Justin Bieber‘s second concert doc, Believe, chronicles a new era for the pop star, where media criticism threatens to drown out fan support. Unfortunately, Believe‘s first-week box office sales will do little to change that narrative.
Believe earned just $3.1 million in its first three days, or a fraction of what Never Say Never earned in 2011 to become the best-selling concert doc of all time, domestically. (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug will earn up to $32 million this weekend.) Open Road Films, which is releasing the film in North America, cites a few reasons for the slump, including fewer screens (1,037, compared to Never Say Never‘s 3,100) and a smaller marketing budget.
“It’s a new model. we wanted to go straight to Justin’s fans,” said Jason Cassidy, marketing chief. “Financially, we’re going to be fine.” This point is a crucial one, although for reasons that Open Door — and Bieber, for that matter — may not like.
By catering solely to Believers, Believe shuts itself out from a wider audience, or skeptics who subscribe to the unforgiving headlines and actually need convincing. This sort of attitude informs the whole film; reviews point out that Believe brushes the criticism aside altogether, save for a run-in with the paparazzi and one question by director John Chu (“Are you aware that you’re going to be the next train wreck?”) that’s quickly dismissed.
“Depending on how you get your news about Mr. Bieber, this is either a sanitized version of very public events or a jolt of reality intruding into Mr. Bieber’s unsullied dreamboat narrative,” Jon Caramanica, pop music critic, wrote in his New York Times review. He notes that he had to watch it among teary fans this weekend, since the film wasn’t screened in advance for critics.