Kristen Stewart and Rupert Sanders ‘Scandal’ and the box office
[See previous post: "Platform Releases: When to Expand?."] Are we to believe that Cosmopolis didn’t have its visibility dramatically increased at the time? That countless people who had never heard of the film and couldn’t care less about Robert Pattinson’s romantic life or Twilight role suddenly became aware of the existence of Cosmopolis because of the Kristen Stewart-Rupert Sanders to-do? That a potentially wider audience was reached that could theoretically feel inclined to check out David Cronenberg’s movie, whether because of Pattinson, Cronenberg, author Don DeLillo, the storyline, any of the film’s supporting players, or all of the above? What’s so far-fetched about that? (Photo: Kristen Stewart On the Road New York premiere.)
That, in fact, might also help to explain Cosmopolis‘ dramatic box-office drop on its second weekend. The ten-fold expansion came too soon, especially considering that the novelty had worn off; after all, Robert Pattinson had already made his television appearances and had rung the bell at the New York Stock Exchange the week before. Then what, without strong word of mouth and/or eOne’s publicity machine working full force to maintain Cosmopolis in the public consciousness?
Hollywood scandals and the box office — and as movie history
But how dare I mention The Scandal? That should become as unutterable as certain slurs, spelled out like the S— word or something. Shouldn’t we only discuss what takes place on screen and that’s it? Well, I’m not sure in which galaxy you live, but on Planet Earth, what happens off screen affects — oftentimes radically so — what we get to watch on screen (and how we get to watch it, too).
Imagine someone discussing Cleopatra without mentioning the Elizabeth Taylor-Richard Burton affair and the behind-the-scenes goings-on. Or discussing Douglas Sirk’s mother-daughter melo Imitation of Life, one of Universal’s biggest pre-1960 hits, without mentioning Lana Turner’s daughter fatally stabbing Turner’s hoodlum lover Johnny Stompanato and the highly publicized trial that ensued. Or discussing Husbands and Wives without talking about the nasty Woody Allen-Mia Farrow breakup. Or, back to Elizabeth Taylor, talking about Cat on a Hot Tin Roof‘s stupendous box-office performance without mentioning that the film opened at the height of the Elizabeth Taylor-Eddie Fisher-Debbie Reynolds to-do. The list goes on.
‘The Scandal’ and On the Road
Now, unlike some ardent Pattinson / Cosmopolis "defenders" insist, I don’t believe the scandal helped On the Road for the simple fact that Walter Salles’ movie opened five months later. The scandal is now old news. Had On the Road opened back in August, I’m quite sure its opening-weekend box-office results would have been more impressive.
Oh, but Kristen Stewart was recently featured in all those premieres and awards-season roundtables and photo-ops. Yes, mostly followed by her fans, spread out all over the world. What would have truly helped On the Road at this time of year, in Los Angeles and in New York City, would have been strong local reviews; tons of billboards, and TV, print, and online ads; plus a few awards here and there. None of that happened.
Box Office reports
But why discuss box-office reports? Who cares about box-office grosses? Cosmopolis is a great movie. On the Road is a wonderful movie. What does it matter if Cosmopolis bombed in the United States and failed to get even close to reaching its $20m budget at the worldwide box office? What does it matter if On the Road opened with highly disappointing figures in North America and may have failed to even match half its budget at the global box office?
Well, I’m sure that those films’ investors and distributors think it matters. That David Cronenberg and Robert Pattinson and Walter Salles and Garrett Hedlund and Sam Riley and Kristen Stewart probably think it matters as well.
As for those who don’t care, well, they should simply avoid reading box-office articles. That would take care of their problem — because we certainly don’t have an issue with that subject matter. And remember: No box office (and/or ancillary revenues) = no movies. If you believe it’s all about "art," then I have a couple of bridges, half a dozen mountains, and one huge waterfall to sell you.
Oh, well … This turned out to be much longer than the comments section in my On the Road post published last weekend. But that’s life.
Kristen Stewart On the Road New York premiere photo via the On the Road Facebook page / IFC Films.