'Motherhood': Behind a box office bomb
Why Uma Thurman's movie made just $132
The news lit up the Internet: Uma Thurman‘s latest film, the indie comedy Motherhood, opened in one theater in the U.K. to a staggering take of…$132. Only 12 people went to see Quentin Tarantino‘s former ingenue in the throes of harried domesticity. How could this have happened to Bill’s ass-kicking bride?
Making its debut to tepid reviews at the Sundance Film Festival in 2009, Motherhood was never exactly destined for blockbuster status. And when the movie (from director Katherine Dieckmann) was finally released in the U.S. in October, it opened in only 48 theaters, grossing $93,000 during its one-month blink-and-you-missed-it run. ”It’s one of the very good movies that gets released every week that people didn’t respond to,” said Mark Borde, co-owner of Freestyle Releasing, the distributor behind the movie. ”I think our advertising campaign didn’t motivate the target audience to come out of their houses.”
But in the home may be just fine for Motherhood. Borde says that the film, which cost a reported $5 million, has found a second life on the DVD shelves and will debut on Showtime in September. As such, the film’s U.K. distributor Metrodome, which was still under contractual obligation to give Motherhood a theatrical release, rejiggered its strategy. It followed a model similar to the one made popular by IFC Films: Open the movie in one theater, and use the publicity to trumpet simultaneous DVD and on-demand availability. ”Our release plans for this film were significantly scaled back following the poor U.S. result,” said Metrodome chairman Mark Webster in a statement. ”We opted instead to try a more inventive release strategy.”
The film has now sold more than 6,000 DVDs in its first week in the U.K., and the company says it’s encouraged by its on-demand numbers. Unfortunately for Thurman — whose U.K. release now rivals Katherine Heigl‘s famed $30 opening for the indie Zyzzyx Road — breaking the contract and going straight to video may have been much kinder on the ego.