Evita (1996 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Alan Parker|
by Tim Rice
Andrew Lloyd Webber
|Edited by||Gerry Hambling|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Pictures|
|Box office||$141 million|
Evita is a 1996 American musical drama film based on Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical of the same name. The film depicts the life of Eva Perón, detailing her beginnings, rise to fame, political career and death at the age of 33. Directed by Alan Parker, and written by Parker and Oliver Stone, the film stars Madonna as Eva, Antonio Banderas as Ché, an everyman who acts as the film's narrator, and Jonathan Pryce as Eva's husband Juan Perón.
Following the release of the original songs in 1976, a film adaptation of the musical became mired in development hell for more than fifteen years, as the film rights were passed on to several major studios, with various directors and actors considered. In 1993, producer Robert Stigwood sold the rights to Andrew G. Vajna, who agreed to finance the film through his independent company, Cinergi Pictures, with The Walt Disney Studios distributing the film through Hollywood Pictures. After Stone stepped down from the project in 1994, Parker agreed to write and direct the film. Recording sessions for the film's songs and soundtrack took place at CTS Studios in London, England roughly four months before filming. Parker worked with Rice and Lloyd Webber to compose the soundtrack, reworking the original songs by creating the music first and then the lyrics. They also wrote a new song, "You Must Love Me", for the film. Principal photography commenced in February 1996, and concluded in May of that year. Filming took place on locations in Buenos Aires and Budapest, and on soundstages at Shepperton Studios. The film's production in Argentina was met with controversy, as the cast and crew faced protests over fears that the project would tarnish Eva's image.
Evita held its premiere at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California on December 14, 1996. Hollywood Pictures gave the film a "platform release" which involved releasing it in select cities, before expanding distribution in the following weeks. The film opened in limited release on December 25, 1996, before opening wide on January 10, 1997. While it received mixed reviews from mainstream film critics, Evita was a commercial success, grossing $141 million worldwide, against a budget of $55 million. The film received various awards and nominations; it won the Academy Award for Best Original Song ("You Must Love Me"), and three Golden Globe Awards for Best Picture – Comedy or Musical, Best Original Song ("You Must Love Me") and Best Actress – Comedy or Musical (Madonna).
In a cinema in Buenos Aires on July 26, 1952, a film is interrupted when news breaks of the death of Eva Perón, Argentina's First Lady, at the age of 33. As the nation goes into public mourning, Ché, a member of the public, marvels at the spectacle and promises to show how Eva did "nothing, for years". The rest of the film follows Eva Duarte (later Eva Duarte de Perón) from her beginnings as an illegitimate child of a lower class woman to her rise to become First Lady and Spiritual Leader of the Nation of Argentina, with Ché assuming many different guises throughout Eva's story.
At the age of 15, Eva lives in the provincial town of Junín, and longs to seek a better life in Buenos Aires. She persuades a tango singer, Agustín Magaldi, with whom she is having an affair, to take her to the city. After Magaldi leaves her, she goes through several relationships with increasingly influential men, becoming a model, actress and radio personality. She meets Colonel Juan Perón at a fundraiser following the 1944 San Juan earthquake. Perón's connection with Eva adds to his populist image, since they are both from the working class. Eva has a radio show during Perón's rise and uses all her skills to promote him, even when the controlling administration has him jailed in an attempt to stunt his political momentum. The groundswell of support that Eva generates forces the government to release Perón, and he finds the people enamored of him and Eva. Perón wins election to the presidency and marries Eva, who promises that the new government will serve the descamisados.
At the start of the Perón government, Eva dresses glamorously, enjoying the privileges of being the First Lady. Soon after, she embarks on what is called her "Rainbow Tour" to Europe. While there, she receives a mixed reception. The people of Spain adore her, the people of Italy call her a whore and throw things at her, and the Pope gives her a small, meager gift. While the French are kind to her, they are upset. Upon returning to Argentina, Eva establishes a foundation and distributes aid. The film suggests the Perónists otherwise plunder the public treasury. The military officer corps and social elites despise Eva's common roots and affinity for the poor.
