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Entertainment

M. Night Shyamalan's Latest Twist Ending: Box-Office Profit


Few Hollywood figures have experienced a critical fall from grace quite like M. Night Shyamalan. The director’s first major film, The Sixth Sense, was a runaway critical and commercial success, earning $672.8 million worldwide. But with each passing effort, the reviews grew harsher, his twist endings more painfully eye-rolling. By the time he released The Happening, in 2008, he was no longer M. Night Shyamalan, a mystical auteur with a promising future. He was M. Night Shyamalan, a self-serious and pompous punchline.

As his new film, After Earth, starring Will Smith and his son Jaden, arrives in theaters today, we were curious about the financial risks of backing a Shyamalan film and if there is any correlation between his scathing reviews and his box-office performance. So Bloomberg Businessweek compiled the profits from the movies he wrote and directed, using data from the website Box Office Mojo, and compared those totals with each film’s overall score from the film-review aggregator, Rotten Tomatoes. (If you’re unaware, know that Citizen Kane is 100 percent ripe, Gigli is 7 percent rotten.)

Going by the data, you’ll see that the critical response to his films and their bottom lines declined in almost lockstep for six straight movies. But while the reviews continued to descend in a perfect ski slope, the box office saw a notable resurgence for his last two films. The Happening, made on a $48 million budget, earned $163.4 million worldwide. His last film, The Last Airbender, pulled in $319.7 million worldwide. (Its budget was $150 million.)

So is Shyamalan a good bet? Only time will tell whether After Earth, which was produced on a $130 million budget, prolongs or reverses this trend. But the reviews are out—and the film is 17 percent rotten.

Mayo is an associate editor for Bloomberg Businessweek.

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