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Angola Movie Financier Rui Costa Reis Explains 'Phantom' Flop

Wednesday, March 13

Angola movie producer Rui Costa Reis sat down with TheWrap to discuss his new movie "Phantom," a submarine thriller starring Ed Harris and David Duchovny which opened to just $650,000 in early March.

But he is not daunted. A newcomer to the movie business, Costa Reis explained his strategy for growing an independent movie production and distribution company, as the chairman of RCR Media Group. Eliad Josephson, to his right, is the CEO. "It was a very good experience since the first day of shooting this movie, and releasing it to the market," he says.

How did an Angolan multimillionaire end up taking a bath at the box office with the Ed Harris submarine thriller "Phantom"?

It’s a long story.

Rui Costa Reis, chairman of independent production company RCR Media Group, is a relative newcomer to Hollywood. But he has jumped into the deep end of the movie business by fully financing and distributing the $18 million thriller, “Phantom,” starring Harris and David Duchovny, from his own pocket.

In the film, Harris and Duchovny play Russians aboard a Soviet submarine who go rogue at a moment of heightened Cold War tensions.

"Phantom" opened on March 1 and took in $754,210 from 1,118 locations over the three days, a painful $675 per-screen average. The movie dropped 88 percent in its second weekend, taking in just $60,000 on 407 screens. That was $150 per screen and a total take so far of $815,000. By comparison, the week's leading movie, “Oz the Great and Powerful,” took in $79 million from 3,912 theaters. The only other film on a comparable number of screens was “Lincoln,” which was on 432 screens and brought in $430,308 – in its 18th week of release.

The opening comes close to rivaling the biggest box-office flop in recent memory, the toddler-focused “Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure” which last year bombed on opening weekend with a $443,000 take on 2,160 screens, and then eked its way to $1 million total box office.

But in an exclusive interview with TheWrap, Costa Reis said he was satisfied with the theatrical opening because it would allow him to make better deals for international release and home entertainment revenue.

“My expectation is that this movie will be profitable,” he said, noting that he prefers to keep RCR below the radar. “The income from the theatrical release is not the most important thing in the world. Our target market is waiting to see this movie on VOD.” (The target market, he said, is men over 35.)

Just as important, he said, is the learning experience for a first-time distributor. In a marketing campaign that he estimated at just more than $10 million, Costa Reis got involved in every aspect, negotiating for billboards, TV spots and buses, and driving all over California to get to know industry vendors.

He held a splashy premiere at the landmark TCL Chinese Theater, and got Duchovny and Harris on Jay Leno’s late-night couch.

For the campaign, Costa Reis bought “100 percent” of the bus advertising in Miami, a city he considered key for a movie with a submarine theme. He also bought large numbers of billboards in New York and Los Angeles, including a splashy ad that covered the side of a building on Sunset and La Cienega boulevards (right).

“I drove over 1,000 miles to visit Technicolor, CBS, Clear Channel -- everybody,” he said.

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