A Thousand Acres

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  • Directed By: Jocelyn Moorhouse
  • Written By: Laura Jones
  • Release Date: September 19, 1997
  • Domestic Distributor: Disney (Touchstone)
  • Cast: Michelle Pfeiffer, Jessica Lange, Jason Robards, Jennifer Jason Leigh

Box Office Info:
Budget: $28 million Financed by: Propaganda Films; Beacon Pictures
Domestic Box Office: $7,936,780 Overseas Box Office: $2,000,000

a thousand acres 1997
Shortly after the publication of Jane Smiley’s 1991 Pulitzer winner A Thousand Acres, Michelle Pfeiffer and Jessica Lange’s production companies jointly optioned the theatrical rights.  After nearly five years of trying to get the project into production, financing was secured from Propaganda Films and Beacon Pictures.  The budget for A Thousand Acres was $28 million.   Disney was tapped to handle domestic distribution and overseas rights were sold off to numerous distributors.

Director Jocelyn Moorhouse had been editing the picture for 15 weeks when test screenings began and the response was very poor.  The production companies installed a new editor to take over post-production and Moorhouse was pushed aside with no say over the edit.  Michelle Pfeiffer had said “It wasn’t all of us against Jocelyn.  All of us were just trying to make the best movie we could. All we did was bring in a new editor, who had been working with the original editor all along. Together, they re-cut the film, which, I suppose, was difficult for Jocelyn.”  It was clearly difficult for her, as she tried to remove her name from this misfire, but eventually relented and the movie went out with Moorhouse credited.

A Thousand Acres was dated for September 19, 1997 and was the type of melodramatic non-commercial picture that relied on strong reviews to bring in adult auds — but it was widely known that the director walked away from the movie and then critics destroyed the film.  A Thousand Acres was tracking primarily amongst women and there were numerous movies in the marketplace with audience overlap.  It bowed against In & Out and L.A. Confidential and both would siphon off the viewership for AcresWishmaster also bowed that weekend.  Other holdover fare that would also compete with Acres were The Full Monty and G.I. Jane.

A Thousand Acres was dead on arrival with $2,931,762 — placing #6 for the weekend led by In & Out.  The domestic run quickly ended with only $7,936,780.  Recorded overseas numbers were just $2M across many distributors.  Michelle Pfeiffer followed this with another weepy melodrama flop The Deep End of the Ocean (1999) and then later in the year toplined the bomb The Story of Us.

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