Promised Land Missing Its Mark With Film Reviewers

The film Promised Land debuted at the box office on the weekend of January 4-6.  We noted, at that time,  we would have to wait to see how it did with the general public, but that it wasn’t scoring too high with movie critics.  Since then we have updated the post three times and Promised Land may now officially be declared a flop.

UPDATE III: Promised Land may now be declared dead; may it rest in peace.  Following a 68.5% decline in ticket sales for last weekend, the fall accelerated pace this past weekend with another 89.8% drop, putting it at No. 82 on the list of all time fastest box offices failures.  A movie called Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter from last summer actually did better; much better, in fact, as did another one called Eight Legged Freaks from 2002.  Moreover, some 1,513 theaters stopped showing it last week, leaving it in only 134 theaters nationwide with average sales of $970.  Altogether, it’s produced $7.5 million in ticket sales, which won’t even pay Matt Damon’s typical take on a movie, and only generated $130,000 in box office receipts last week.  It would have to play more than another year at this rate to break-even, so that’s not happening.  Therefore, we may now end the suspense.  It was a flop.

UPDATE II: Promised Land has now been in theaters for 3 weeks, and with over $8 million to go to break even on production costs, the film is dropping off in numbers, dropping like a rock in fact. It has gone from 10th to 18th in the rank of current movies, and is listed as 85th on Box Office Mojo’s list of all time biggest 2nd weekend drops. Take a look at this chart from Box Office Mojo.


UPDATE I:  From Box Office Mojo comes the following:

After a middling performance in limited release, Promised Land expanded to 1,676 locations this weekend but could only muster $4.3 million (good for 10th place). While Matt Damon is obviously a star, audiences aren’t going to show up for anything he does, especially when the marketing fails to present any semblance of an interesting story. With its “B” CinemaScore, and without any Academy Award nominations (that’s an assumption based on its poor reviews and lack of any previous awards recognition), the movie should disappear quickly from theaters.

The film Promised Land officially opened this weekend and a lot of people are curious about whether it will be successful. As with any major Hollywood film, the initial litmus test will be how well it does on opening weekend.  The pre-release showings weren’t so hot.  Unfortunately, more detailed statistics will not be released until early next week. This doesn’t mean there aren’t other metrics to gauge the possible success of this film, though.

Movie reviews for the film have been popping up for the last few weeks and judging from these professionals Promised Land fails to deliver. Currently, Rotten Tomatoes, a service of Flixster that aggregates reviews of films with user comments to educate interested film-goers, rates the film at a 50%. Perhaps an even more telling statistic on the site is how many people actually like the film, a mere 40%.


Below are some of the biggest names in movie reviewing, see for yourself what they think of Promised Land:

Richard Corliss TIME Magazine “The movie slogs along like a Grant Wood farmer behind his plow.”

A.O. Scott New York Times “’Promised Land’ feels divided against itself, not quite sure how to reconcile its polemical intentions with its storytelling impulses, and thus finally unable to fulfill its own promise.” Original Score: 2.5/5

Steven Rea Philadelphia Inquirer “Promised Land is a frustrating film to watch. It should be better than this, smarter than this.” Original Score: 2/4

Leonard Maltin Leonard Maltin’s Picks “I give this movie’s costars and creators credit for making a “message movie” as palatable and entertaining as Promised Land.” Original Score: 2.1/2

Kyle Smith New York Post “Damon wants to put you in very serious mode and have you think of “issue movies” like “The China Syndrome,” but all I could do was laugh and think of “Lolita.” Original Score: 1.5/4

Christy Lemire Associated Press “’Promised Land’ offers an experience that’s alternately amusing and frustrating, full of impassioned earnestness as well as saggy sections.”Original Score: 2/4

Nick Pinkerton Village Voice “Promised Land is a hard-sell movie because it doesn’t have the confidence in its audience to make any other outcome seem personally viable, to give the opposition a fighting chance or persuasive voice.”

