NEW YORK — The FIFA-financed movie “United Passions” made only about $900 over the weekend, according to a person who has seen box-office data from the 10 theatres the film played in and was granted anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to release the figures.
Made for about $30 million and largely bankrolled by FIFA to trumpet the soccer federation’s 111-year history, “United Passions” had no expectations of drawing crowds. But the minuscule result still was a striking repudiation of a high-priced FIFA puff piece starring Tim Roth as FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who announced last week that he will resign.
“United Passions” initially was released in a handful of European markets last summer, timed to the 2014 World Cup. Screen Media, which declined to report the film’s weekend grosses, acquired it for U.S. distribution, focusing on a video-on-demand and digital release. It paid low six-figures for the rights.
The film’s U.S. release was planned months before a Justice Department investigation alleged rampant corruption throughout FIFA and indicted 14 FIFA officials and soccer marketing executives. The movie, which also stars Gerard Depardieu as World Cup creator Jules Rimet and Sam Neill as former FIFA president Joao Havelange, gives a generally rosy view of the scandal-plagued FIFA. Critics have slammed it as corporate propaganda.
In an interview last week, Suzanne Blench, president of Screen Media, acknowledged “liberties are taken” in the film’s telling of FIFA history, and said she was distributing the film to simply “give people a chance to take a look at it.”
“United Passions” already was a huge write down for FIFA. After premiering last year at the Cannes Film Festival, it found theatrical release in only Russia, Portugal and Serbia. According to box-office data firm Rentrak, it made $178,639 theatrically before opening in the U.S., most of that in Russia.
This story has been corrected to show that Sepp Blatter remains FIFA’s president. Although he has announced he will resign he hasn’t left the job yet. This story also has been corrected to show that 14 FIFA officials and soccer marketing executives have been indicted instead of only FIFA officials.
Jake Coyle, The Associated Press