The controversial slavery drama The Birth of a Nation looks likely to make a hefty loss for Fox Searchlight after failing to attract a significant audience.
The studio paid $17.5m for Nate Parkers film after it won the grand jury prize and audience award at Sundance film festival in January, setting a festival record. Early critical response led to it being seen as a frontrunner for the best picture Oscar.
Related: The Birth of a Nation review slavery epic as brutal as Braveheart
However, after a 61% drop in box office in its second week in US cinemas, it seems likely that the film will end up making a net loss. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Fox Searchlight had spent an estimated $18m on marketing, and expects to lose $5m to $10m.
One of the reasons cinemagoers have been staying away is the extensive coverage of rape allegations against Parker from 1999, which have overshadowed the films release.
Parker and his then roommate Jean Celestin, who has a credit on the story for Birth of a Nation, were accused of raping a fellow student while she was unconscious. Parker was acquitted and Celestins conviction was later overturned, but the news this summer that their accuser had killed herself in 2012 led to intense press coverage.
Related: The Birth of a Nation: how Nate Parker failed to remake history
Parker, who stars and produced the film, faced criticism when it was reported that he had said he would never play a gay character to preserve the black man.
There were calls for a boycott of the film. Feminist commentator Roxane Gay said she could not separate the art and the artist, just as I cannot separate my blackness and my continuing desire for more representation of the black experience in film from my womanhood, my feminism, my own history of sexual violence, my humanity.
Anti-rape protesters demonstrated outside one screening in Los Angeles for those who were directly affected by the actions of both Nate Parker and those seeking to glorify him despite his negligence in addressing the issue of rape culture while simultaneously perpetuating it.
Amid this storm of criticism and without significant Oscar buzz, the global box-office takings are expected to amount to between $5m and $10m.
Birth of a Nation is released on 9 December in the UK and 2 February in Australia.
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