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Kristen Stewart’s THE RUNAWAYS at the Root of Apparition Discord

Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning, Joan Jett, Cherie Currie The Runaways
Kristen Stewart, Welcome to the Rileys
Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett with Dakota Fanning as Cherie Currie (center) in The Runaways (top); Stewart in Welcome to the Rileys (bottom)

Kristen Stewart, the 20-year-old actress best known for her Bella Swan in Twilight, New Moon, and the upcoming Eclipse, torn between Robert Pattinson’s vampire and Taylor Lautner’s werewolf, has been trying to branch out as an actress. In the last couple of years, Stewart has taken on challenging roles in several independent productions.

Two of those, Floria Sigismondi’s The Runaways, co-starring Dakota Fanning, and Jake Scott’s Welcome to the Rileys, co-starring James Gandolfini and Melissa Leo, were greeted with positive notices — mostly directed at Stewart’s performances — at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. Both were eventually bought by Apparition. (For Welcome to the Rileys, which sparked an e-mail campaign to get the film distributed, Apparition partnered with the Sony Worldwide Acquisitions Group.)

This past Monday, May 10, Apparition co-found Bob Berney abruptly left the company, catching off-guard those at the indie distributor, including partner Bill Pohlad, and just about everyone else in the industry.

Pohlad’s e-mail to his staff was shortly thereafter made public:

To our Apparition colleagues and staff:

As some of you may know, Bob Berney has submitted his resignation to me. I suspect that this news comes as a surprise to many of you. It certainly did to me. So I can’t claim that we have a plan in place yet in the wake of this announcement. I can, however, assure you that we will be working in the days ahead to explore our options regarding his replacement. In the meantime, Valerie Bruce, our Senior Vice President of Business Affairs, will serve as interim COO.

I apologize for whatever confusion and uncertainty this news may cause, but know that we are proud and grateful for all the work that you have put into the company and appreciate your continued support.

Bill Pohlad

The recently formed Apparition attempted to take off with Jane Campion’s Bright Star, starring Ben Whishaw and Abbie Cornish, one of the hits at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. The $8.5 million period romance, however, ended up earning a quite disappointing $4.44 million at the domestic box office.

There were also stories about disagreements between Pohlad and Berney after Pohlad’s production company River Road sold the domestic rights to Doug Liman’s political drama Fair Game, starring Naomi Watts and Sean Penn, to Summit Entertainment. (Those stories were later refuted, at least to a certain extent.)

A dearth of ready investment funds at Apparition didn’t help matters any. But the strip of film that broke the camel’s back was apparently the way the R-rated rock biopic The Runaways was released.

"I can knock down that Fair Game, which Pohlad’s River Road financed along with Participant Media but is being distributed by Summit, [caused] the schism," Mike Fleming wrote at Deadline.com. "From what I’m told, there was no big disagreement over that film. But I have heard there was significant disagreement between Pohlad and Berney over how to release The Runaways. Berney wanted to go wide on 1200 screens. Instead, the film was platformed and supported with a viral campaign."

Concurring with that assessment, Thompson on Hollywood’s Anne Thompson asserted that "the movie that most tested the Pohlad/Berney partnership was music biopic The Runaways, which carried high expectations due to Twilight stars Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart. In that case, after a splashy media launch at Sundance, Pohlad altered Berney’s distribution plans, drastically pulling the film back from a planned wide release to a more conservative platform."

Despite a number of good reviews for Sigismondi’s film and especially for Stewart’s performance as rocker Joan Jett, after eight weeks The Runaways has grossed a meager $3.5 million — or a little more than one third of its reported $10m cost. Its widest release was at 244 theaters on opening weekend. A planned expansion last April meant going from 84 theaters showing the film on weekend no. 3 to 204 theaters on weekend no. 4 and 243 theaters on weekend no. 5.

The film’s R rating could well be part of the problem, as it has helped to keep away Stewart’s countless teenage fans. (The Runaways should have better luck on DVD/VOD.) A number of those fans, for their part, have voiced complaints that Apparition did a poor job of raising awareness about their film.

Kristen Stewart’s Welcome to the Rileys, reportedly acquired by Berney himself, will be playing at the upcoming Los Angeles Film Festival, which will also feature a special screening of The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. In Welcome to the Rileys, Stewart plays a foul-mouthed pole dancer-cum-sex worker who is "saved" by a man (Gandolfini) who had recently lost his daughter.

Unless there are more upheavals at Apparition, Welcome to the Rileys is scheduled to be released in the United States later this year.

