The Lovely Bones

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  • Directed By: Peter Jackson
  • Written By: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson
  • Release Date: December 11, 2009
  • Domestic Distributor: Paramount
  • Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci

Box Office Info:
Budget: $63 million Financed by: DreamWorks; Film4
Domestic Box Office: $44,114,232 Overseas Box Office: $49,507,108

The Lovely Bones was first in development in 2000 at Film4, which optioned the soon to be published novel as a manuscript that was less than halfway completed.  Lynne Ramsay signed on as director and began adapting the manuscript into a screenplay and the budget was initially set at $15 million.  Ramsay also continued writing the latter half of the script without seeing the completed novel and once she was handed the finished book, she said,  “I got the rest of the book, and I thought the latter half had no drama, and was pretty schmaltzy, and I’d been going in the wrong direction.”  Once the book was published in 2002 and became a bestseller, executives wanted Ramsay to rewrite the script and keep it close to the source material.  Also around this time, Steven Spielberg began buzzing around the project, since he liked the novel and in 2004, while Peter Jackson was working on King Kong, he scooped up the rights — which went over to DreamWorks.  After years of working on the project, Ramsay was booted off completely.

The Lovely Bones was retooled as a big budget picture and cost $63 million after tax breaks and was financed by DreamWorks with some capital from Film4.   Ryan Gosling was set to star, but he clashed with Peter Jackson after the actor gained 20 pounds for the role against the director’s wishes and also showed up to set with a huge beard.  He was fired and replaced one day before filming began with Mark Wahlberg — who had just completed filming the disaster The Happening and then immediately signed onto this misguided disaster.

DreamWorks’ output was handled by Paramount and in 2008 Dreamworks left the studio, but The Lovely Bones remained at Paramount.  The movie was booked into 3 theaters for an awards qualifying run on December 11 and a wide expansion was set for Christmas.  Poor reviews cooled off any heat around the project and it disappointed with $116,616.  The planned expansion to go wide on Christmas was quickly scrapped after the soft opening in limited release so the marketing could be revamped.  Instead of selling the film as a prestige pic, Paramount decided to target young females after a test screening in Kansas City scored high points with young femme auds.  After 5 weeks of playing poorly in 3 theaters, especially for a film with heavy exposure and awareness, The Lovely Bones went wide January 15th — supported with a reported $85+ million worldwide marketing spend.

It bowed against The Book Of Eli and The Spy Next Door and it pulled in a decent enough $17,005,133 — placing #3 for the weekend led by Avatar in week 5.  The Lovely Bones proved to have weak legs and declined 50.5% the following weekend to $8,418,192 and burned out with a disappointing $44,114,232.

Overseas, the film did not fare much better, grossing just $49.5 million with $9.3 million from the UK as the strongest market.  The worldwide total was $93.6 million and Paramount would see returned about $51.4 million after theaters take their cut of the gross — leaving much of the P&A spend in the red and the budget untouched by the theatrical receipts.  Peter Jackson went back to his comfort zone after this commercial and artistic misfire with the Hobbit trilogy.

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