Chances are that if you pay attention to news around the film world you heard about the new drama SERENITY from director Steven Knight (LOCKE) and starring Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway. You also may have heard the movie is a bonkers, possibly genius mess – and one that, unfortunately (and expectedly), bombed during its opening weekend. Now is the time for finger pointing, and McConaughey, Hathaway and Knight are reportedly pointing theirs at studio Aviron, who they claim abandoned the movie with hardly any publicity to be found.
Deadline got the exclusive from some sources close to the matter saying all three are “furious” with the studio after supposedly being promised a certain level of media coverage and advertising – of which they did not get – resulting in an eighth-place debut at the box office last weekend with $4.4 million. According to the report the stars agreed to a full ad campaign that would befit a 2,500-theater count, including a press junket, late night appearances and tons of TV ads. As the release date drew near, they were getting almost none of the above, and right before the film’s press junket in Los Angeles they were told there would be no advertising spent on the movie. Aviron president David Dinerstein reportedly told the stars their publicity appearances would be the only marketing the movie would get, and hopefully, that would be enough.
Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t, and the movie had one of the worst wide openings ever for either of the Oscar-winning actors. At first, the studio did not want to comment on the situation, but Deadline eventually got a statement from them, citing the movie’s poor test screenings and reviews as a reason why they couldn’t market the movie.
“We had the best intentions for Serenity. We were excited for the opportunity to release this uniquely original movie and work with such a stellar cast and talented filmmakers. As much as we love this film and still hope it finds its audience, we tested and retested the film — with audiences and critics alike — and sadly, the data demonstrated that the film was not going to be able to perform at our initial expectations, so we adjusted our budget and marketing tactics accordingly. Regardless of the spend, it’s next to impossible for an adult-skewing drama to overcome a 23% score on Rotten Tomatoes and a D+ CinemaScore. To have spent more would have been irresponsible to our capital partners and wouldn’t have made prudent business sense for an independent distributor. We have enormous respect and admiration for the talent and all the hard work they put into the film and wish the box office results were better.”
As well, word is the studio took a bath on the critically-acclaimed drama A PRIVATE WAR starring Rosamund Pike as journalist Marie Colvin, for which the studio spent a pretty penny on in marketing. The hope was the movie would coast off strong reviews and awards buzz to bring in audiences, but despite a Golden Globe nomination for Pike the movie failed to garner much box office draw and was considered a loss for the studio. Despite McConaughey’s pleas with the studio to give it a platform launch the studio didn’t budge, and now the star is reportedly “breathing fire over feeling like he was duped.”
I had a chance to see SERENITY, and indeed, it’s a tough movie to market. A movie advertised (with its one trailer) as a sultry thriller involving McConaughey’s character, his ex-wife and her abusive new husband (Jason Clarke), the movie is so much more than that. At least one or two audience members walked out at one key point when it becomes clear this is not the movie they thought it was. Surely similar reactions in past screenings are what caused the studio to lose faith, but still, I can see why the stars are pissed. The studio should’ve stood by the project, or at least found a way to market it better — or even sell it off to Netflix or something. Still, the movie is so strange that I have faith it will find its audience down the road and become sort of a cult classic, for one reason or another.
SERENITY is in theaters now.