Guy Ritchie's Operation Fortune Bombed At The Box Office, What Happened?

Just four years ago, Guy Ritchie's "Aladdin" raked in over $1 billion at the global box office. A decade earlier, the filmmaker scored another big hit with the action-packed, Robert Downey Jr.-led spin on "Sherlock Holmes," which topped out at over $500 million worldwide. Even some titles considered cult favorites among Ritchie fans — like "Snatch" and "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." – actually earned back their budgets and then some.

So what the hell just happened to "Operation Fortune?" The latest Ritchie caper hit theaters this weekend and barely made a ripple at the box office. The movie, a Lionsgate release, opened to just $3.1 million domestically, with an international box office bump that puts its current global receipts at roughly $40 million (per Box Office Mojo). The movie may not be a total wash from a business standpoint, as Deadline places its production budget at around $50 million, but it's still a disappointing show for a film that stars Hugh Grant, Aubrey Plaza, and Jason Statham, not to mention Josh Hartnett and Cary Elwes. Was it stiff competition, bad marketing, or something else entirely that made this movie doomed to fail?

The movie was pulled from release last year

"Operation Fortune" has had a rocky path to moviegoers from the start. The film, which follows a spy named Orson Fortune (Jason Statham) as he attempts to thwart a wealthy arms dealer (Hugh Grant) with the help of a movie star (Josh Hartnett), initially had a January 2022 release date. That date, however, was pushed from January to March before the film was pulled from the release schedule altogether. According to Collider, the movie's first delay could have been due to a spike in COVID cases that made January an even riskier month at the box office than usual, but a report from the Evening Standard blamed something else for the movie's sudden disappearance: Its Ukranian villains.

As /Film's Chris Evangelista points out in his review of the movie, "Operation Fortune" includes "a trio of villains who just happened to be Ukrainian," which wasn't exactly a good look given that the Russian invasion of Ukraine began in late February 2022, just weeks before the movie was set to hit theaters. Just as several movies depicting bad things happening in New York City were delayed in the wake of 9/11, it's possible that someone behind the scenes thought the timing on a flick that villainized Ukranians just wasn't right.

The movie didn't hop back onto the release schedule, though — there was no update on "Operation Fortune" until November, when Deadline reported that it may head to streaming. This time, the change was for a totally different reason: STX, the production studio behind "Operation Fortune" that's also been responsible for films like "Hustlers" and "The Edge of Seventeen," was reportedly going through some financial woes. After a recent merger and an ensuing restructure, STX apparently wasn't in a position to release the movie.

Financial woes kept it in limbo

STX launched less than a decade ago, but in recent years, the company has faced some serious hurdles in an unforgiving industry. In 2020, STX merged with the Indian company Eros International plc, then sold to The Najafi Companies in 2022. At one point, Lionsgate reportedly had plans to acquire STX outright, but The Wrap reported that the deal fell through in March 2022. As Deadline put it, "Operation Fortune" got "locked up at the bank" amidst the money struggles. As a result, it was only re-added to the American release schedule three weeks ago.

That's right, U.S. audiences only had a few weeks to get hyped for "Operation Fortune" ahead of its release. The movie's first trailer dropped way back in 2021, but Lionsgate (which did end up handling U.S. distribution on the film despite not striking a deal for all STX films) released another trailer on February 13, 2023 along with the long-overdue date announcement. The latest trailer tried to minimize the film's clunky title — it's actually called "Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre" — but didn't particularly sell the film well. Is Aubrey Plaza's character meant to be funny? Is Hugh Grant doing a Michael Caine impersonation? The promo isn't particularly clear.

Although it took "Operation Fortune" long enough to hit theaters in America, the movie actually got an international release beginning in January, and the vast majority of the money it's begun to make back against its still-not-recouped budget has been overseas. Perhaps Lionsgate saw that "Operation Fortune" wasn't doing too shabby in global markets, and decided to give it a try here, too? Regardless, the resulting box office has so far been abysmal, with the movie grabbing just $3.1 million so far in a reported 2,168 theaters.

Stiff competition sealed Operation Fortune's fate

While it seems that "Operation Fortune" fell prey to bad timing and circumstances beyond its control, it also finally landed in theaters during a weekend that was already totally packed. The highly anticipated "Rocky" sequel "Creed III" KO-ed the competition this past weekend, while Marvel's latest offering, "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania," took second place despite a steep weekend-by-weekend drop.

"Operation Fortune" came in seventh place behind four movies that check off hyper-specific yet often lucrative boxes for audiences: Original horror, anime, Christian film, and James Cameron epic. "Cocaine Bear," "Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba — To the Swordsmith Village," and "Jesus Revolution" rounded out the top five, while "Avatar: The Way Of Water" earned more than Guy Ritchie's latest despite being three months into its run.

Even though a pandemic, a war, production company woes, iffy marketing, and a stacked theatrical slate have all at one point or another stood between "Operation Fortune" and any measure of success, it's worth noting that the movie itself may not actually be bad. In his review for /Film, Evangelista called it "a bright, sunny, occasionally funny spy movie with a few ultra-stylish action scenes," despite some hit-or-miss humor. With no American home video release date in sight yet, your best bet for watching "Operation Fortune" is still in theaters, although with its low returns, it doesn't seem likely it'll be held over for long. After a bumpy ride to American audiences, Ritchie's latest operation seems destined to fail.