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    • Directed By: Gary Ross
    • Written By: Gary Ross
    • Release Date: October 23, 1998
    • Domestic Distributor: New Line
    • Cast: Tobey Maguire, Reese Witherspoon, William H. Macy, Joan Allen

Box Office Info:
Budget: $40 million Financed by: New Line
Domestic Gross: $40,584,421 Overseas Gross: $9,221,041

Pleasantville 1998

Gary Ross (screenwriter of the hits Dave & Big) originally set up his directorial debut Pleasantville at Castle Rock, but they could not come to terms with the sizable budget.  The project moved over to New Line, which financed and the mini-major mitigated risk on the movie with no bankable leads through foreign sales to distributors.  The budget for Pleasantville was $40 million.

During production, assistant cameraman Brent Hershman died in an auto accident when he fell asleep after 19-hours of labor and the previous 4 work days were 15 hours.  Crew members and unions tried to cap work days at no more than 14 hours, calling it “Brent’s Rule.”  But as the studios began to get gobbled up by conglomerates, the problem accelerated and nothing much has since changed.

Pleasantville was also the first feature film to be almost entirely digitized (O Brother, Where Art Thou? incorrectly has that distinction), to have the mix of black & white and color within the frame.  Cinesite handled the workload and scanned over 178,000 frames digitally for the vfx.

Pleasantville was dated for October 23, 1998 and while the picture was very different from another deconstructed TV show movie The Truman Show (released earlier in the year in June), New Line tried to avoid any marketing that would connect the two.  Pleasantville premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, landed positive reviews and was looked at as a potential awards player.

There was positive buzz, but tracking was pointing to a soft opening — though word of mouth was expected to carry the picture throughout the season.  Pleasantville bowed against Soldier and Apt Pupil and won the slow weekend with $8,855,063.  There was a modest 22% second frame decline in attendance to $6,879,604 and it dipped just 19% in its third weekend to $5,593,743.  Despite the strong weekly holds, the domestic run closed with a disappointing $40,584,421.  New Line would see returned about $22.2M after theaters take their percentage of the gross — which would almost cover only P&A expenses.

Overseas numbers were a small $9.2M across numerous distributors.  After ancillary sales, the movie was likely a wash for New Line.

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