At a time when theater seeks to distinguish itself with a more prolific fare than the factory treadmill of mundane products from streaming, it is with great concern to learn that Lionsgate’s adaptation of the 1970 Pinnacle novel by Judy Blume Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret fell very short at the box office with a $6.8M opening; below both the $7-9 million the studio saw and the more bullish $10 million that rivals spotted.
Figuring out what was wrong here with Judy Blume’s first big-screen foray into Hollywood (her son Lawrence Blume had previously made a freelance version of her 1981 novel, tiger eyes, which grossed $27,000), which won over critics (99% certified fresh) and the few people who bought tickets (A CinemaScore), has less to do with the commercial potential of the genre of picture – movies based on bestselling female novels – and more to do with the featherfish situation of Blume’s material.
Unlike Stephen King whose novels have continued to be adapted for the big screen since his debut as an author (his 1974 novel Carrie being the first to hit theaters in 1976), Blume’s literary canon never found its way to theaters, but rather to television (read, the 1978 TV movie based on his novel, For all time). This was partly due to Blume not finding the right creative partners in Hollywood. Moreover, his books do not adhere to a three-act structure that is paramount for the screen.
Despite Daisy being loved by women over 30 and Blume’s legacy, the silver screen cultural urgency for this tome of teenage rite of passage was not there: the 13-17 year old set represented only 6% of all ticket buyers. The photo’s social media power was low at 66.1 million followers on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube according to RelishMix.
DaisyThe main demo this weekend was older Caucasian women. By Comscore/Screen Engine outputs, 55% of Daisy ticket buyers were women over 45, 70% white. It’s been a slow audience coming out of the pandemic.
complicate more margaret draw was the heavy female subjects of the picture, i.e. menstruation – not exactly the type of film in which it is easy to attract a boyfriend or a husband: only 4% of the public came with a boyfriend, while 14% brought their spouse via PostTrak.
MargareteyouThe road to cinemas began with The edge of seventeen filmmaker Kelly Fremon Craig sends Blume an impassioned email to adapt the book, with director and producer James L. Brooks giving their in-person pitch at Blume’s home in Key West, Florida. Blume would have loved the way Craig handled teenage angst in The edge of seventeen, this smart film also faces its own box office hurdles, unable to appeal to pre-pandemic social media-obsessed teenage girls with a $4.7 million US opening and a final domestic of 14, $4 million.
When the auction took place for At Marguerite’s rights, Lionsgate easily jumped out at them because such female YA fare is in its wheelhouse, not just with successful franchises like hunger games And Divergentbut also literary films for young adults like five feet away (opening $13.1M, national final $45M) and the YA family title Wonder ($27.5M opening, $132.4M domestic). It made sense for Lionsgate to make a movie out of a classic girls’ novel by an 85-year-old author with 90 million copies sold to his credit. The author also had the most social media followers of any cast member by RelishMix last weekend with 832,000 followers across all platforms. Blume was so happy with Daisy, she was an integral part of her press tour and exclaimed that the film is better than the book. When have you ever heard an author say that?
Initially, Daisy was supposed to have a theatrical release on September 16 of last year. Hindsight being 20/20 with fewer films on the schedule then, wouldn’t that have been the best? Not necessarily. First, we learn that Brooks and Craig were still working on the movie after a trailer was released at CinemaCon last year. Not to mention, Daisy starred in Potential Teenage Typhoon: The Harry Styles starring don’t worry darling (which opened at $19.3m, ended at $45.3m; ultimately no threat). Lionsgate pushed Daisy at the pre-summer weekend, the last frame of April this year. First, to play into Mother’s Day knowing that that older audience would take a while to come out, and last summer also turned out to be an all-boats-rise type market with counter-programming biased towards women, i.e. Elvis, and Sony’s feature film of Delia Owens’ 2018 bestseller Where the Crawdads sing which, from a fresh face, went through poor reviews with an opening of $17.2 million, a US take of $90.2 million and ultimately grossing nearly $75 million. of dollars.
