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Last Updated: Friday, 26 October 2007, 07:21 GMT 08:21 UK
Elizabeth fails to reign at cinema

By Tom Brook
BBC News, New York

Elizabeth: The Golden Age has failed to bring in the crowds at the US box office, after opening in sixth place, then quickly dropping out of the top ten.

Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth: The Golden Age
It is the second time Blanchett has played the monarch

Films like The Golden Age, which appeal to older audiences, usually do well in the US in autumn, but this year serious fare has taken a beating at the box office.

Paul Dergarabedian, head of the box office tracking company Media by Numbers, notes that audiences are uncharacteristically "gravitating toward comedies and light-hearted family films," adding it had been a "tough marketplace".

Given that the box office in the US is driven largely by the tastes of young males, it is never easy for period dramas like Elizabeth to triumph.

Unless a film is full of fantastic action and based on a strong brand it is going to be a tough sell.

This explains why a Pirates of The Caribbean picture does well - and why perhaps Elizabeth: The Golden Age does not.

In the US, critics have generally praised Cate Blanchett for her performance but found fault with the film itself.

We want to know the fragility, we want to know [Elizabeth's] weak spots."
Cate Blanchett

The Washington Post labelled it "a bloated costume opera."

The New York Times derisively described the picture as "a kitsch extravaganza aquiver with trembling bosoms, booming guns and wild energy."

And the Daily News critic viewed the film's plot as "a preposterous romantic triangle between the Queen, her beautiful young courtier and the rakish explorer".

Even those reviewers who criticised the film did not necessarily find the picture boring or lacking in melodrama.

Their disappointment seems to have been based on the expectation that director Shekhar Kapur was going to deliver something more high-minded.

Melodramatic or not, The Golden Age is certainly packed with fiery emotion.

Boisterous melodrama

Blanchett maintains the film is catering to the long-held interest with the real woman hidden behind the public mask.

"I think what fascinates people about Elizabeth I is, we know very much about the externals of her reign but we know very little about what made her tick," she says.

"I think that's why she's constantly reinvented in dramatic tales. It's because we want to know the fragility, we want to know her weak spots."

Whether or not US critics view the picture as boisterous melodrama, Kapur believes there is substance to his film - and he finds Queen Elizabeth I deeply compelling.

Cate Blanchett and Clive Owen in Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Clive Owen plays explorer Sir Walter Raleigh

"She created the foundations of the great British Empire - and absolutely consistently, refused to give power or even a semblance of that power, over to a man," he says.

The film's poor box office takings in the US will not necessarily scupper Blanchett's chances of earning an Oscar nomination.

If Academy lore is anything to go by then commercial success is not usually a major factor in determining who wins Oscars.

The first Elizabeth picture took in a modest $30m (14.6m) in its entire run in the US - but it went on to pick up seven nominations including one for Blanchett. However, she lost out to Gwyneth Paltrow for her performance in Shakespeare in Love.


There has been no confirmation of a third Elizabeth picture but Kapur talks quite openly about the possibility.

"The third one will be a completely different story but it will be that if you've been divine and immortal all your life, or achieved that, how do you become ordinary because when you are going to die, now you suddenly become like every other person," says the director.

"You're going to die, and every person dies. So how does somebody who's divine and immortal face mortality?"

Universal Pictures, the studio backing The Golden Age, will now be looking towards the overseas market in the hope of turning a decent profit.

Mr Dergarabedian says: "Elizabeth looks to me like the kind of film that could do very well overseas, and the foreign worldwide marketplace is extremely important."

Clearly if the film fails to do well the chances of a third instalment become less likely.

Elizabeth: The Golden Age goes on general release in the UK on 2 November.

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