Eric Kohn indieWIRE “Can’t help but preach its cause in obvious ways that continually hold back an otherwise well-acted, swiftly paced drama.” Original Score: B-

Sandy Schaefer ScreenRant “Promised Land is high-minded material – but makes for a flaccid viewing experience.” Original Score: 2.5/5

Jonathan Lack We Got This Covered “The film wants to be meaningful, wants to have topical significance and emotional heft, but it arrives mostly empty, and in a year filled with great and memorable films, Promised Land is not worth anyone’s attention.” Original Score: 5/10

Jeff Beck “’Promised Land’ ends up being about two-thirds of a decent film, despite having problems with its characters. Had there been a little more thought put into the ending, perhaps it would have been more satisfying.”Original Score: 2.5/4

Ann Lewinson Kansas City Star “Lacking confidence that these didactic speeches will drive its message home, the film throws in a paranoid plot twist from which it never recovers.” Original Score: 2/4

Josh Bell Las Vegas Weekly “Just as underhanded as the soulless corporations it’s taking to task.”Original Score: 1/5

Annlee Ellingson Paste Magazine “Promised Land attempts to present both sides of the argument while ultimately falling decidedly on the side of anti-corporatization.” Original Score: 6.5/10

James Berardinelli ReelViews “It’s as if the people behind Promised Land only agreed to make the movie if there was an unambiguous “policy statement” at the end, and that’s what we’re subjected to.”Original Score: 2/4


We’ll see how it does at the box office this weekend, and if you do venture out to see the film, be sure to also check out The Real Promised Land for a perspective from real people living in Armstrong County and across the Marcellus Shale region where the movie was filmed.


  1. Michael Fitzgerald says:

    Wait for the sequel…

  2. Victor Furman says:





    I just got back from seeing the flop Promise Land and here is my review.

    1.) When I bought my ticket I asked the seller if the movie was getting big crowds his reply ” Today has been our best day with about 20-25 people at each showing and I counted the people that were there at the 4:40pm show = 33

    2.I asked him about the ruckus that fox 40 news reported the day before with mayor Matt Ryan. he said the mayor and the people with him were protesting gas development in the lobby disturbing all of the other theaters in the complex and would not be quiet until they were forced to eject Mayor Ryan, walter hang and others to the parking lot.

    The movie was really poorly done and to the point of unbelievable unless your brain cells are soaked in Jamison Scotch (Matt Ryans choice) DO NOT WASTE YOUR MONEY ON THIS…….

    Matt Damon plays a landsman who is apparently not only dishonest but stupid. He works for a Gas company ascertaining property but in this movie the only lease I see getting signed is by a drunk living in a trailor in 1.8 acres of land as all the large farmers who are in financial trouble choose to take Government subsidies before toxifying there land.

    An Environmentalist shows up in town with a story on how his land was turned brown and 70 percent of his cows died. He tells this story to a packed bar on open mic night (because as we all know all farmers are drunks that hang out in bars…. he even has pictures of the dead cows strewn all over his field.

    Now The environmentalist has everybody against the “Global Gas company” who Matt Damon is working for. He shows up to a classroom with a model of what he said was his family farm located in Nebraska,. holds up a plastic bag full of dirt, tells everybody his soil was what kept the farm going but then the gas companies came… He pours a flammable into the bag mixing it with the soil to represent natural gas seeping out all over the farm, then he has a bunch of chemicals he pours in the bag saying we don’t know what’s in these chemicals cause the gas companies wont tell us, then he holds up a big drill and tells the students this is what the gas companies do and he punches holes all throught the bottom of the bag dripping the mixture all over the model of his farm… he lights it much to the aghast of the students… then picks the classes pet turtle out of its water bowl and holds it over the flame asking them should I put the turtle in the fire…of course the kids holler out NO!!!.

    Matt Damon at this point has lost all possibility of leasing lands but to the guy who owns the trailer and is drunk. No one will sign a lease agreement. Defeated and back at his hotel a mysterious package is awaiting Matt the landsman…. Apparently Global Energy (the gas company) ran a check on the Environmentalist and has damning proof that he lied about having a farm in Nebraska and a gas company destroyed it. The evidence was in the photo in the background of the field where the cows were dead, there was a lighthouse… Everyone knows there is no ocean in Nebraska…

    Matt contacts the town supervisor who BTW takes bribes from the company just before the town was to vote no and everybody changes their vote to yes.

