Critical supporters of Kenneth Lonergan's little-marketed "Margaret" are rejoicing, as the film, which some have hailed as a "masterpiece" (and others "a mess") is returning to a New York movie theater this Friday (the Cinema Village, with shows at 3:50pm and 9:15pm). After 685 advocates signed a petition asking distributor Fox Searchlight to make the film available to critics, a Twitter group called #teammargaret spread the word, and the movie began appearing on top ten lists — it ranked the 7th best film of the year on the Village Voice's annual poll — you'd think Fox would have gotten the hint. But the company actually had little to do with the Gotham booking.
"I booked it because i missed it, and figured there were plenty like me that wanted to see it," says Music Box Films' managing director Ed Arentz, who also books the Cinema Village. "I requested a booking and it was granted."
While Arentz says Searchlight was helpful, sending along a poster to put in the theater lobby, "they declined to support it with advertising."
The sordid post-production history of "Margaret" has been already documented extensively by the Los Angeles Times, and the legal wranglings surrounding the film have clearly effected its release.
Though Fox issued a statement to the Times, saying, "We are looking forward to getting the film out to audiences," Searchlight has not marketed the film in a manner commensurate with even their smaller releases.
Writing for the Village Voice, L.A. Weekly film editor and critic Karina Longworth suggests the studio may have been justified in short-circuiting the film's release because of "dismal box-office returns" (making under $50,000 in ticket sales). But everyone knows that a movie doesn't bring in audiences without a marketing budget. Undoubtedly, Searchlight buried Longworth's favorite film of the year.
It's almost as if the company is pretending the movie doesn't exist. A re-release of the Searchlight's own "Tree of Life," also at the Cinema Village on Friday, has been touted by Searchlight's marketing department, on its website and Twitter feed, but there's been no mention of "Margaret's" reappearence on movie screens by the company.