Paramount nixes plan to expand 'The Lovely Bones' for Christmas
With critics and early moviegoers agreeing that Peter Jackson's chilling drama, "The Lovely Bones," is anything but lovely, Paramount Pictures has decided not to go forward with a plan to expand the movie this Friday wider than the three theaters where it is currently playing.
Instead, the studio is holding its marketing and distribution firepower for Jan. 15, when it will expand the adaptation of the bestselling novel nationwide and aim to attract its most promising audience: young females. Although the movie has some fairly intense moments, it is rated PG-13.
For now, "Bones" will keep playing at the three theaters in Los Angeles and New York City where, thus far, ticket sales have been weak. After debuting Dec. 11 with a modest three-day take of $116,616, receipts dropped 61% this past weekend to $45,097. After 12 days, it has collected just $218,774, a sign that word of mouth is as poor as reviews.
However, the latest research surveys indicate that girls between 13 and 20 have a strong interest in seeing the picture. It's the strongest-tracking movie with that audience coming out in the next month after this weekend's "Sherlock Holmes," which stars Robert Downey Jr. and is generating excitement with all demographic groups.
Until the heavy advertising campaign for "Bones" rolls out in early January, Paramount is screening the movie aggressively for high school and college girls.
Originally Paramount, which inherited the picture from former subsidiary DreamWorks, had expected "The Lovely Bones" to appeal to a sophisticated adult audience. However, test screenings this fall revealed that it wasn't adults but young females who reacted the most positively after seeing it. (For more on Paramount's marketing flip-flop, see this story from last week's Times.)
Considering the early bad buzz, it remains to be seen whether young women will flock to "The Lovely Bones" in big enough numbers come January to justify Paramount's investment of $70 million in production and an additional $85 million in worldwide marketing and distribution.
-- Ben Fritz and Claudia Eller
Photo: Saoirse Ronan in "The Lovely Bones." Credit: Barry Wetcher / DreamWorks