There were indeed a lot of good news to come out of the 2012 indie box office, as yesterday's article on the year's 10 biggest specialty market success stories can attest. But it wasn't all roses and dollar signs, as these 5 major specialty disappointments make clear:
1. Indie films starring Zac Efron, Kristen Stewart or Robert Pattinson
They all faired very well with wide releases this year ("The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2," "Snow White and the Huntsman," "The Lucky One," "The Lorax"), but three of young Hollywood's biggest stars all had serious box office issues when it came to indie fare this year. After they all turned up at Cannes with promising films like David Cronenberg's "Cosmopolis," Lee Daniels' "The Paperboy," and Walter Salles' "On The Road," each saw their films make it to Stateside release with a thud. "Cosmopolis" — starring Pattinson as a twentysomething billionaire riding around Manhattan in his limo — grossed just $763,556; The promise of a whole lot of Zac Efron in his tighty whiteys helped bring "The Paperboy" to a gross of just $693,286; and while Stewart's turn in "On The Road" only had a one week qualifying run in December (with a wider release coming in a few weeks) — its numbers weren't promising (it averaged $9,888 from 4 screens, but again — the jury is still out). All three films can take solace in the fact that their grosses weren't as dismal as Pattinson's "Bel Ami," which was released in the Spring to the tune of just $120,462. That's probably about how much "Breaking Dawn, Part 2" made in its first 10 seconds of release.
2. "Atlas Shrugged, Part II"
Considering "Atlas Shrugged, Part I" wasn't exactly a big hit — grossed $4.6 million on its $20 million budget — it shouldn't come as a surprise that its sequel did so poorly as well. What should come as a surprise is that it was even made at all. But where there's a will there's a way, though despite opening on more than three times the screens of "Part I," the sequel barely improved on "Part I"'s opening weekend ($1.7 million on 1,012 screens). Adjusted for inflation, the film had the 109th worst wide openings of the past 30 years, followed by one of the 200 worst second-week drops for the same period (65%). The end result was a $3.3 million gross. "Atlas Shrugged, Part III," anyone? Anyone?
3. Fox Searchlight's romantic comedies about young people.
Sure, Fox Searchlight had the biggest specialty hit of the year in "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," arguably a romantic comedy inarguably about old people. But the distributors two attempts at romantic comedies about young people didn't go over so well. First there was Greta Gerwig vehicle "Lola Versus," which grossed just $252,603 to become Searchlight's lowest grossing film of the year. Then there was "Ruby Sparks," Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris's follow-up to "Little Miss Sunshine" (a huge Searchlight hit). "Ruby" faired much better than "Lola," but considering expectations were far higher it was just as disappointing. It ended up with a $2,540,106 total – less that what "Sunshine" made in its ninth weekend alone.
4. Indies about vampires and werewolves.
The final "Twilight" film may have managed nearly $300 million at the box office, but vampires and werewolves certainly weren't turkey-proof plotlines, especially in the specialty market. And we're talking serious turkies. The total grosses of "Vamps" ($3,361) "The Moth Diaries" ($3,838), "I Kissed a Vampire" ($1,794) and "Jack and Diane" ($1,142) don't even add up to $10,000. And they make the grosses for Korean import "A Werewolf Boy" ($328,231 since opening at the end of November) look downright "Twilight"-esque. Note that "Vamps," "Diaries" and "Diane" all received considerable VOD releases as well… Here's hoping the revenue from that (which is not made public) had a bit more bite.
5. "The Master"
On the one hand, a $15 million gross for a divisive, challenging, 2 1/2 hour indie is no disaster. It's perhaps quite admirable, and makes "The Master" one of the 10 highest grossing specialty films of 2012. On the other hand, it cost $35 million to make, was directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, whose following led "There Will Be Blood" to a $40 million gross. It also failed to live up to its remarkable limited average of $147,262 per its 5 theaters — the all-time record for a live action film. But then the Weinstein Company decided to push it to 788 screens in its second weekend, and it burned out very quickly, with a total now standing at $15,956,662. The only other live action film to open to an average of over $80,000 and fail to at least gross $40 million was last year's "The Tree of Life." But at least The Weinstein Company was also very well represented on the "winners" article that ran yesterday.