The Many Saints of Newark, the prequel movie to the acclaimed HBO crime drama The Sopranos, flopped at the box office, but it also succeeded on the streaming platform HBO Max. Running from 1999 to 2007 – and set during the same era – The Sopranos is widely regarded as one of the greatest anti-hero crime dramas of all time, and it has gone on to inspire subsequent the creation and development other acclaimed shows in the genre. However, despite this legacy, The Many Saints of Newark struggled in cinemas, raising questions about its efficacy as a big screen project.
The Many Saints of Newark comes 14 years after The Sopranos ended, and is set in the late ‘60s and ‘70s, around 30 years before the events in The Sopranos. The protagonist of the prequel is Dickie Moltisanti, a soldier in the DiMeo crime family, who also served as a father figure and mentor to young Tony Soprano – the eventual boss of the DiMeo family in The Sopranos. Apart from Dickie’s rise and fall, the movie also sheds a light on the early years of Tony Soprano, his father Johnny Boy and uncle Junior Soprano, as well as the other soldiers and capos who were instrumental to how the DiMeo crime family dominated Newark, New Jersey. These characters were first introduced in The Sopranos, except Dickie, although he is often discussed in the series. Amid the 1967 Newark race riots, the rising racial tensions between the DiMeos and the local Black gangs, and the mafia’s infighting, The Many Saints of Newark explores the truths and lies in the stories told about Dickie after his time.
Beyond providing crucial backstory, The Many Saints of Newark also resolves unanswered questions that The Sopranos left behind. Although the prequel is best viewed from the lens of Sopranos fandom, the film is also a great standalone crime thriller with a solid plot, great dialogue, and fine cinematography. This explains why The Many Saint of Newark succeeded on the streaming platform HBO Max. However, despite the movie’s critical success, the much-awaited prequel to The Sopranos struggled at the box office. Although this may seem contradictory, there are several reasons why the project may actually have always been doomed to commercial failure.
Why Many Saints Of Newark Failed At The Box Office
The Many Saints of Newark faced a lot of box office competition around its release time. Prior to the prequel’s October 1 launch, September 2021 saw the theatrical release of box office giant Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which continued to draw viewers to theaters late in the year. Additionally, Venom: Let There Be Carnage was released on the same day, followed a week later by No Time To Die – actor Daniel Craig’s last movie as James Bond. Although the superhero films arguably weren’t The Many Saints of Newark’s primary competition, the new Bond film definitely took a sizable chunk of the film’s theatrical audience. Moreover, unlike big franchise blockbusters like No Time To Die, Shang-Chi, and Venom: Let There Be Carnage – as well as Denis Villeneuve’s critically-acclaimed Dune remake, which was released internationally in September – there’s very little incentive for fans to see The Many Saints of Newark in theaters. This is especially true since Many Saints is available to fans at home on HBO Max, which is where the prequel made a killing.
How & Why Many Saints Of Newark Has Been A HBO Max Success
In contrast to its dismal box office performance, The Many Saints of Newark was the top-performing film on HBO Max’s early October roster of movies. In fact, according to Variety, HBO reveals that the film netted more than triple the audience of the streaming platform’s next most viewed title. Among the titles that The Many Saints of Newark outperformed were Cry Macho and Reminiscence, both of which also saw little box office success. Moreover, The Sopranos also saw a rise in viewership during this time, and even netted the highest daily viewership in HBO Max history. Despite the fact that The Sopranos ended nearly 15 years ago, it also saw a 65% rise in week-over-week viewing after The Many Saints of Newark was released on the streaming platform. This lends weight to the criticism that The Many Saints of Newark actually feels more like a Sopranos episode than a stand-alone film, and that it feels more suitable for streaming than a theatrical release.
Many Saints Of Newark Shows Another Advantage Of The HBO Max Model
The success of The Many Saints of Newark on HBO Max reveals how 2021 audiences prefer to consume content in the prequel’s genre. As the movie’s release had a big impact on the subsequent viewing figures for The Sopranos, this speaks to how HBO Max was able to consolidate both the prequel movie and the series’ primary viewership. And this type of commercial synergy is a huge advantage that the streaming model has over titles that are exclusively made for theatrical release. In fact, it can be said that The Many Saints of Newark’s streaming success made up for the prequel’s disastrous box office results. Moreover, this also fits with the notion that the project should have been a miniseries instead of a single film.
The Many Saints Of Newark Should Have Been A Miniseries Instead Of A Movie
Despite resolving some key Sopranos mysteries, The Many Saints of Newark left some unanswered questions of its own. For instance, while the prequel reveals that Junior Soprano was the one who ordered Dickie Moltisanti’s death, The Many Saints of Newark never touches on how Tony Soprano became active in the DiMeo crime family, whether or not Tony knew that Junior killed Dickie, or why Christopher Moltisanti thinks that his father Dickie, who didn’t do drugs, was a junkie. Limited by its 2-hour running time, The Many Saints of Newark simply didn’t have enough time to flesh out the world before The Sopranos, at least not in a way that can fully satisfy its primary audiences, who are mostly long-term Sopranos fans. This isn’t surprising, considering how, in contrast to the movie, The Sopranos spans 86 episodes and 6 seasons, and has a total running time of 3 days and 14 hours. If The Many Saints of Newark was a miniseries instead of a one-off movie, then Sopranos creator David Chase and the film’s director Alan Taylor would’ve painted a much more complete picture of the past.
Moreover, considering how The Many Saints of Newark bumped up The Sopranos’ HBO Max viewing figures, a Sopranos prequel series would’ve netted even higher numbers for the streaming platform. The series format would’ve been better for The Many Saints of Newark, both creatively and commercially. For now, it remains to be seen whether or not the prequel will get a follow-up that can resolve its hanging mysteries. That being said, considering how the prequel ended, Chase and Taylor have all the setup they need to flesh out the story fully for The Many Saints of Newark 2.