Kevin Costner’s Big ‘Horizon’ Bet Falls Flat With $11 Million Opening Weekend

Kevin Costner made a big bet on himself and his “Yellowstone”-driven fanbase to make his passion project “Horizon: An American Saga.” But it’s looking like his gamble isn’t paying off.

Released in 3,334 locations, the $100 million western epic – the first of a planned four films with the second chapter coming in August – grossed only $11 million this weekend, on target with its pre-release tracking that projected a $10-12 million start.

But more concerning for “Horizon” is the mixed word-of-mouth the film is receiving from audiences after getting a tepid 40% Rotten Tomatoes score from critics. The film received a B- on CinemaScore and an RT audience score of 69%, decreasing the likelihood that this opening weekend will springboard into a strong Fourth of July result in rural states that could allow it to leg out through the month.

Buying a ticket for “Horizon” isn’t the same as watching Costner on his hit series “Yellowstone” on linear or streaming TV. The early reception suggests that not everyone is buying in to Costner’s sprawling epic — “Horizon: Chapter 1” sports a three-hour running time.

While films like “Oppenheimer” and “Avatar: The Way of Water” have shown that long runtimes are not an insurmountable hurdle, Costner’s name recognition may not to get moviegoers on board for a cinematic saga that will have a miniseries-length time of 12 hours to play out if the star/director is able to complete it.

“It’s not like ‘Lord of the Rings’ which was based on a known book and got incredibly strong reviews,” Boxoffice Pro editor Daniel Loria said. “This is, at its core, an adult drama, and we’ve seen from ‘The Bikeriders,’ which has grossed $16 million through two weekends so far, just how much of an audience there is for adult dramas in theaters.”

Similar to how Francis Ford Coppola put his own money into his new film “Megalopolis” to bring it to fruition, Costner put down a reported $38 million of his own money for “Horizon: Chapter 1,” along with covering much of the film’s marketing costs. The rest of the film’s $100 million production budget came from a pair of anonymous investors and selling foreign distribution rights with assistance from sales company K5 International.

Domestically, Costner reached a deal with Warner Bros. to distribute the film prior to the Warner Bros. Discovery merger in 2022, a deal that post-merger motion picture group chiefs Pam Abdy and Michael De Luca maintained as it has worked to build Warner as a studio that works with top filmmakers like Denis Villeneuve, Tim Burton and Bong Joon-ho. But Warner Bros. isn’t paying for the marketing costs — that’s entirely on Costner.

Production has started on “Horizon: Chapter 3,” but Costner is still in search of funds to complete both that installment and keep cameras rolling for the fourth and final part. Putting his money and muscle where his mouth is, Costner has taken every effort to promote the film in the rural states that made “Yellowstone” a huge hit.

That includes a massive press tour, not just with the Hollywood trades and national publications, but local media in Utah, Texas, Wyoming, Oklahoma and other rural states. The hope is that the core “Yellowstone” audience – rural residents who skew older and male and who don’t always show up on opening weekend — will build buzz for the film that will help it endure outside of coastal location.

If it worked, that would be similar to how Angel Studios’ “Sound of Freedom” was championed by a portion of the country that didn’t feel catered to by what Hollywood is putting out.

Barring a completely unexpected Independence Day comeback fueled by word-of-mouth from those who did enjoy the film, “Horizon” is unlikely to get the sort of box office numbers that will probably be needed for Costner to convince financiers to put in the money to let him finish his planned four films.

Beyond the finances, there is one silver lining the “Field of Dreams” legend may take solace in. While Los Angeles remained the top performing city for “Horizon” due simply to the market’s size, the rest of the top five is significantly different than what is usually seen for summer studio films: Dallas, Phoenix, Houston and Salt Lake City.

Drilling down further into the top 10 performing theaters reveals a unique list: the top-grossing theater was the Larry Miller Pineview Stadium in St. George, Utah, followed by the Santikos Palladium in San Antonio. Three Harkins locations in Arizona are also on the list, with the only locations in the top 10 from major chains being a Regal Cinemas Warren theater in Moore, Oklahoma and the AMC Thoroughbred in Nashville, Tennessee.

All of these towns and states were areas where Costner heavily promoted the film — as Loria points out, “Horizon” also didn’t receive premium format support.

“From an exhibitor standpoint, the benefits that a film like ‘Horizon’ brings are only visible on a micro level rather than in the overall charts, but that doesn’t make it any less meaningful,” the Boxoffice Pro editor said. “Films like ‘Inside Out 2’ are huge for the theaters you see in the top 10 for ‘Horizon,’ no doubt. But Costner made a film that these rural theaters really benefit from because they appeal directly to their local audience.”

When Costner appeared before theater owners at CinemaCon this past spring to promote “Horizon” and receive a special award from the National Association of Theatre Owners, he spoke of how much he wanted to make this series specifically to be seen in theaters and to make the type of sweeping Western drama that he grew up watching on the big screen.

“Hopefully the people come and they keep coming and they binge your theaters,” Costner said. “There’s something in me that wanted to make this movie, and I never make one that I think won’t blow up.”

Costner received one of the loudest ovations of any of the stars that appeared at the exhibitor trade show. The detailed data for “Horizon” shows why. He has made a film that, while not doing big business on the charts, has contributed to the recent box office resurgence by bringing in moviegoers who might not be interested in films like “A Quiet Place: Day One” or “Despicable Me 4.”

That’s something for him to hang his Stetson on, even if his hopes of completing “Horizon: An American Saga” as he envisioned don’t end up being fulfilled.

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