Wednesday, November 4, 2009 at 3:36AM
I don't want to speak too soon, but what the hell has happened to Fox Searchlight this year? It started out well enough, with Notorious becoming a surprise hit. There was also (500) Days of Summer, which will likely emerge as the studio's big awards charge at the end of the year. And we don't know what will happen with Fantastic Mr. Fox quite yet.
But check out the rest of the line-up: Miss March, bomb. Post Grad, bomb. Adam, $2 million in almost four months. Whip It, troubling returns that should have been much greater. Amelia, won't make money and it won't get any nominations, which is the reason it was made. But Gentlemen Broncos, featuring Jemaine Clement from Flight of the Conchords and directed by Napoleon Dynamite's Jared Hess, might be the biggest loser of them all. And Searchlight knows it.
The movie only made $11,000 this past weekend in two theaters, and received very bad reviews overall. As a consequence, I received the following note from the studio: "Fox Searchlight’s Gentlemen Broncos will not be opening in your market. There is no longer an opening date for this film." Now, the markets I officially serve are Phoenix, Tucson, and Las Vegas, of which only Phoenix gets a lot of second- and third-weekend roll-outs. It could be different in other cities, but I know Phoenix is one of Searchlight's top ten markets in the US most years, so I would imagine similar moves are being set into motion in other majors around the country. And there's not a lot of wiggle room in the phrase "will not be opening."
It is expanding a little bit this weekend, but that was decided before the revenue from this past weekend came in. And if it does similar numbers in those theaters, I can't expect Searchlight would reverse this decision, made just two days after the opening weekend numbers were reported. So it looks like it could be a total loss for the studio. That wouldn't be worth raising an eyebrow if the usually reliable Fox Searchlight hadn't misfired nearly every time out this year.
I've been informed by the studio that Searchlight is only an accessory to the collective failures of Miss March and Post Grad; they were actually big Fox products that Searchlight marketed, which is the same function the junior brand will perform for Mr. Fox.