Guillermo del Toro’s first film in four years, Nightmare Alley, is receiving a black-and-white re-release, despite a less-than-impressive box office performance.
The pandemic hasn’t been kind to movie theaters and new theatrical releases. What first looked like a potential promising return to movies earlier this year was leg dropped by Omicron. Then came Spider-Man: No Way Home, which dominated the box office and left little room for anything else.
Amidst all this, Oscar-winning del Toro released the critically adored but sparsely attended Nightmare Alley. It stars Hollywood heavyweights Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara and Willem Dafoe.
The movie opened Dec. 17 in more than 2,100 theaters and made about $2.8 million, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The demographic for the movie is older adults, per THR, and that group tend to be the most apprehensive about going back to the movies.
“The biggest curve was omicron, and there was no way we could battle that. Audiences were fearful,” del Toro told THR.
Most directors might chalk this up in the L column and move on, but del Toro decided to pivot. He’s re-releasing the movie in theaters – but this time he’s doing it in black and white.
On Jan. 28, the movie will be in about 1000 locations with the majority of those screenings in the new format. Some theaters will play both versions and some will only be in color. The director hit on the idea after the movie’s theater count dropped significantly. He showed the new format to sold-out crowds to a positive response, and then he hit the road to introduce the screenings personally to moviegoers.
“This second release grew organically from interacting with audiences. It was very encouraging,” del Toro said. “This will allow the movie to grow past the peak weeks of omicron.”
Del Toro describes Nightmare Alley as his dream project. It’s based on a novel from 1946 about Stanton Carlisle (Cooper), a man with a shady past who finds himself falling in with a carnival. He runs off with a sideshow girl and starts a show of his own. He’s driven by greed and eventually faces off with a female psychologist in a high-stakes con job.
“I was absolutely blown away by the book,” del Toro said.
“And when I saw the movie, I admired it, but I thought, ‘Well, we could do three or four more versions of this story because the movie only captures a certain aspect of the book’s genius.”
Del Toro also said the film wasn’t autobiographical per se, but it did have aspects that drew from his own relationship with his father.
“During the post on Shape of Water, my father passed away, and the only thing I got from him was a watch,” del Toro said.
“It doesn’t mean that my relationship with my dad is directly like Stanton’s, but it is obliquely me trying to figure out a story about a man dealing with the shadow of a father figure. It gave me certain entry points — not from a real biography but from a Jungian point of view.”