Stealing Harvard

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  • Directed By: Bruce McCulloch
  • Written By: Martin Hynes, Peter Tolan
  • Release Date: September 13, 2002
  • Domestic Distributor: Sony
  • Cast: Jason Lee, Tom Green, Leslie Mann

Box Office Info:
Budget: $25 millionFinanced by: Revolution Studios; Sony
Domestic Box Office: $14,036,406Overseas Box Office: $240,626


Stealing Harvard (the spec script was titled Stealing Stanford) was sold to Imagine Entertainment, which was based at Universal for $150,000 against $400,000 in March 1997.  Universal eventually put the project into turnaround and in July 2000, Joe Roth’s Revolution Studios purchased the rights from Universal for seven figures. 

The budget for Stealing Harvard was $25 million, which Revolution financed and they had a financing slate deal with Sony, which would contribute 42.5% of the budget and 100% of the marketing costs.   Joe Roth had landed one of the greatest studio deals ever with Sony, who had more to lose on each project than Roth’s Revolution — and he had originally envisioned his company making filmmaker friendly fare with A-listers and then squandered Revolution’s reserves on mostly lousy movies, like Stealing Harvard.

After the production encountered too many stipulations with the image conscious Stanford over the use of their name, the movie was shot using a fictitious university — which somehow confused an audience at a test screening and Revolution required minor reshoots to make the setting an actual University.  There’s a fucking college campus on screen, how was that location confusing?  No suspension of disbelief required.  Some reshoots and audio dubbing were done to placate the world’s dumbest test audience and the setting was changed to Harvard.  For obvious reasons, the title was changed to Stealing Harvard.  Original titles were “Promises, Promises, Promises,” “The Promise,” “Stealing U,” “Uncle,” “Say Uncle” and “Stealing Stanford“.

Sony first dated the picture for August 16 and then moved it to October 11 and finally September 13.  After seven titles and three release dates, Stealing Harvard opened against the comedy Barbershop and received awful reviews.  It placed #5 for the weekend with a poor $6,041,521 in 2,366 theaters.  Audiences didn’t find much funny in Stealing Harvard and gave the film a miserable C cinemascore and it declined 45.3% to $3,303,778 in its second frame.  The movie sank 54.9% in its third session to $1,488,770 and the domestic run closed with only $14,036,406.  Sony would see returned about $7.7 million after theaters take their percentage of the gross, which does not cover much of the P&A spend.  Revolution Studios took a $10 million loss on the film.  After a strong quarter of films, in a Sony financial report they cited the ‘disappointing U.S. box office performance of Stuart Little 2, Stealing Harvard and Trapped as eating into their profits.

Stealing Harvard was dumped straight to video in almost every overseas market and grossed a mere $240,626 across a few countries.  Tom Green’s studio days were over after this tanked, which was released a year after his fiasco Freddy Got Fingered.

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