But there are some valid reasons the movie stumbled. Let's take a look.
It was the wrong time of year for this kind of movie
Let's hope studios don't take the wrong message from the lackluster numbers. Contrary to popular belief, quality movies released during the early part of the year can do well. For proof, we can look at "The Revenant," which got a wide release on Jan. 7 and has since brought in nearly $150 million domestically. Meanwhile, contrary to popular wisdom, Super Bowl weekend is not necessarily a time-out for the box office. The evidence? "American Sniper" brought in nearly $32 million during last year's Super Bowl weekend, even though that was its third weekend in wide circulation.
But it might be the wrong time of year for this kind of movie. "Hail, Caesar!" skewed older; nearly 20 percent of viewers were over 55. That demographic isn't lacking at the moment for more mature films, what with all the Oscar nominees still in theaters. What's more, there may be more urgency to see "Spotlight," "Brooklyn" and the other Academy picks before the Oscars ceremony on Feb. 28. If "Hail, Caesar!" had been released during the summer months when adult movies — you know, the ones that don't feature superheroes — are few and far between, the story might have been different.
People don't care about A-listers
We've said it before, but we'll say it again: Big-name actors don't guarantee box office success. Movies don't get much starrier than "Hail, Caesar!" which stars George Clooney, Josh Brolin, Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum, Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton and Jonah Hill. You've got a little something for everyone in that mix, from the eccentric arthouse draw of Swinton to the goofily charming Tatum to Hill, who's still a proud member of Team Apatow.
But that's not enough, clearly.
The public didn't like it nearly as much as the critics did
Reviewers raved about the send-up of old Hollywood. The Post's own Ann Hornaday gave the movie a near-perfect 3.5 stars, writing, "For Coen fans and movie-trivia mavens, 'Hail, Caesar!' is a bracing injection straight into their pleasure centers, brimming with the brothers' signature brio, offhand erudition and more inside jokes, as the saying once went, than there are stars in heaven."
Perhaps therein lies the problem. The movie may have been a little too insidery, because it got a really terrible C- CinemaScore. (CinemaScore pollsters tally moviegoer reactions, then assign movies a grade, from A to F.) Compare that to another of the week's new releases, "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies," which won over only only 41 percent of critics, but still managed a B- CinemaScore.
The Coen Brothers aren't really box office powerhouses
Few of the Coen Brothers's movies get huge releases. Most start with a limited debut followed by a larger rollout, but max out in fewer than 2,000 theaters. "The Big Lebowski" made $5.5 million during its opening weekend in 1998, in 1,200 theaters, and "The Ladykillers" brought in $12.6 million in 1,500 theaters in 2004. The year before, "Intolerable Cruelty" — also starring Clooney — got a wider debut in 2,564 theaters, but extra screens didn't equate to more dollars. Its opening weekend take was $12.5 million.
Universal opened "Hail, Caesar!" in 2,200 theaters, clearly hoping the title would be more like 2008's "Burn After Reading," which got a 2,500-theater rollout and a $19 million opening weekend. No such luck.
Even that number, though, is hardly astronomical. Few of the duo's movies are. With the exception of 2010's "True Grit" ($171 million domestic), none of the brothers' films have cracked $100 million, even when you factor in inflation. And that's because, for all their fans and awards, the Coens, with their quirky dark humor, are appealing mainly to a certain niche.