Eva is hospitalized and learns that she has cancer. She declines the position of Vice President due to her declining health, and makes one final broadcast to the people of Argentina. She understands that her life was short because she shone like the "brightest fire", and helps Perón prepare to go on without her. A large crowd surrounds the Casa Rosada in a candlelight vigil praying for her recovery when the light of her room goes out, signifying her death. At Eva's funeral, Ché is seen at her coffin, marveling at the influence of her brief life. He walks up to her glass coffin, kisses it, and walks into the crowd of passing mourners.
- Madonna as Eva Perón
- Antonio Banderas as Ché
- Jonathan Pryce as Juan Perón
- Jimmy Nail as Agustín Magaldi
- Victoria Sus as Dona Juana Ibarguren
- Julian Littman as Juancito Duarte
- Olga Merediz as Bianca Duarte
- Laura Pallas as Elisa Duarte
- Julia Worsley as Erminda Duarte
- Peter Polycarpou as Domingo Mercante
- Gary Brooker as Juan Atilio Bramuglia
- Andrea Corr as Juan's mistress
- Alan Parker as Tormented film director
Failed projects: 1976–1986
Following the release of Evita (1976), Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's modern, sung-through concept album detailing the life of Eva Perón, Alan Parker met with their manager David Land, asking if Rice and Lloyd Webber had thought of making a film version. He was told that they were more interested in creating a stage version with the album's original lyrics. The original West End theatre production of Evita opened at the Prince Edward Theatre on June 21, 1978 and closed on February 18, 1986, after 2,913 performances. The subsequent Brodway production opened at the Broadway Theatre on September 25, 1979 and closed on June 26, 1983 after 1,567 performances and 17 previews. Robert Stigwood, producer of the West End production, had previously collaborated with Parker on the director's film debut Bugsy Malone (1976), and Evita was among several musical film adaptations that he wanted Parker to direct. In 1979, after completing work on Fame (1980), Parker turned down the opportunity to helm Evita, expressing to Stigwood that he did not want to make back-to-back musicals.
The film rights to Evita became the subject of a bidding war, among a host of established film studios, including Warner Bros., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Paramount Pictures. Stigwood sold the rights to EMI Films for over $7.5 million. Stigwood also discussed the project with Jon Peters, who promised that he would convince his then-wife Barbra Streisand to play the lead role if he were allowed to produce. Stigwood said, "I thanked [Peters] but reminded him that I would remain as producer. And that's how Streisand's name first became connected with this project." EMI ultimately dropped the project after merging with Thorn Electrical Industries to form Thorn EMI.
In May 1981, Paramount Pictures acquired the film rights, with Stigwood attached as a producer through his production company, RSO Films. Paramount allocated a budget of $15 million, and the film was scheduled to go into production by the end of the year. To avoid higher production costs, Stigwood, Rice and Webber agreed to be paid little money up front and a large percentage of the box office grosses. Stigwood hired Ken Russell to direct the film, based on the success of their previous collaboration, Tommy (1975).
Russell and Stigwood first focused on the eight lead actresses from the musical's worldwide stage productions. In November 1981, Russell began holding screen tests at Elstree Studios. Karla DeVito was among those who auditioned for the role of Eva. Rice, Stigwood and Paramount however wanted Elaine Paige, the first actress to play Eva in the London stage production. Russell travelled to London, where he screen tested Liza Minnelli wearing a blonde wig and custom-period gowns. He felt that Minnelli, a more established film actress, would be better suited for the role. Russell also began work on his own screenplay without Stigwood, Rice or Lloyd Webber's approval. His script followed the outlines of the stage production, but established the character of Ché as a newspaper reporter. The script also contained a hospital montage for Eva and Ché, with them passing each other on gurneys in white corridors as she is being treated for cancer, while Ché is beaten and injured by rioters. Russell was ultimately fired from the project after telling Stigwood he would not do the film without Minnelli.
After Paramount began scouting locations in Mexico, Stigwood began the search for a new director. He met with Herbert Ross, who declined in favor of directing Footloose (1984) for Paramount. Stigwood then discussed the project with Richard Attenborough: "I met with [Attenborough] in my bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel and asked him if he could come up with a strong concept for Evita. But he called me back a few days later to say that he hadn't been able to get a grip on it. He didn't feel he could translate it to films." Stigwood also approached directors Alan J. Pakula and Hector Babenco, who both declined. In 1986, Madonna visited Stigwood in his office, dressed in an elaborate gown and a 1940s-style hairdo to show her interest in playing Eva. She also campaigned briefly for Francis Ford Coppola to helm the film. Stigwood was impressed with her determination, stating that she was "perfect" to play the part.
