Lady In The Water

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  • Directed By: M. Night Shyamalan
  • Written By: M. Night Shyamalan
  • Release Date: July 21, 2006
  • Domestic Distributor: Warner Bros
  • Cast: Paul Giamatti, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jeffrey Wright

Box Office Info:
Budget: $70 million Financed by: Warner Bros; Legendary
Domestic Gross: $42,285,169 Overseas Gross: $30,500,000

M. Night Shyamalan’s folly Lady In The Water was originally going to be set up at Disney, which had distributed the director’s projects since The Sixth Sense (1999).  Shyamalan then initiated a very public breakup with the mouse house, in which his hubris spawned a tell-all book The Man Who Heard Voices: Or, How M. Night Shyamalan Risked His Career on a Fairy Tale about the Disney friction.  The absolutely pathetic book written by Michael Bamberger, was designed to place Shyamalan on a mantle as a genius and Disney executives as corporate bottom feeders who don’t appreciate his artistic gifts — but the whole thing backfires when not only the film eventually flops, but that he comes across as an egomaniacal asshole.

These manufactured problems began when Shyamalan dictated an exact time that Disney executive Nina Jacobson must be at her home to receive his carefully guarded script.  Jacobson was at a birthday party with her young son and was not at home to receive the script at the exact moment specified by M. Night.  Gasp!  Then Jacobson and other executives criticized his godawful screenplay, especially pointing out that it is in bad taste to write a role for yourself as basically a messiah whose writing saves the day.  Despite their problems with his script, Disney still offered Shyamalan the freedom to make his picture with a $50 million budget, but he refused to make the film at Disney after he felt slighted.  Actual line from the book: ‘The lesson of Night’s own 34 years was so clear to him: If you’re a Bob Dylan, a Michael Jordan, a Walt Disney — if you’re M. Night Shyamalan — and you have faith and a vision and something original to say, money will come.‘  Up until Lady In The Water, the director did have a proven box office track record — so the money did come.  Warner Bros was more than happy to bring Shyamalan into their fold.

Warner Bros and Legendary stepped in to finance Lady In The Water for $70 million.  Warner Bros dated the picture for the prime summer frame on July 21, 2006 and gave the movie an expensive marketing blitz.  Then the bad buzz began to surround the movie.  The book was set to be published alongside the film and early book reviews were scathing.  It was deemed unintentionally hilarious and Shyamalan was portrayed in the media as a self indulgent jerk.  Then the movie reviews came in, which were dreadful and Lady In The Water became toxic.

It bowed against Monster House, Clerks II and My Super Ex-Girlfriend.  Tracking was pointing to an opening in the high $20M range, but it disappointed with $18,044,396 — placing #3 for the weekend.  Disney not only dodged an expensive bullet, but won the weekend with Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest in its third frame.  Lady In The Water sank 60.4% in its second weekend to $7,144,275 and plummeted 62.1% to $2,711,191 in its third session.  It continued to post large weekly declines and closed its domestic run with $42,285,169.

Overseas, Lady in the Water pulled in a terrible $30.5 million for Warner Bros, bombing in almost every market.  The worldwide total was $72.7M, leaving WB with about $39.9M after theaters take their percentage of the gross — which would not cover P&A expenses or any of the budget.

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