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The Hollywood Insider: Ben Stiller flops

Susan Sarandon, Pierce Brosnan, Liam Neeson, and other big stars’ indie movies can’t light up the box office; plus, ”Nightline” is a success

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MOVIES
Big Stars Fail to Ignite The Indie Box Office
Last weekend, Susan Sarandon, Pierce Brosnan, and Carey Mulligan debuted The Greatest to anything but great box office, with a $37,000 gross. It continues a disheartening trend: Big stars headlining indie movies are not translating into big hits. Greenberg, from director Noah Baumbach and star Ben Stiller, has earned Stiller’s lowest gross — $2.3 million so far — since 1998’s Permanent Midnight. Kristen Stewart‘s punk biopic The Runaways has grossed only $1.9 million after three weeks. Amanda Seyfried — who helped take February’s Dear John to $80 million — seduced both Liam Neeson and Julianne Moore in Chloe and still scrounged up less than $2 million. (Not to mention recent news of Uma Thurman‘s Motherhood grossing only $132 in the U.K. after earning $93,000 in the U.S. last year.) What gives?

The problem may be less star power and more marketing. ”I don’t think putting a movie star into an indie film works unless the film’s terrific or you’re willing to back it up by spending the money it takes to reach that star’s commercial audience,” says Tom Ortenberg, former president of theatrical films at Lionsgate and The Weinstein Co. The Runaways opened fairly wide, but if the studio, Apparition, wanted Stewart’s legion of Twilight fans to show up, the R rating didn’t help. And Chloe, from director Atom Egoyan, may have suffered because it wasn’t indie enough. ”Chloe was one movie where if they had gone wide and spent the money, it could have worked as a sexy, erotic thriller,” says one indie marketer. As for Greenberg, Focus Features says it’s happy with the result. ”This film was for very hardcore art moviegoers,” says Jack Foley, Focus’ president of distribution, who along with his team made sure to articulate to audiences that this wasn’t your usual Ben Stiller. ”It’s very dangerous if you don’t let people know that Ben’s not doing Night at the Museum.”
Nicole Sperling

TV
Late night’s sleeper success story is…Nightline?!
Late-night TV’s dirty little secret is this: Not everybody wants to wind down their day with a comedian. While Jay Leno, David Letterman, and Jimmy Kimmel fight over turf, ABC’s Nightline has quietly emerged as a real competitor. This season, the news program coanchored by Cynthia McFadden is in second place after Letterman’s The Late Show among total viewers (with 3.9 million) and is up double digits in key adult demographics. ”People have become exhausted by the choices out there,” says Nightline exec producer James Goldston. ”The changes [at NBC] pushed viewers our way. There are many late-night comedians, but only one Nightline.”
Lynette Rice

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