I was looking at this years slate of Oscar contenders, and saw many people predicting Rush from director Ron Howard getting nominations in Editing, Cinematography, Sound Editing and Mixing. Howard's films have done well in the past, three of his films have been nominated for Best Picture: Apollo 13 (1995), A Beautiful Mind (2001), and Frost/Nixon (2008). Howard won two Oscars (Directing/Producing) A Beautiful Mind.
Howard films have also always fared well at the box office: Splash (1984)-68 million, Cocoon (1985)-76 million, Parenthood (1989)-100 million, Backdraft (1991)-77 million, Apollo 13 (1995)-173 million, Ransom (1996)-136 million, How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)-260 million, A Beautiful Mind (2001)-173 million, Cinderella Man (2005)-61 million, The Da Vinci Code (2006)-217 million, and Angels & Demons (2009)-133 million. These are all domestic, and not adjusted for inflation.
Howard has of course had some smaller box office numbers including: EdTV (1999)-22 million, The Missing (2003)-27 million, Frost/Nixon (2008)-18 million, and The Dilemma (2011)-48 million dollars.
At the moment Rush is number ranks number 18 out of his directorial achievements. The problem is that if you compare Rush to his other lower box office films, it does not fit the mold. Two of those films are comedic bombs, and the other two are period driven drama, which never tends to have a high box office. Rush was marketed as an adrenaline fueled racing film, with hot box office star Chris Hemsworth, and should have matched at least Cinderella Man with his sporting films.
What went wrong with Rush?
Bad Reviews/Poor Audience Feedback? No the critics enjoyed this film, and the reviews were pretty fantastic. It has an 88 percent on rottentomatoes.com, and only three rotten reviews from top critics. The metacritic score is 75, but average movie goers use rottentomatoes as opposed to this. Flixter says that 93 percent of audiences enjoyed the film, so audiences gave this the thumbs up.
Marketing: The film's commercials were all over the place with Regal Theatres, there were a lot of previews, commercials on television. I would argue that this could have been the weakest element, where the studio could have used edgier techniques to reach out to younger, and older demos.
Boring premise? The LA Times is quoted as saying the following:"there would be nothing remotely risky about making a film about rivals who enjoy taunting each other." "Rush's crack production team "make the lure and excitement of fast machines palpable on screen," This is one of the greatest racing rivalries of all times, sure it's not about NASCAR, but racing enthusiasts should still get behind this film.
No Hero: Both of the main characters are hard to root for, but does that matter anymore? The antihero has become the mainstream, and has not prevented numerous films with no clear hero as still box office successes.
At the end of the day netting only 25 million, Rush is one of the biggest box office bombs of Ron Howard's career, but there appears to be no real reason this movie failed. The film cost 38 million, and even with foreign markets this film will not be viewed as a success. As I analyze this myself there appears to be no solid rationale as to why this film failed.