Despite the French language-film “The Intouchables” grossing around $348 million internationally, it has had a lackluster showing in the United States. According to the site Box Office Mojo, ‘Intouchables’ has a very limited release playing in 77 locations and has grossed just $1.5 million. One trend I noticed for this previous weekend: ‘Intouchables’ didn’t add or lose a theater location and fell just 7% in attendance! This is the lowest attendance drop of any film weekend to weekend for the summer season. With this healthy box office performance in a very limited market, why has the Weinstein Company not come to support “Intouchables” with a robust expansion and a solid ad campaign?
Based on word of mouth I have heard from avid moviegoers in Denver, the audience reaction to “Intouchables” has been very strong! The film is a crowd pleasing and touching drama about a developing and unexpected friendship. The two separate protagonists, one a white wealthy paraplegic and the other his poor caretaker interact with one another despite their differences. ‘Intouchables’ hit a zeitgeist nerve with the French struggling with a recent, evolving identity crisis. The two main characters have become caricatures in the eyes of a culturally fractured France. The country has struggled in coming to terms with immigration and societal changes. With French xenophobia on the rise, a film like “Intouchables” has cooled the tension. However, the story, characters, and plot should be translating well in numerous countries and various languages.
Even with the strong audience response, one could wonder why more people aren’t seeing a little known movie like “The Intouchables?” It has solid audience reaction, yet such a low, unimpressive gross. Maybe older audiences, the primary target demographic, could be holding out for a typical expansion to more comfortable theaters then their downtown art house cinemas with old seats and cramped space. There hopes might not arrive if Weinstein Company doesn’t expand to other markets soon. This audience might still playing catch up with seeing the limited release smash hit ‘Marigold Hotel.’ Perhaps the industry isn’t confident the subtitled movie can perform strongly during the summer months. Its perfect counter programming. 50+ audiences need an alternative to summer trash like the sophomoric “That’s My Boy.” According to CinemaScore, that demographic gave the Adam Sandler comedy a very poor D- rating!
Recently, the Weinstein Company under estimated a solid product with the incredible documentary “Undefeated.” Despite a pathetic field of documentary nominees from this year’s Oscars, “Undefeated” became the first sports movie in Academy history to win the Best Documentary Award. (I was one of the few movie bloggers to correctly predict its victory while contributing film analysis at AwardContenders.com.) The doc wasn’t released beyond the New York and Los Angeles markets until March, right after the Oscars. The widest release for “Undefeated” was in just 21 theaters! The sports documentary could have been an inspiration for struggling students overcoming a challenging background, rough family situations, or other forms of 21st century pressures. Placing a high school football documentary in the suburbs and medium size towns could have materialized into a sizeable hit especially with an advertising campaign including out reach to schools. This would’ve happened if the studio believed in it with a vigorous distribution schedule. However, Weinstein Company was pre-occupied with promoting “Bully” to an identical audience. (A documentary double feature to schools could’ve been an intriguing, though unlikely, possibility.) I believe the Weinstein Company is making the same mistake with not expanding “The Intouchables” to more markets.
Cynically, Hollywood is responding the success of “The Intouchables” in their own way. And audiences will finally see “Intouchables”…when the American remake hits theaters probably next year! Colin Firth and “Bridesmaids” director Paul Feig are rumored to be attached to the American remake project. Hollywood never prescribes to the mantra, “If it aint broke, don’t fix it.” It would be more cost efficient if they just released the products they already have. Maybe we should expect a Bill and Ted’s remake of “Safety Not Guaranteed,” too?