Oliver Stone: 1987–1994
In 1987, Jerry Weintraub's independent film company, Weintraub Entertainment Group (WEG), obtained the film rights from Paramount and signed a three-motion-picture deal with RSO Films to produce films in the $12–16 million range. Oliver Stone, a fan of the musical, expressed interest in writing and directing a film adaptation and contacted RSO to discuss the project. Stone was confirmed as the film's writer and director in April 1988. He travelled to Argentina, where he visited Eva's birthplace and met with the then-newly elected President Carlos Menem, who guaranteed the production freedom of speech, as well as 50,000 extras.
Madonna met with Stone and Lloyd Webber in New York to discuss the role. Plans fell through however after she requested script approval, and told Lloyd Webber that she wanted to rewrite the score. Stone reflected, "At the time she hadn't done many movies, and she was insisting on script approval. I said, 'Madonna, you can't have script approval.' And she wanted to rewrite Andrew Lloyd Webber! Here she was making these demands, and I said, 'Look, there's no point in our meeting anymore; it's not going to work'." Stone then approached Meryl Streep for the lead role and worked closely with her, Rice and Lloyd Webber at a New York City recording studio to do preliminary dubbings of the score. Stigwood said of Streep's musical performance, "She learned the entire score in a week. Not only can she sing, but she's sensational -- absolutely staggering."
WEG allocated a budget of $29 million, with filming set to begin in early 1989. However, the production was halted due to the 1989 riots in Argentina. Concerned for the safety of the cast and crew, Stigwood and Weintraub balked at the prospects of shooting there. The filmmakers then scouted locations in Brazil and Chile, before they expressed interest in filming in Spain, with a proposed budget of $35 million. The poor box office performances of WEG's films however resulted in the studio dropping the project.
Stone took Evita to Carolco Pictures shortly thereafter, and Streep remained a front-runner for the lead role. Streep however began escalating her asking price; she demanded a pay-or-play contract, whereby she would be paid for her commitment of time whether the film was shot or not. Streep also gave the filmmakers a 48-hour deadline, and although an agreement was reached, her agent contacted Carolco and RSO Films, advising them that she was stepping down from the project for "personal reasons". Although Streep later renewed her interest in playing Eva, Stone and his creative team left the project in favor of making The Doors (1991) for Carolco.
In 1990, The Walt Disney Studios acquired the film rights to Evita, and Glenn Gordon Caron was hired to direct the film, with Madonna set to appear in the lead role. Disney was to produce the film under its adult film label, Hollywood Pictures. Although Disney had spent $2–3 million in development costs, it aborted plans for production in May 1991 when the budget climbed to $30 million. Disney chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg was unwilling to spend more than $25.7 million on the film. In November 1993, Stigwood sold the film rights to Andrew G. Vajna's independent film company, Cinergi Pictures. Vajna later enlisted Arnon Milchan of Regency Enterprises as a co-financier, and Stone returned as the film's director after meeting with Dan Halsted, the senior vice president of Hollywood Pictures. Production was set to begin sometime in 1995 after Stone and Milchan concluded filming of Noriega, a film chronicling the life of Panamanian general and dictator Manuel Noriega. Stone and Milchan however fell into disputes over the high production costs of Evita, Noriega (which was never filmed) and Nixon (1995). In July 1994, Stone left Evita in favor of filming Nixon for Cinergi and Hollywood Pictures.
In December 1994, Alan Parker signed on to write and direct the film after being approached by Stigwood and Vajna. Parker also produced the film, with his Dirty Hands Productions banner enlisted as a production company. While drafting his own script, Parker researched Eva's life, compiling newspaper articles, documentaries and English-language books. He refused to borrow elements from Stone's script or the stage play, instead opting to model his script after Rice and Lloyd Webber's concept album. He said, "My intention was to write a balanced story, as thoroughly researched as possible, inspired always by the heart of the original piece, which was [Lloyd Webber]'s score and [Rice]'s lyrics. I ignored the stage play completely, as the theatrical decisions that Hal Prince made bore little relevance to a cinematic interpretation." Stone had a falling out with Parker over the content of the script, claiming that he had made significant contributions. A legal dispute and arbitration by the Writers Guild of America resulted in Parker and Stone sharing a screenwriting credit.
