- Directed By: Steven Knight
- Written By: Steven Knight
- Release Date: January 25, 2019
- Domestic Distributor: Aviron Pictures
- Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Diane Lane
Box Office Info:
|Budget: $25 million||Financed by: IM Global|
|Domestic Box Office: $8,543,442||Overseas Box Office: Still in release|
Serenity was announced at the 2017 European Film Market and IM Global handled global pre-sales and financed the remaining shortfall from the sales. Serenity’s budget was $25 million after a very large 39% tax rebate from the Mauritius island. This was the third Steven Knight directed project to be funded and sold by IM Global after Locke (2013) and Redemption (2013). Global Road (formally Open Road) was initially set to handle domestic distribution for Serenity, but the distributor went bankrupt. IM Global and Global Road were both owned under the Tang Media Partners umbrella.
The stateside rights were then scooped up by Aviron Pictures in February 2018. A little backstory on Aviron should set the stage for this botch job from the fledgling distributor. Aviron was originally labeled Clarius Entertainment and their first releases were in 2014 — Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return, And So It Goes and Before I Go To Sleep. All three were box office disasters and drained the company of their capital. Clarius was set to release their fourth film, the Jennifer Aniston vehicle, She’s Funny That Way, which they picked up for $4.5 million with a $24.5 million P&A commitment, but Clarius only came through with $900,000 and did not have the funds to release the picture — and were sued for fraud and damages. Clarius was then rebranded as Aviron and received a massive infusion of capital from BlackRock — so they can continue to fail upwards.
After Aviron acquired the Serenity rights for seven figures with a wide release commitment, the picture was dated for September 28, 2018. It was then moved to October 19 and then pushed back to the January dumping ground on Jan 25, 2019 — where the adult thriller would open as numerous just announced Oscar nominated movies would expand into wide release. Along with the deadly release date, Serenity had tested poorly and Aviron decided to dump the movie with a penny pinching P&A spend.
As the release date was approaching, Aviron unscrupulously sent out Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway to do the usual media PR blitz, while they were under the impression that a traditional marketing campaign would be launched. Aviron did not inform the actors that they were not going to spend any money on TV ads and instead relied on the exposure from both actors on talk shows to sell the movie. The actors publically vented their frustration after the movie opened to disastrous numbers and Aviron responded to Deadline: “We had the best intentions for Serenity. We were excited for the opportunity to release this uniquely original movie and work with such a stellar cast and talented filmmakers. As much as we love this film and still hope it finds its audience, we tested and retested the film — with audiences and critics alike — and sadly, the data demonstrated that the film was not going to be able to perform at our initial expectations, so we adjusted our budget and marketing tactics accordingly. Regardless of the spend, it’s next to impossible for an adult-skewing drama to overcome a 23% score on Rotten Tomatoes and a D+ CinemaScore. To have spent more would have been irresponsible to our capital partners and wouldn’t have made prudent business sense for an independent distributor. We have enormous respect and admiration for the talent and all the hard work they put into the film and wish the box office results were better.”
Serenity bowed against The Kid Who Would be King and landed poor reviews. Tracking was pointing to a $5M – $7M opening, but the film was dead on arrival with $4,415,403 — placing #8 for the weekend led by the holdover Glass. That toxic D+ cinemascore from audiences led to a 61.4% plunge in attendance the following frame to $1,702,512 and then it promptly lost most of its theater count. The domestic run closed with only $8,543,442. Aviron is not one of the major studios that command 55% of the ticket price (regal pays out 34% to indie labels for example) and the company would see returned under $4M of the receipts.
Serenity has seen a theatrical release overseas in Russia and about a dozen smaller markets, where it has pulled in just $2.3M. A few major markets are set to open through May. More as the offshore receipts are posted…