Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘Megalopolis’ Faces Uphill Battle for Mega Deal: “Just No Way to Position This Movie”
The self-funded epic is deemed too “experimental” and “not good” enough for the $100 million marketing spend envisioned by the legendary director.

All sorts of yikes around the decades-in-the-making Francis Ford Coppola (apparent) swan song, Megalopolis. First, the good news:

The project, which Coppola first began writing in 1983, cost a reported $120 million to make — funded in part by the sale of a significant portion of his wine empire (the 2021 deal was reportedly worth over $500 million). Clocking in at two hours and 15 minutes, the film follows the rebuilding of a metropolis after its accidental destruction, with two competing visions — one from an idealist architect (Adam Driver), the other from its pragmatist mayor (Giancarlo Esposito) — clashing in the process. References to ancient Rome — including Caesar haircuts on the men — abound.

One, it's finally done. Two, it's two hours and fifteen minutes, which seems almost brief for this type of film these days – you could easily imagine a world where Coppola made this a four-hour epic. Three, it has Driver and Esposito driving it, which feels like a good mix of star power and talent – that said, it also features Shia LaBeouf (who is said to be the best part of the film) and Jon Voight, who have both become problematic, to say the least, in recent years. Four, men spend a lot of time thinking about the Roman Empire.


Coppola, 84, has said no decisions will be made regarding a festival bow until a distribution plan is put in place. But while there was no shortage of curious suitors there — in addition to Rothman and Sarandos, Warner Bros.’ Pam Abdy, Disney live-action boss David Greenbaum, Netflix’s Ted Sarandos and Paramount’s Marc Weinstock were all spotted — multiple sources inside the screening tell The Hollywood Reporter that Megalopolis will face a steep uphill battle to find a distribution partner. Says one distributor: “There is just no way to position this movie.”

“Everyone is rooting for Francis and feels nostalgic,” adds another attendee. “But then there is the business side of things.”

A third attendee noted “a conspicuous silence at the end of it,” but stopped short of writing off the film as a failed exercise. “Does it wobble, wander, go all over the place? Yes. But it’s really imaginative and does say something about our time. I think it’s going to be a small, specialized label [that picks it up].”

Three responses, three quasi-nice ways of saying the movie is no good. Still, it's F.F.F Coppola – Francis Fucking Ford Coppola. The Godfather(s),1 The Conversation, Apocalypse Now. Four of the best films ever made – in a seven year span, no less. Yes, they were all made in the 1970s. And yes, his output since then has been more mixed at best. Still, those four movies above give you a lifetime pass. Whatever you make should and will be seen. And certainly what is likely to be your final film, no less.

Unfortunately, there would seem to be a clear mismatch between how Coppola thinks this film should be distributed and the reality of our current age:

But a boutique label like A24 or Neon would likely not have the budget for the grand marketing push Coppola has envisioned. One source tells THR that Coppola assumed he would make a deal very quickly, and that a studio would happily commit to a massive P&A (prints and advertising, including all marketing) spend in the vicinity of $40 million domestically, and $80 million to $100 million globally.

That kind of big-stakes rollout would make Megalopolis a better fit for a studio-backed specialty label like the Disney-owned Searchlight or the Universal-owned Focus. But Universal and Focus have already tapped out of the bidding, sources tell THR.

Whatever Megalopolis is, it certainly doesn't sound like the type of wide-release theatrical fare of 2024. Maybe – maybe – he strikes a deal to get it released on some IMAX screens for a limited time for the diehards who want to see his full vision:

Since Coppola was always keen for this to be an Imax release, there was a small screening at the company’s Playa Vista headquarters in Los Angeles prior to the buyer’s event (the first time the director saw the film in full on an Imax screen). While Megalopolis isn’t a “Filmed for Imax” movie — meaning it isn’t guaranteed a full Imax release — Coppola did use camera technology that would allow him to shoot certain sequences that would fill an entire Imax screen, and worked with the company’s chief quality experts David and Patricia Keighley, who advise filmmakers.

Imax is likely to give the film some support if it gets distribution, sources close to the project say. Like others, however, Imax expected the film to be far more commercial, sources add.

Another yikes. Followed by a decidedly less nice comment:

Following the muted response to the March 28 screening, it’s now not even clear if a studio would agree to a negative pickup deal, in which the studio would buy the film outright, or one in which it would distribute the film for a fee. One studio head in attendance described it as “some kind of indie experiment” that might find a home at a streamer.

And then the full-on-mean kicker:

Another studio head, however, was far less charitable in his assessment: “It’s so not good, and it was so sad watching it. Anybody who puts P&A behind it, you’re going to lose money. This is not how Coppola should end his directing career.”

Again, it's Coppola's last movie – again, likely, though maybe this reaction tempts him to do "one more thing"? It's going to find a way to be seen. It's probably some small-scale limited IMAX release in the core movie markets, followed by a streaming release from a player who can tout "Francis Ford Coppola's last film" or the like – maybe Apple, who likes to peddle in such prestige? But reading this report is pretty sad.2

1 I am, of course, not including The Godfather Part III here. It has been a while since I've watched it, but if memory serves, questionable nepo-swap aside (which wasn't really Coppola's fault), it's not awful, just not at the level of the first two -- few things are!

2 I do apologize for my title here. He certainly deserves more respect. It was just right there for the taking. Jokes aside, it's an awful title/word. Hard to say/spell. Though it does have a direct tie to SimCity, well the SNES version, which I also loved.