The script called for 146 changes to the original score and lyrics, as well as changes to the final act. In May 1995, Parker visited Lloyd Webber at his home in France, and tried to bring him and Rice together to work on the film. Rice and Lloyd Webber had not worked together for years after the musical Cricket (1986), and the script for Evita required that they compose new music, including a new song, "You Must Love Me".
In June 1995, with assistance from the United States Department of State and senator Chris Dodd, Parker arranged a private meeting with Menem in Argentina to discuss the film's production and request permission to film at the Casa Rosada, the executive mansion. Although Menem expressed his discontent towards the production, he granted the production creative freedom to film in Argentina, but not in the Casa Rosada. Menem also advised Parker to be prepared to face protests against the film. Parker had the film's production designer Brian Morris take photographs of the Casa Rosada, so that the production could construct a replica at Shepperton Studios in England. He said, "[Morris] ... photographed every square inch of the Casa Rosada and his construction manager had been moved on by military guards a dozen times whilst measuring up with his tape. In other words, I was going to shoot the Casa Rosada whether they gave me permission to use their one or not." Parker visited seven other countries before ultimately deciding to film on location in Buenos Aires and Budapest.
Stone considered casting Michelle Pfeiffer in the lead role of Eva before he left the project in 1994. After he was hired to direct the film, Parker met with Pfeiffer, who was no longer willing to film outside the United States, as she had to care for her two children. In December 1994, Madonna wrote a four-page letter to Parker, expressing that only she could play Eva and that she would be fully committed to the role. Parker said, "Her handwritten, four-page letter was extraordinarily passionate and sincere. As far as she was concerned, no one could play Evita as well as she could, and she said that she would sing, dance and act her heart out, and put everything else on hold to devote all her time to it should I decide to go with her."
Rice believed that Madonna would suit the title role since she could "act so beautifully through music" Lloyd Webber however was wary about Madonna's singing, so after securing the role, she underwent vocal training with coach Joan Lader since Evita required the actors to sing their own parts, and also to increase her own confidence in singing the unusual songs. Lader noted that the singer "had to use her voice in a way she's never used it before. Evita is real musical theater — it's operatic, in a sense. Madonna developed an upper register that she didn't know she had." Lader taught Madonna how to sing using her diaphragm rather than just her throat, allowing her to project her voice in a much more cohesive manner. Madonna was thrilled to find the newly discovered nuances in her voice and practiced every night by contacting her friends by phone and singing to them. Madonna travelled to Buenos Aires in January 1996, to begin researching the life of Eva, meeting with people who knew her before her passing. During filming, she fell sick many times due to the intense emotional effort required, and midway through production, she discovered she was pregnant. Her daughter Lourdes was born on October 14, 1996. Madonna published a diary of the film shoot in Vanity Fair. She said of the filming experience, "This is the role I was born to play. I put everything of me into this because it was much more than a role in a movie. It was exhilarating and intimidating at the same time ... And I am prouder of Evita than anything else I have done."
Although Madonna had lobbied for the role of Eva during the film's troubled pre-production, Antonio Banderas was the first actor to be cast in the film. He secured the role of Ché, when the film was to be directed by Glenn Gordon Caron, and later Stone. Parker decided to cast Banderas based on the actor's audition tape. He chose not to reveal the character as Ernesto "Che" Guevara, which had been done in previous stage productions. As Guevara had never actually met Eva, Parker decided to simply call his character Ché (a common Spanish nickname for "buddy" or "pal"). He said, "My own feeling was that Che Guevara's actual story should not be cosmetically or dishonestly grafted onto ours. Indeed, it probably deserved a film or two of its own. And it wasn't to be this one. Hence the narrator in my film is purely and simply 'Ché.'" Banderas said of the character, "In the movie Ché tells the story of Eva. He takes a very critical view of her and he's sometimes cynical and aggressive but funny, too. At the same time he creates this problem for himself because, for all his principles, he gets struck by the charm of the woman." Jonathan Pryce was Parker's only choice for the role of Juan Perón. Upon reading the script, Pryce secured the role after several meetings with Parker.
