The Indie Week That Was
By Michael Lynderey
May 21, 2009
This week: Aniston's film needs new management, Bernal and Luna reunite, and a trio of indie directors enter the May fray.
Aniston's movie mis-managed
Here's a splendid example of a movie being dumped: Management. It's a romantic comedy about the relationship between a motel manager and a saleswoman, and it stars Jennifer Aniston and Steve Zahn. Management opened on May 15th in 212 theaters, pulling in an outright terrifying per-location gross of $1,773, and leaving no doubt that the movie's days are numbered.
I had no idea that Management was going right into a regional release, without the benefit of a platform in a few screens and time to grow legs. This decision is inexplicable. The distributor, Samuel Goldwyn Films, certainly has expertise with handling this type of movie, but I think they made a mistake with this one. Here's a somewhat well-reviewed Sundance-type release with some very recognizable names, and the studio was thinking in the short-term instead of the long-term.
While the words "Sundance" and "Jennifer Aniston" are not oft spoken in the same sentence, Management distinctly reminded me of Aniston's 2002 film, the Good Girl. That was an excellent little movie headlined by Aniston, alongside Jake Gyllenhaal (back then still an up-and-comer) and the always-dependable John C. Reilly. The film, about the misadventures of a repressed small-town supermarket check-out girl, started at four theaters and expanded slowly but surely to 688, grossing $14 million in the process and getting Aniston some Oscar buzz. A commendable result for a relatively low-budget film, I'd say, and a potential model for how Management could have been handled. Granted, The Good Girl had an 82% seal of approval from RottenTomatoes, while Management has only 50%. But that's still a fair score considering that Aniston, after all, is almost certainly now a bigger name at the movies than she was in 2002. In fact, I'd brand her as one of the top ten female box office draws of the moment, and she's certainly had an admirable streak of hits lately to prove it; her last three films are the Break-Up (2006; $118 million), Marley & Me (2008; $143 million) and this year's He's Just Not That Into You, which had a strong run before flat-lining at around $93 million.
It's a shame, then, that the studio didn't capitalize on her marquee name to build Management a run as a minor indie hit. Had the movie first opened in only a handful of theaters, Aniston's star power would have almost certainly guaranteed a terrific per-screen result (resembling, perhaps, the $54,798 average that Sunshine Cleaning delivered in four locations earlier this year, or at least the $37,910 that the Good Girl pulled in per theater at its four-screen opening). Those numbers alone approach half of the $375,916 that Management delivered this weekend. And the film would have almost certainly continued to do well for a few weeks while its expansion played out. A total like the Good Girl's $14 million was probably out of play, but even the middle-of-the-road reviews wouldn't have kept the film from garnering a gross in the couple of millions. Instead, the film's run is effectively over, and it will join the list of Aniston films that
grossed even less than her first cinematic outing, the legendary Leprechaun.