When one thinks of movie flops, the thoughts typically go to big budget spectacles that do less than spectacularly, ill-conceived all-star mishmashes and, of late, movies starring former franchise and box office kings like Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Johnny Depp and Dwayne Johnson. One rarely thinks of Oscar-winning actresses who usually display their acting chops in intimate dramas being in flops. But two notable, recent high-profile movie-making disasters starring big-name actresses Jennifer Lawrence and Nicole Kidman are not only failing to make a lot of box-office bucks, the flops are not even making it to box offices.
Nicole Kidman’s film Grace of Monaco made a big splash as the opener for the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. Unfortunately, the splash was more one of money going down a drain than waterplay. Now, rather than piggyback on the anticipated word of mouth, the largely panned Kidman flick is not getting a U.S. movie theater release at all.
The film about Princess Grace will be seen in the U.S. It is going straight to cable TV. It is not even going to a premium cable channel. It is being treated like a made-for-TV female flick and being shown as a Lifetime channel movie on May 25. Ouch!
Jennifer Lawrence’s latest movie, Serena, went straight to video on demand (it did open in a few art houses after already going to VOD). The film is another collaboration with her frequent on-screen partner Bradley Cooper (the duo both shined and got award nods for Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle). But Serena is a tale of a boring, depressing movie about the Depression era that languished in post-production for about 18 months (which clearly was a clue that no one was happy with what they were seeing).
What went wrong with the Jennifer Lawrence and Nicole Kidman films that the studios decided they were such flops to not even warranting limited release at box offices hoping some fans would come? How did two big star films that premiered in festivals with awards buzz beforehand become cautionary tales that everyone can bomb out?
Kidman’s Grace of Monaco was originally supposed to open during the pre-awards-season peak period. But fighting between U.S. distributer Harvey Weinstein and director Olivier Dahan did not bode well. The version shown at Cannes was reported the director’s cut against Weinstein’s wishes. It also drew dreadful, embarrassing reviews at the festival. Variety called the flick “handsomely produced but dramatically inert.” The Monaco royal family also criticized it as “totally fictional.” Nevertheless, Grace did open overseas to less then stellar results. But, it never opened stateside. So Weinstein finally cut his losses and made the TV deal.
Serena’s history is telling. the film is based on a 2008 New York Times best-selling and well-reviewed novel by Ron Rash. Darren Aronofsky and Angelina Jolie were originally attached to the film, but both eventually dropped out. So, the producers tapped Susanne Bier, who won the Foreign Film Oscar in 2011 for In a Better World, as the new director and Jennifer Lawrence as the new lead. After wrapping the filming in 2012, Bier took 18 months to complete a cut of the film. In late 2014, the film debuted to tepid reviews at the London Film Festival and then bombed in the U.K. box offices. The movie, according to reviewers, was badly edited, poorly paced and just plain bad. The film, starring and directed by Oscar winners and nominees, could not find an American distributor for months. Finally, someone agreed to distribute it stealthily on VOD and iTunes in February, before the very limited theatrical release planned one month later.
No one would have predicted that the two films starring Nicole Kidman or a women starring in two box-office bonanza series, Jennifer Lawrence, would wind us as flops not even making it to box offices here. For Kidman, whose career is not as hot as it was, it could hurt her next efforts. For Lawrence, however, it will probably wind up as a trivia question if her otherwise stellar streak continues.
By Dyanne Weiss