The film's production in Argentina was met with controversy and sparked significant media attention. The cast and crew faced protests over fears that the project would tarnish Eva's image. Members of the Peronist Party launched a hate campaign, condemning the film's production, Madonna and Parker. Parker stated, "The pro-Peronist press attacked us daily, even though they had no knowledge of what we were doing, and the news clippings piled higher and higher from around the world as we read about how unwelcome we were in Argentina." Evita also prompted the Government of Argentina to produce their own film, Eva Perón: The True Story (1996), to remedy any misconceptions or inaccuracies caused by the musical adaptation.
Principal photography began on February 8, 1996 with an estimated budget of $55 million. Production designer Brian Morris constructed 320 different sets, including a replica of the Casa Rosada that would be used for filming if Menem did not allow Parker and his crew to film in the actual mansion. Costume designer Penny Rose was given special access to Eva's wardrobe in Argentina, and she modeled her own costume designs after Eva's original outfits and shoes. She fitted 40,000 extras in period dresses. The production used 5,500 costumes from 20 different costume houses in seven cities—London, Rome, Paris, New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Buenos Aires, and Budapest—as well as 1,000 military uniforms. Madonna's wardrobe alone consisted of 85 changes, 39 hats, 45 pairs of shoes, and 56 pairs of earrings. She broke the Guinness World Record for "Most Costume Changes in a Film".
Filming began in Buenos Aires, where the production filmed scenes depicting Eva's childhood set in 1936. Filming locations included Los Toldos, the town of Junín where Eva grew up, and Chivilcoy, where her father's funeral took place. On February 23, 1996, Menem arranged a meeting with Parker, Madonna, Pryce and Banderas, and granted the production access to the Casa Rosada. Parker reflected, "... we were summoned to an official meeting with the President ... After much small talk and diplomatic tap dancing, Madonna suddenly said to the President, 'Let's cut to the chase here. Do we have the balcony or don't we?' The oleagineous Menem smiled and nodded, 'You can have the balcony.'" On March 9, 1996, the production filmed the musical number "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" at the Casa Rosada, which was filmed in two days and required 4,000 extras. Filming in Buenos Aires concluded after five weeks.
The cast and crew then moved to Hungary, Budapest, with 23 locations doubling for scenes set in Buenos Aires. In re-enacting Eva's state funeral, Parker was inspired by documentary footage detailing the event: "We had analysed the documentary footage of the actual mammoth event and were anxious to replicate it down to the smallest details." After five weeks of shooting in Hungary, the remainder of filming took place on soundstages at Shepperton Studios in England. Principal photography concluded on May 30, 1996 after 84 days of filming.
Director of photography Darius Khondji had first worked with Madonna as the cinematographer for the 1993 music video for "Fever". He was initially reluctant about working on a musical until his first meeting with Parker, whose passion for the project inspired him to do so. Regarding the overall look of the film, Khondji and Parker were inspired by the works of American realist painter George Bellows. Khondji shot Evita using Moviecam cameras, with Cooke anamorphic lenses. He used Eastman EXR 5245 film stock for exterior footage, 5293 for interiors, and 5248 for any scenes shot during overcast days, as well as combat sequences and other scenes. The finished film features 299 scenes and 3,000 shots from 320,000 feet of film.
Khondji employed large tungsten units, ranging from 18K HMIs, and dino and Wendy lights. Additionally, he used Arri's VariCon, which functions as an illuminated filter, and incorporated much more lens filtration than he had on previous projects. Technicolor's ENR silver retention was used in order to control the contrast and black density of the film's release prints. "[The ENR process] is the only way to really increase the contrast and play with the colors before moving on to digital post-production," he said. "ENR works on a scale of infrared, which effects the depth and thickness of the blacks. You vary the degree of infrared according to the picture."
Music and soundtrack
Recording sessions for the film's songs and soundtrack began on October 2, 1995—roughly four months before filming—and took place at CTS Studios in London, with Madonna accompanied by Banderas and Pryce. Recording the soundtrack was a slow process and took almost four months before it was completed. Parker declared the first day of recording as "Black Monday", since it was "being filled with trepidation and nerves ... we were very apprehensive." The cast was also nervous. Banderas found the experience "scary", while Madonna was allegedly "petrified" when it came to recording the songs. "I had to sing 'Don't Cry For Me Argentina' in front of Andrew Lloyd Webber ... I was a complete mess and was sobbing afterward. I thought I had done a terrible job", the singer recalled.
