Vanity Fair

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  • Directed By: Mira Nair
  • Written By: Matthew Faulk, Mark Skeet, Julian Fellowes
  • Release Date: September 1, 2004
  • Domestic Distributor: Focus
  • Cast: Reese Witherspoon, James Purefoy, Bob Hoskins

Box Office Info:
Budget: $23 millionFinanced by: Focus; Granada Films; Inside Track
Domestic Gross: $16,136,476Overseas Gross: $3,326,709

vanity fair 2004 film
Vanity Fair had last been adapted for the big screen in the picture Becky Sharp (1935) and Kubrick had attempted an adaptation in the ’70s before he decided the narrative could not be compressed into a feature — and nearly three decades later, Mira Nair took a crack at the literary classic.  This project was first announced in March 2000 and it was set up at USA Films and the UK based Granada Film.  In 2002, USA was merged into Universal’s newly formed Focus Features, which continued their involvement with Vanity Fair.

During development of Vanity Fair, British broadcaster ITV announced they were shutting down their film division, which was Granada Films and this would be one of two productions that they would co-finance before they shutter.  Their exit from the film business was shortly after Channel 4 had also decided to no longer fund theatrical projects.  Focus co-financed the movie and the budget for Vanity Fair was $23 million.   Focus handled distribution in the US and sold off overseas rights, which would limit their exposure to the budget.  A significant portion of the film’s funding also came from a now illegal take shelter fund that was run by Ingenious Media.

The Ingenious Media fund was called Inside Track, which was setup for wealthy investors to act as a tax avoidance scheme.  For example a person could invest £50,000, then borrow £100,000 from Ingenious and then the company could match the £50,000 investment and then claim tax relief on £200,000.  Investors would then be able to write off their investment as a loss on the first day of filming and if that sounds too good to be true, it was — and deemed illegal by the UK government in February 2004.  An estimated 40+ movies were shuttered from the new laws, but Vanity Fair was one of the few productions to receive coin before it was outlawed.

Vanity Fair landed mixed reviews, which cooled off much heat around the picture and it was dated for the slow frame on Sept 1.  Focus booked it only moderately wide into 1,051 theaters and Vanity Fair bowed against Paparazzi, Wicker Park and The Cookout.

It pulled in $4,833,900 — placing #9 for the weekend led by the holdover Hero.  Focus added three theaters in its second weekend, but the pic did not have strong legs and fell 45.9% to $2,613,777 and it posted a 40.1% third session decline to $1,564,804.  The stateside run closed with $16,136,476.  Focus would see returned about $8.8M after theaters take their percentage of the gross, which would not cover their modest P&A spend.

Overseas, the film saw small business, grossing $1.5 million in the UK, which posted almost half of the $3,326,709 total across numerous distributors.

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