Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart On the Road has disappointing North American box-office debut
Directed by Walter Salles, and starring Garrett Hedlund, Sam Riley, and Kristen Stewart, On the Road had a surprisingly soft bow at the North American box office this weekend, Dec. 21-23. The IFC Films-distributed drama based on Jack Kerouac’s classic novel grossed $43,200 at four locations, averaging a modest $10,800 per site according to weekend estimates found at Deadline.com. (Photo: Kristen Stewart as Mary Lou, On the Road.)
It remains to be seen whether or not On the Road will manage to gain some much-needed stamina throughout the Christmas / New Year’s holiday season. At the North American box office, the weekend before Christmas tends to be quite low key; but even taking that into account, On the Road‘s debut was quite disappointing when one considers the presence of TRON: Legacy‘s Garrett Hedlund and Snow White and the Huntsman / Breaking Dawn Part 2‘s Kristen Stewart — not to mention Viggo Mortensen, Amy Adams, and Kirsten Dunst in supporting roles. Plus the behind-the-scenes prestige of director Walter Salles, The Motorcycle Diaries screenwriter José Rivera, and executive producer Francis Ford Coppola.
On the Road vs. Amour, The Impossible
For comparison’s sake: At three locations, Michael Haneke’s widely acclaimed Palme d’Or winner Amour took in $70,700, averaging $23,567 per site according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo. And the French-language Amour is hardly an audience-friendly flick: veterans Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, neither of whom means anything to the vast majority of (ignorant) U.S. moviegoers, play an elderly couple facing illness and death.
Also, Juan Antonio Bayona’s tsunami drama The Impossible, starring Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor, debuted with an estimated $139,000 at 15 venues, averaging $9,267 per site. That’s a lower per-theater average than On the Road‘s — but at nearly four times more theaters. All things being equal, the fewer the number of theaters, the higher the per-theater average should be. In other words: relatively speaking, The Impossible opened much more strongly than On the Road.
And of course, there’s no comparison to Kathryn Bigelow’s generally acclaimed and highly controversial Zero Dark Thirty, which has been getting lots of awards-season / Academy Award buzz, in addition to tons of free publicity from outraged CIA honchos and U.S. congressmen and women. Featuring Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton, and Jennifer Ehle, Zero Dark Thirty scored an estimated $410,000 at five locations, or $82,000 per site — despite having blown off some steam following its Wednesday debut. (See also: "Tom Cruise Jack Reacher: WTF or Acceptable Second Spot?.")
Even IFC Films’ own The Central Park Five — Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, and David McMahon’s documentary about a gross miscarriage of justice committed in New York City in the early ’90s — collected $30,570 on its opening weekend at three locations in late November, averaging $10,190 per site. That’s about the same level as the star-studded On the Road.
Now, had either Garrett Hedlund or Kristen Stewart — or both — earned early awards-season mentions from U.S.-based critics’ groups, the Screen Actors Guild, or the Golden Globes, things would likely have been quite different for On the Road at the domestic box office. However, that didn’t happen. In fact, On the Road has been all but ignored so far.
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Photo: Kristen Stewart as Mary Lou, On the Road photo: IFC Films.