According to the film's music producer Nigel Wright, the lead actors would first sing the numbers backed by a band and orchestra before working with Parker and music supervisor David Caddick "in a more intimate recording environment [to] perfect their vocals". However, more trouble arose as Madonna was not completely comfortable with laying down a "guide vocal" simultaneously with an 84-piece orchestra inside the studio. She was used to singing over a pre-recorded track and not having musicians listen to her. Also, unlike her previous soundtrack releases, she had little to no control over the project: "I'm used to writing my own songs and I go into a studio, choose the musicians and say what sounds good or doesn't ... To work on 46 songs with everyone involved and not have a big say was a big adjustment," she recalled. An emergency meeting was held between Parker, Lloyd Webber and Madonna, where it was decided that the singer would record her part at Whitfield Street Studios, a contemporary studio, while the orchestration would take place elsewhere. She also had alternate days off from the recording to save and strengthen her voice.
By the end of recording, Parker noticed that Rice and Lloyd Webber did not have a new song in place. Parker reflected, "Finally, while I was visiting [Lloyd Webber] at his country estate in Berkshire to play him the tracks we had recorded, he suddenly sat down at the piano and played the most beautiful melody, which he suggested could be our new song. Needless to say, I grabbed it. However, we still needed lyrics and [Rice] dutifully began to put words to the music. The vast majority of the original Evita score had been done this way: music first, lyrics afterwards. After many weeks of nail biting, [Rice] was finally cajoled into writing the lyrics that now accompany the music to 'You Must Love Me'."
The soundtrack for Evita was released by Warner Bros. Records in two different versions: a two-disc edition entitled Evita: The Complete Motion Picture Music Soundtrack which featured all the tracks from the film; and Evita: Music from the Motion Picture, a single-disc edition which contained a selection of song highlights. Critical reception towards the soundtrack was mixed. AllMusic's Stephen Thomas Erlewine called it "unengaging", while Hartford Courant's Greg Morago praised Madonna's singing abilities. It was however a commercial success, reaching the top of the charts in Austria, Belgium, Scotland, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, while attaining top-ten positions in other major musical markets. In the United States, the soundtrack reached a peak of number two on the Billboard 200 chart, and was certified quintuple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
In May 1996, Parker constructed a 10-minute preview of Evita that was shown at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival for reporters, distributors and mainstream film critics. Despite a minor technical issue with the film projector synchronizing the sound and picture, the preview was met with a positive response. Roger Ebert, writing for the Chicago Sun-Times, said, "If the preview is representative of the finished film, Argentina can wipe away its tears." Barry Walters, writing for the San Francisco Examiner, wrote, "Rather than showing the best moments from every scene, the trailer concentrates on a few that prove what Madonna, Banderas and Pryce can do musically. The results are impressive." A book detailing the film's production, The Making of Evita, was released on December 10, 1996 by Collins Publishers.
Evita premiered at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California on December 14, 1996, the Savoy Cinema in Dublin, Ireland on December 19, 1996, and the Empire Theatre in Leicester Square, London, England on December 20, 1996. Hollywood Pictures gave the film a "platform" release, first releasing it in a small number of cities before expanding distribution in the following weeks. The film first opened in limited release in New York and Los Angeles on December 25, 1996 before being released nationwide on January 10, 1997. The film was distributed by Buena Vista Pictures in North America and Latin America, Paramount Pictures (through United International Pictures) in Germany and Japan, and Summit Entertainment in other countries. Evita was the final feature film produced by Robert Stigwood, who died on January 4, 2016.
Evita grossed $71,308 on its first day of limited release, an average of $35,654 per theater. By the end of its first weekend, the film had grossed $195,085, with an overall domestic gross of $334,440. More theatres were added on the following weekend, and the film grossed an additional $1,064,660 in its second weekend, with an overall gross of $2,225,737.
