This post has been corrected. See below for details.
Miley Cyrus’ latest film, “LOL,” hit theaters this past weekend, but the world may never know how it did at the box office.
Lionsgate released the teen romance, an adaptation of a popular 2008 French film of the same name, in 90 theaters with virtually no publicity. But the studio did not disclose ticket-sale data to the public or data company Rentrak, a highly unusual move in an industry where box office grosses are widely disseminated and analyzed.
The film, which also stars Demi Moore, played in a dozen states this weekend, including Utah, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Texas. Executives at the studio did not believe the picture would prove commercially appealing and wanted to release it direct-to-video, according to people with knowledge of the situation who were not authorized to speak publicly about it. However, as a condition of its deals selling the picture to foreign distributors, Lionsgate was required to play "LOL" in nearly 100 theaters in the U.S. and Canada.
It did so but provided virtually no marketing support for the movie beyond a single trailer released online.
While Cyrus mentioned the film’s release on her Twitter account, the 19-year-old did not appear on any major talk shows and was not made available for interviews to discuss her role in the movie.
Unsurprisingly, several theater managers said the movie did dismal business at the box office this past weekend.
At the Great Escape Theatre in O'Fallon, Mo., the movie screened five times per day Friday through Sunday. But only 28 people showed up to see the film over the course of the weekend, amounting to $260.75 in receipts over the three-day period.
Richard Lintker, Great Escape’s city manager, said that Lionsgate was so eager for the theater to play "LOL" that the studio agreed to allow it to play it in place of the Jason Statham movie "Safe" this past weekend. The action film, also from Lionsgate, has not been a box office smash but would have likely made more money than the Cyrus flick.
"LOL" fared even worse at one of Atlas Cinemas’ locations in Ohio, where director of operations Chris Baxter said the movie collected a little over $100 from roughly 12 patrons all weekend long.
"It didn’t pay for the lights to be on," Baxter said. "It was literally the slowest movie we had this weekend, behind movies that have been out for 10 weeks."
Baxter noted that other Cyrus films — including the 2010 tear-jerker "The Last Song" — have performed well at the chain.
"This just wasn't marketed well," he said. "I've seen or heard nothing about it other than the posters we had in the theater."
As for the tween star herself, Cyrus seemed undeterred by the film's disappointing returns.
"Thank u so much for everyone who went to see LOL," she tweeted Monday morning. "It is a film I loved making and I am proud of... That's really all that matters to me."
A Lionsgate spokeswoman declined to discuss the movie or the studio's reasons for not reporting its box office receipts.
[For the record, 6:35 p.m., May 8: This post previously said O'Fallon is in Mississippi. It's in Missouri.]
— Amy Kaufman and Ben Fritz
Photo: Miley Cyrus in "LOL." Credit: Lionsgate.