Paramount.
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Nevertheless, other concert docs which have likewise opened on fewer screens than a usual release (2,500-plus screens) have done far more business.
Disney's 'Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour' opened on 683 screens in early February 2008, grossing $31.1 million. Exactly a year later, 'Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience' rolled out on 1,271 screens, grossing $12.5 million in its debut.
'Believe,' reteaming Bieber with his 'Never Say Never' director John M. Chu, has supplanted 'Katy Perry: Part of Me' as the worst opener among the recent slate of concert documentaries featuring young pop artists. Perry's film debuted to a meek $7.1 million from 2,730 screens in summer 2012.
Box office observers questioned whether some mothers kept their younger tweens away from 'Part of Me,' and they are wondering the same thing in regards to 'Believe'. When 'Never Say Never' was released, Bieber still had a squeaky clean image. His antics since -- including tweeting on Christmas Eve that he was retiring -- have made headlines around the world (the tweet was promptly removed).
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Open Road says Believe will be profitable for all involved, considering its modest $5 million budget. Open Road also spent only $5 million to market the film, far less than is usually spent on a nationwide release, saying it focused exclusively on Bieber's fanbase.
"It's a new model. We wanted to go straight to Justin's fans" said Open Road marketing chief Jason Cassidy. "Financially, we are going to be fine."
Still, there's no denying that many of Bieber's fans are staying away. Rivals question why Open Road -- owned by giant exhibitors Regal and AMC -- decided to open 'Believe' on Christmas, the most crowded time of the year.