Released to a total of 704 theaters in the United States and Canada, Evita grossed $2,551,291 on its first day of wide release. By the end of its opening weekend, it had grossed $8,381,055, securing the number two position at the domestic box office behind the science-fiction horror film The Relic. The film saw a small increase in attendance in its second weekend of wide release. During the four-day Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, the film moved to third place on domestic box office charts, and earned $8,918,183—a 6.4% overall increase from the previous weekend. It grossed an additional $5,415,891 during its fourth weekend, moving to fifth place in the top 10 rankings. Evita moved to sixth place the following weekend, grossing an additional $4,374,631—a 19.2% decrease from the previous weekend. By its sixth weekend, the film went from sixth place to seventh, earning $3,001,066. Evita completed its theatrical run in North America on May 8, 1997 after 135 days (19.3 weeks) of release. It grossed $50,047,179 in North America, and $91,000,000 in other territories, for a worldwide total of $141,047,179. In the United States and Canada, it was the 32nd highest-grossing film of 1996 and the sixth highest-grossing PG-rated film of that year. Worldwide, it was the twenty-third highest-grossing film of the year.
Evita was released on VHS on August 5, 1997, and on LaserDisc on August 20, 1997. A DTS LaserDisc version and a Criterion Collection "Special Edition" LaserDisc were both released on September 17, 1997. Special features on the Criterion LaserDisc include an audio commentary by Parker, Madonna's music videos for "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" and "You Must Love Me", two theatrical trailers and five TV spots. The film was released on DVD on March 25, 1998. A 15th Anniversary Edition was released on Blu-ray disc on May 22, 2012. The Blu-ray presents the film in 1080p high definition. Special features include a documentary titled "The Making of Evita", a theatrical trailer, and the music video for "You Must Love Me".
Upon release, Evita received mixed reviews by mainstream film critics. The review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes sampled 37 reviews, and gave the film a score of 62%, with an average score of 6.6 out of 10. Another review aggregator, Metacritic, assigned the film a weighted average score of 45 out of 100 based on 23 reviews from critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Malcolm Johnson, in his review for the Hartford Courant, wrote, "Against all odds, this long-delayed film version turns out to be a labor of love for director Alan Parker and for his stars, the reborn Madonna, the new superstar Antonio Banderas, the protean veteran Jonathan Pryce." In his review for the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert praised Parker's direction, as well as the performances of Madonna and Banderas: "... Parker's visuals enliven the music, and Madonna and Banderas bring it passion. By the end of the film we feel like we've had our money's worth, and we're sure Evita has." On the syndicated television program Siskel & Ebert & the Movies, Ebert and his colleague Gene Siskel gave the film a "two thumbs up" rating. Siskel, in his review for the Chicago Tribune, wrote, "Director Alan Parker has mounted this production well, which is more successful as spectacle than anything else." Time magazine's Richard Corliss wrote, "... this Evita is not just a long, complex music video; it works and breathes like a real movie, with characters worthy of our affection and deepest suspicions." Critic Zach Conner commented, "It's a relief to say that Evita is pretty damn fine, well-cast, and handsomely visualized. Madonna once again confounds our expectations. She plays Evita with a poignant weariness and has more than just a bit of star quality. Love or hate Madonna-Eva, she is a magnet for all eyes."
Carol Buckland of CNN wrote that "Evita is basically a music video with epic pretensions. This is not to say it isn't gorgeous to look at or occasionally extremely entertaining. It's both of those things. But for all the movie's grand style, it falls short in terms of substance and soul." Newsweek's David Ansen wrote, "It's gorgeous. It's epic. It's spectacular. But two hours later, it also proves to be emotionally impenetrable." Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly was among those who criticized Parker's direction: "Evita could have worked had it been staged as larger-than-life spectacle ... The way Alan Parker has directed Evita, however, it's just a sluggish, contradictory mess, a drably "realistic" Latin-revolution music video driven by a soundtrack of mediocre '70s rock." Janet Maslin, in her review for The New York Times, praised Madonna's performance, as well as the costume design and cinematography, but wrote that the film was "breathless and shrill, since Alan Parker's direction shows no signs of a moral or political compass and remains in exhausting overdrive all the time." Jane Horwitz, writing for the Sun-Sentinel said of Madonna's performance, "Madonna sings convincingly and gets through the acting, but her performance lacks depth, grace and muscle. Luckily, director Alan Parker's historic-looking production with its epic crowd scenes and sepia-toned newsreels shows her off well."
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