More specifically with Daisy, the problem isn’t with the genre of films based on female bestsellers, but rather with the 53-year-old age of the tome itself. The filmmakers stuck to the 1970s setting rather than updating it, and period dramas are always an uphill battle at the box office. Best-selling women’s novels that have rallied at the box office did so within a few years of their publication. In such cases, their audience hasn’t necessarily been swayed by bad reviews or a big-name cast (Haley Lu Richardson, who recently appeared on the second season of HBO’s white lotus, was a still rising actress with 2019 five feet away).
Even by pre-pandemic standards, the signs were there that Daisy could struggle at the box office given the age of its property. In 2010, 20th Century Fox presented the first film adaptation of a Beverly Cleary novel with Ramona and Beezus with Selena Gomez and Joey King. The picture hit the marquees 55 years after Cleary’s first novel Beezus and Ramona has been published. Cleary was also the author of Beloved Girl, but again the novel was out of its time (the film was aimed at a much younger teenage audience than Daisy here). How much did he bring in? A result similar to what we saw with Daisy this weekend: $7.8M over 3 days (national final at $26.1M).
So how do you solve a problem like Daisy? You really can’t do anything but make a great, critically acclaimed movie for Blume fans, which is exactly what happened here. The dry land of this alone will keep Daisy popular in its downstream auxiliaries.
Yes, streaming is encroaching on cinema, and the format’s main demo, Women, has more than enough content to stay home. Given the iconoclastic narrative of Blume’s novels, many are already finding their way to streaming in the near future, i.e. there’s an animated Russo Brothers production of super fudge for Disney+, a Netflix series based on For all time Since girlfriends designer Mara Brock Akil, and summer sisters at Peacock with Jenna Bush Hager.
However, Blume’s seminal novel, Daisy, well worth a quality widescreen treatment.
Look, although the annual domestic box office is ahead of 2022 at 37% with $2.65 billion, it’s clear that non-adult tentpoles are being challenged. I got a note from a producer this weekend explaining why I didn’t shit on it A24’s $35 million three-hour production (and over $20 million spent) of handsome is scared more. The photo will have the chance to reach 10 million dollars in the United States. I explained to the producer that I had already covered this in last week’s column. The thing is, we have to give these cutting-edge, high-profile films a chance. These daring little swings will continue to lose money until cinema fully rebounds (also, as I wrote, several auteur films are still losing money in theaters, but finding lives in auxiliaries, i.e. all the films that Paul Thomas Anderson directed). Yes, Air, by movie studio accounting standards with an acquisition cost of $125 million and a production budget of $90 million is a loser. However, Amazon uses the Byzantine financial shopping site model to streamline these costs. Plus, why kick a streamer when they’re trying to get back into the theatrical distribution business? The industry needs more Amazon-wide releases and more streamers engaging in long theatrical windows.
If we continue to bury great streaming cinema, then buried it will remain. At CinemaCon last week, Martin Scorsese expressed concern about the future of filmmakers. How do they expect them to find inspiration in a streaming menu’s lineup of titles if we continue to bring risky movies to the big screen?
“Getting young people to enjoy the theatrical experience…on a bigger, more engaging screen than the movies they see at home will make a difference,” the Oscar-winning director said.
For Lionsgate last weekend, John Wick: Chapter 4 became the franchise’s highest-grossing film with $402 million. With a production cost of $30 million and marketing expenses of over $20 million, Daisy wasn’t going to break the bank, nor was it a financially irresponsible gamble. The studio has the film on a healthy 53-day movie window. The hope at this point is for the film to reach $30M+ in the US with a 5x opening multiple. It’s entirely possible thanks to the kind of reviews and CinemaScore it has; crawdads = crawfish made a multiple of 5.2 on its $17.2 million opening with an A-CinemaScore. Ultimately, the film was designed to appease Blume fans endlessly.
As the old rule of thumb goes, the cost of any great art by a studio is offset by the riches made from the blockbusters on their slate.
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