Also, check out Larry Richman’s analysis of the Berney-Apparition issue.

Photos: Apparition

Continue Reading: Oliver Stone’s WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS Reviews

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14 Comments to Kristen Stewart’s THE RUNAWAYS at the Root of Apparition Discord

  1. Mdukes

    How can anyone be surprised Kristen, ruins everything she touches. Twi made it despite her not because of her. The Yellow Hankerchief lost over 20 million and Adventureland lost over 30 million. The Runaways lost over 12 million. Guess who the common denominator is? Remove all the biased opinions and look at the facts Kristen Stewart can’t act and has openly stated she likes to do movies nobody sees. So she’s intending the production company to go under from the start, she doesn’t care who’s life she ruins.

  2. James Lucas

    Unfortunately I haven’t got to see this one yet, though I’m eagerly awaiting for the DVD release. It’s nice to know how screwed up the marketing of this was and maybe they will learn something from the experience.

    To say that all of the Twilight fans are tweens is absurd, I’m way past that age. Although I was a Kristen Stewart fan before Twilight, I am a huge fan of Dakota Fanning and watched because of them and was happy that I did. Also read the books thank you.

    Casting the two into this movie should have been enough to catapult this movie into good box-office territory. Both are incredible young women and amazing actresses. Apparition messed this one up totally and deserve all the fallout that comes from it. Just my two cents.

  3. thebiz

    Remember Me underperformed because the ending didn’t go well with the American audience. It did well overseas but Hollywood and the studios only care about domestic and openings. The movie starred a Twilght Star in a romance with a PG-13 rating and had commercials in primetime yet hasn’t made $20 mil in the U.S. That may be why Bel Ami doesn’t have a U.S distributor yet.

    If The Runaways had of opened to the same amount of theaters as Remember Me (over 2100) its b.o. would be at the same or maybe a little more.

    Summit International is handling distribution overseas so it will no doubt make more internationally than domestically (just like Remember Me). Also Sony is handling the DVD release of The Runaways.

    The thing that separates these two movies is that Kristen got rave reviews for her performance. There was a rare review that praised Rob’s acting in Remember Me, but it wasn’t widespread. I’m not trying to pit the two against each other, because the films are totally different. I just made a comparison model for the person above.

    I expect The Runaways to do $20 at least mil overseas. It should play especially well in the UK, Australia, France, and Japan. Plus I know Summit Intl will put some advertising dollars behind their promotion. Apparition is on a lot of Hollywood people’s pooh list as of late. They will have problems in the future acquiring films if they even stay in business.

  4. CC

    I really appreciate this article, because I was actually pretty confused about how everything for The Runaways got screwed up. Rob and Kristen have both made interesting choices, and Remember Me made its money back and then some - they knew they took a chance with the twist ending, but it isn’t as if it was truly a box office bomb. The Runaways wasn’t targeted to teenage girls, obviously, and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t have made $20 million, because there’s no reason why it should have showed on only 200+ screens. That’s just absurd, and a good movie got totally screwed by the change in marketing (just like The Young Victoria did). To not have heard of Joan Jett is equally absurd, so I suggest some musical education (not to mention the fact that hello, that’s exactly why movies like this are important) for whoever it was that wrote that. I’m not a big fan of the music, but I at least know who she is and I know about the progress she made for women in music.

  5. Jeff

    I finally managed to see it after so much buzz. I didn’t really believe Kristen Stewart was as good as Ebert said but she was. This movie was flawed in direction and storyline but the lead actors made the ticket price worth it. I would have seen it multiple times if it had been accessible. The sad thing is that I live in a metropolis and I still had to travel more than ten miles to view the movie. That should tell you how bad of a job the studio did. I agree, even A-list male stars like Pitt, Depp, and Clooney need massive advertising dollars or their movies flop. What did Apparition expect. Poor business management if you as me

  6. kim

    This is a shame. With the great performances by two amazing young actresses, very good reviews from film critics, The Runaways should do better at box office. Although rate R is a big factor, the big problem is the fail of promotion from Apparition. For God’s sake, a big name like Johnny Depp, they still have to advertise a month before his movie coming out. Even at the premieres, there are no major posters and I don’t believe I saw any poster at NY premiere. I don’t know whose idea to have to 2 release dates while actresses went on to promote the film for a limited release. It makes people confused after they couldn’t see the film at their local theaters.

  7. nola

    the Runnaways was excellent choice for Kristen, she was gerat.