    Now here is the kicker in the movie

    The environmentalist who was run out of town because he lied to the people about his farm…. He was an executive of Global Energy who set the whole thing up to make it look like the environmentalist was an extremist who would say anything because he was a tree hugger…. I about puked at the deception in this movie. The plot sucked the back ground music sucked the acting sucked… the only truth in this movie was you over paid to see it and farmers do rely on subsidies because of over taxation and under payment for their products

    • Tom Shepstone says:

      Hmmm…Promised Land is beginning to sound like the Forbidden Land

  3. Donald Roessler says:
    • Tom Shepstone says:

      They keep piling up!

  4. Michael Fitzgerald says:

    Why so much attention on a film that’s such a stinker? Really.

    Here’s one reviewer that has a few points about what they film is really about:

    • Tom Shepstone says:

      Hey, we didn’t write those reviews. Others did and what they saw was pathetic.

      • Michael Fitzgerald says:

        And the reviews you posted said it was pathetic – just not a very good film… Be glad they tried to be even handed and didn’t produce something with a big bang. An effective film – or book – might wake people up…

        • Tom Shepstone says:

          Yes, Frack Nation is here!

    • Victor Furman says:

      A paper that came out against gas that can’t operate without natural gas writes a review… that says a lot.

  5. Bill says:

    I guess when you have to review a movie that is all about promoting the agenda of the financial backers, and with no facts to support that agenda, you can’t have much good to say about it. There’s a word for that sort of film – propaganda.

  6. Michael Fitzgerald says:

    I heard PBS was going to pick it up when it ended its run in the theaters.

    And/or Michael Moore will be posting it on his website.

    • Tom Shepstone says:

      Michael Moore? Well, THAt is good news. That man has zero credibility.

  7. Michael Knapp says:

    Re: Update II

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe that the theater takes 50% of those sales figures right off the top. If that’s correct, then they have a LOOOOONG way to go just to break even.


  8. fred jones says:

    Seems like the reviews are split….just like the public is on HVHF. No big surprise. Looks to me like BOTH camps need to be a bit more convincing. If it really were a black and white issue, one side or the other would have the overwhelming support of the American population. On that note, yes we are all for domestic energy (as a basket of choices). It’s when we get more specific on which energy source and how that source is extracted, things get a bit more cloudy. If the pro-gas crowd wants to sway folks, they truly have their work cut out for them.

    • fred jones says:

      And as an added note: I also searched the WEB and found many conflicting reviews. Some, great, some good, some so so, and some, like Tom said, pathetic. To say they ALL were is being over dramatic, but here on the EID forum, we all are guilty of that now and then 😉 Here are a couple of examples of the 50/50 split I was talking about, but anyone here can do a personal search of reviews and see for themselves. There are many.

      • Tom Shepstone says:

        But the movie is still a dog, isn’t it? No. 85 on the all-time list of worst second weekend box office drops.

        • fred jones says:

          Don’t know Tom. Haven’t seen it. Don’t care to either. Just doing a search and what I found. I wasn’t looking for reviews that would prove some personal point of view, you know, pro or con for HVHF, just a unbiased search and “dog” was part of that search result, but like I said, seemed to be a smaller % as far as complete bombs, than pro-gas folks would have us believe. I think it boils down to which side you are on in regards to your level of criticism. Like our friend Vick showed, he hated every aspect of the film, not a shocker for sure, where folks like Vera Scroggins would be happy and complimentary with her viewing. I would be quite surprised if ANYONE on the EID staff would find good points and satisfying entertainment value in the film. If they did, they wouldn’t state it here.

  9. Carol Pipkin says:

    After seeing so much bashing of the movie on here, I decided to go and see it myself. I am not much of a movie person, but I did enjoy this one. Thanks Tom for motivating me and and friends.

    • Tom Shepstone says:

      It’s going to take a lot of you to make a silk purse of this one.

    • observer says:

      Carol here is a movie you might enjoy

      Memorial Day by Josh Fox – pornographer

      • Bill says:

        Another short movie that may appeal to a certain crowd, though I cannot tell for sure, is “My Popcorn Nights” ( ).
        Written and directed by Dan Slottje, filmed in Ithaca, and featuring David “The Great Davidski” Slottje, I’m guessing, based on name and location. So in addition to Dollar Store owner and Park Foundation tool, in 2009 he also added actor to his resume’..

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