The Rum Diary

  • The Rum Diary box office
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  • Directed By: Bruce Robinson
  • Written By: Bruce Robinson
  • Release Date: October 28, 2011
  • Domestic Distributor: FilmDistrict
  • Cast: Johnny Depp, Aaron Eckhart, Amber Heard, Giovanni Ribisi

Box Office Info:
Budget: $45 millionFinanced by: GK Films
Domestic Box Office: $13,109,815Overseas Box Office: $17,025,143

the rum diary depp
Hunter S. Thompson’s The Rum Diary was written in 1959 but not published until 1998, when Johnny Depp discovered the lost manuscript while shadowing Thompson for his role in Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas (1998).  Shooting Gallery and SPI Films optioned the theatrical rights to the novel in 2000, despite not having the capital to actually mount the production and that brought the ire of the Good Doctor.  Thompson penned a letter to Shooting Gallery president of production Holly Sorensen that began with: “Okay, you lazy bitch, I’m getting tired of this waterhead f-ckaround that you’re doing with The Rum Diary.”  Shortly after his rant, FilmEngine acquired the rights in February 2002, but The Rum Diary languished in development through Hunter’s suicide in 2005.

After Thompson’s death, Depp courted filmmaker Bruce Robinson to write and direct The Rum Diary.  Robinson had sworn off directing since his miserable experience on the butchered Jennifer Eight (1992), but Depp was a huge admirer of his cult masterpieces Withnail & I and How to Get Ahead in Advertising and gave him the freedom to make the picture.  Two years later in 2007, Graham King’s GK Films took the novel rights and committed to finance the production.  This kicked off a series of films Graham King and Depp would collaborate on — The Tourist, Rango, Dark Shadows and both produced Hugo.  Depp’s production company Infinitum Nihil had initially landed a first-look deal with King in 2004.

The budget for The Rum Diary was $45 million and it was financed by GK Films.   GK also handled global pre-sales, which sold very well and covered the majority of the picture’s expenses.  Warner Independent was going to distribute the movie stateside, but Warner Bros closed the division down and King had The Rum Diary distributed through his short lived distribution company FilmDistrict.

The Rum Diary was completed in 2009, but the release was delayed until October 28, 2011 so that Depp was free from his responsibilities to Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and also the production of Dark Shadows.  Once free of those commitments, Depp heavily promoted his pet project, including a college tour at UC Berkeley, the University of Texas at Austin and Columbia University.  FilmDistrict invested about $20M into a domestic P&A spend for The Rum Diary.

The Rum Diary bowed against Puss In Boots and In Time.  It landed mixed reviews and was tracking poorly.  The film tanked opening weekend with $5,135,369 in 2,273 theaters — placing #5 for the frame led by Puss In Boots.  Audiences gave the picture a toxic C cinemascore and it quietly closed its domestic run with just $13,109,815.  FilmDistrict would see returned about $7.2M after theaters take their percentage of the gross.

Depp was normally a reliable star in the overseas market, but the film did awful business everywhere, with the overseas total at $17 million — losing cash for the distributors who snatched up the expensive rights during pre-sales.  The Rum Diary marked the second effort by Depp to inhabit Hunter S. Thompson after Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, with practically no audience growth.

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