  8. jen

    It wouldn’t matter how wide the release was for the Runaways. It wasn’t the promotion that made it a failure.

  9. justintime

    The rating wasn’t the problem. It was the lack of time and money spent on marketing and the fact that they didn’t even put it on 600 screens. Also the article calls it Kristen Stewart’s movie when it really wasn’t. Cherie Currie played by the lovely Dakota Fanning is the lead. The beautiful and Kristen Stewart did however steal every scene she was in. Tweens and teens shouldn’t have been the main people this was marketed to. Most of the audience was older women and men and rock fans. App. should have spent more time wooing that part of the audience. I’m just surprised that The Runaways even still making money. It pulled in about $1100 per screen this week and that’s without any new advertising or anything. It’s going to end up being one of those cult classic films. Just like another one of my favorites, Adventureland. DVD, on Demand, and cable deals should be big.

  10. Tues

    Hello? Kristen Stewart has fans that aren’t teens or tweens! There are millons of us “older” fans who were eagerly waiting to see the damn movie and it never made it to our city much less the state! These execs need to get out in the real world for a change and stop putting everything in a certain demo graphic or age group. There were tons of people on twitter BEGGING to see it! In order to make money gentlemen you have to LET FANS SEE IT!!!DUH!!

  11. Britfan

    Thank you to the person up top that mentioned “The Young Victoria”. I’m not sure why this article didn’t. I live in the UK and we have to wait ages to see most American films and lately we only get bollocks like “Clash of the Titans” and the ilk. I had no clue that Apparition was the studio that put out “TYV”. I managed to see it on the Internet, but I would have gladly paid to see it in cineplex. After doing a bit of research, it seems like Apparition studios doesn’t want to make money. Why acquire these films if you aren’t going to put the marketing dollars to use and get them on screens? I don’t forsee this company being around very long. “TYV” was rated PG, based on a historical romance, and starred Emily Blunt. How could they not sell that?! Supposedly we are getting “The Runaways” in the summer but I won’t hold my breath. I’ll probably have to it on DVD or find it on the net. Under another studio “The Runaways”, “TYV”, and “Bright Star” could have all been indie hits. It seems to me like Bill Pohlad is trying to waste his family’s money.

  12. Lee

    The “R” rating for The Runaways definitely made an impact by keeping away all the tweens and teens who would have flocked to the movie.

  13. thebiz

    Berney was right. Kristen and Dakota did two premiers and the late night circuit, and Sundance, and then the movie was only limited to a few theaters. It should have opened in NY and LA and then went wide during the brunt of the promotion. Bob Berney has proven that he knows how to get indies to the mainstream and make huge profits. It’s Apparition that dropped the ball. They also dropped the ball on Boondock Saints II and The Young Victoria, both of which was poorly marketed.

    I don’t blame Berney for leaving. His talents will be appreciated elsewhere. If they had of done what he suggested and opened The Runaways at 1200 screens, it would have done at least $20 million domestically by now, which is fine on the small budget.

    I’m so glad that Sony is involved with Welcome to the Rileys because they are a much larger and commercial studio. The Runaways is already one of the most pre ordered DVD’s on Amazon because many people that wanted to see it didn’t get a chance. It’s too bad that Apparition missed out on theater revenue. They should have taken the risk.

    The real winners in The Runaways debacle are Dakota Fanning, Michael Shannon, Kristen Stewart, Joan Jett, and Cherie Curie. All of these people will see increased revenue because of the film. Joan Jett gained a whole new audience and is selling out more concerts. Cherie Currie’s book became a NY Times bestseller. Dakota Fanning and Kristen are being offered some excellent scripts. Michael Shannon is also getting more script offers and bookings.

  14. Angela

    I think the marketing plan for “The Runaways” (as well as “Remember Me”, for that matter) made the terrible mistake that they assume since the “Twilight” stars were in the movie, people would go see it.

    I don’t think having “The Runaways” opened in the selected markets at the beginning has anything to do with this “failure”.

    I didn’t go to see “The Runaways” because what I thought the subject matter of this movie didn’t interest me. I’m not familiar with the Joan Jett’s music. In fact, I’d never heard of her until I learned that Kristen Stewart took on the role. I saw the trailer, and it gave me the impression that the movie was all about the music and then nothing else. So, if the film was ACTUALLY good, I blamed whoever was the director of marketing for this film for me choosing not to see this movie at a theatre. This movie actually showed at my hometown for 2 weeks!







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