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The World Cup Draws Billions Of Viewers, So Why Did The FIFA Film Do So Badly?

TheThings logo TheThings 6/26/2022 Shireen Hollier
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Football is known to fans as “The Beautiful Game”. Every four years, a huge tournament takes place in a different country. With 64 matches played over 28 days between qualifying national teams, the tournament is watched by billions of people across the world.

The last time the World Cup tournament was played, in 2018, it took place in Russia. And it saw massive viewership numbers.

Figures released by FIFA include 3.262 billion TV viewers. The report also shows 310 million digital viewers and an average live audience of 191 million, who watched the 64 matches of the tournament in person.

The numbers were pretty similar for the previous World Cup, which took place in Brazil in 2014.

When you consider the astronomical viewership numbers for the World Cup, it’s surprising that a film made about Football’s governing body, FIFA, has gone down as one of the worst box office flops in history.

The Film Has Been Called A Bizarre Propaganda Film

Titled United Passions, the film was released in 2015. The storyline features the origins of the world governing body of association football, FIFA. Ninety-percent of the funding came from FIFA itself.

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FIFA was founded in 1904 and is the largest organization of its kind. Responsible for running international football tournaments, including the World Cup, the body had long been accused of corruption, and awarding the job of hosting to countries who paid millions to be chosen.

A big part behind the making of the film was the intention to clear allegations against FIFA, and especially its president at the time, Sepp Blatter.

Tim Roth, famous for his appearances in films like Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, and The Incredible Hulk, was cast in the role of Sepp Blatter. The actor later admitted he has never watched the movie.

Roth has also declined all requests to speak about the film and admitted that he only took the job for the money. Another big name that featured was Sam Neill, currently appearing in Jurassic World: Dominion. Neill has been involved in all three movies in the successful franchise.

French actor Gerard Depardieu, was also part of the cast.

He was the only one of the big names from the film to show up for the film's world premiere at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.

The Director Called It A Disaster

The film was even labeled a ‘disaster’ by its own director, Frederic Aubertin.

Part of what led to the terrible box office returns had to do with the timing of the film’s release in North America. Opening on 5 June 2015, the premiere took place just days after FIFA president Sepp Blatter was forced to resign from the organization, following decades of speculation and accusations of corruption at FIFA under his leadership.

In the United States, the film grossed a measly $607 on its opening weekend. That wasn’t the worst of it. The FilmBar theater in Phoenix reflected a gross of just $9, which means that only one person bought a ticket.

In North America, it became the lowest-grossing film of all time, surpassing the previous record held by I Kissed A Vampire, which had opened on circuit three years earlier.

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It seems that the flop wasn't just about the timing and the controversy around FIFA, though. United Passions is also considered to be one of the worst films of all time. Criticized for the poor quality of the drama, the unsuitability of the topic of administrative matters for a movie, and the evident biases included in the film, The Guardian described it as "cinematic excrement".

It's reported to have lost around $26.8 million. There have been some movies that flopped but still made money for someone despite bombing, as in the case of Sylvester Stallone with Bullet To The Head. That didn't happen with this film.

And unlike some box office flops that became cult classics, it doesn't seem as though United Passions will ever revive its fortunes.

During the 36th Golden Raspberry Awards, the film was awarded the Barry L. Bumstead Prize.

And On Rotten Tomatoes, it has an approval rating of 0%.

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The film didn't fare much better in the rest of the world. And it was equally disliked by critics.

Writing in the London Evening Standard, reviewer Des Kelly called United Passions "the worst movie ever made" and "the most extraordinary vanity exercise; a vile, self-aggrandizing, sugar-coated pile of manure where Blatter and Co. manage to make North Korea's Kim Jong Un look self-effacing."

Unlimited Passions is not the only film to bomb at the box office. Cinematic history is littered with reports of terrible box office returns for films that were expected to do well. It's something that'll continue to happen as long as films are made.

It will just be very hard for any of them to beat the terrible record set by United Passions.

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