Critic-fav 'Booksmart' Stumbles With Wide Release

   June 1, 2019—Film festival favorite Booksmart attempted to parlay good word-of-mouth into success during a competitive holiday weekend, but flopped at the boxoffice. The stylish R-rated comedy merited a high 97-percent approval rating on movie website Rotten Tomatoes, and good reviews at the prestigious South By Southwest film festival.
   But Booksmart generated just $8.7 million over the four-day Memorial Day holiday weekend (or $6.9 million in the
indie film Booksmart tried to elbow alongside major-studio blockbusters riding good world-of-mouth, but lacked broad-audience appeal

traditional Friday-Sunday period to rank a mediocre number six) in a wide release at 2,505 theaters in the US/Canada market. That's by indie Annapurna and its United Artists Releasing theatrical distribution venture (a partnership with MGM).
   “The R-rated, high school-set comedy was opening opposite Disney’s latest live-action adaptation, Aladdin, and was up against studio holdovers John Wick 3 (Lionsgate), Detective Pikachu (Warner Bros.) and Avengers: Endgame (Disney/Marvel),” says a Hollywood Reporter article by Mia Galuppo. “Annapurna's marketing push for Booksmart did attract the young, female audience it was after. It just so happened that the blockbuster it was counterprogrammed against attracted a similar viewership.”
   A New York Times article found deeper implications beyond this is just another indie film that stumbled when exposed widely to the general public. Booksmart had a woman director, so the New York Times wondered self-consciously “Are Women Not Allowed to Fail?” (Answer: this is merely a multimillion-dollar entertainment product that doesn’t merit any gender pity, especially since some other “female” movies have proven to be hits.)
   An indie film such as Booksmart more typically would premiere on tens or a hundred locations (not over 2,000!), then widen distribution gradually riding a wave of critical and audience acclaim from its narrow premiere.
  A article by Sam Adams faults the distribution plan that ignored the time-tested indie strategy of starting small and then expanding circulation. “Instead of swinging for the fences by opening wide, United Artists could have let it expand into more theaters slowly, as [distributor] A24 did with Lady Bird, whose $78 million take ought to silence any notions that audiences simply won’t turn out for movies about young women,” wrote Adams.
   The third edition of business/academic book Marketing To Moviegoers notes that independents (such as Annapurna) typically avoid releasing films in peak holiday weekends to steer clear of major studios juggernauts. “Independents often are forced to take less-desirable release dates because the prime slots are seized by majors,” says Marketing To Moviegoers. “Independents mostly target niche audiences—kids, teens, ethnic groups, or sophisticated adult audiences—because their films typically don’t have the star power or production values of mainstream-studio releases.”
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