It had all the makings for a project that would appeal to Oscar.
A movie star writing, directing, and starring in a romantic drama, in which her fellow-movie-star husband plays opposite her.
But the opening weekend confirmed what many in Hollywood already knew: Angelina Jolie’s latest directing effort, “By the Sea,” is not going to be an Oscar contender.
“By the Sea” stars Jolie and her husband Brad Pitt as a married couple struggling to recapture the flame in their relationship following a traumatic event in their lives. They travel to a small French village to vacation, but that mostly entails Jolie’s character perched on her balcony all day while Pitt’s character gets drunk down the road at a cafe.
An intimate tale with little dialogue and even less happening (though it does have intriguing moments about being in a relationship), it will likely go down as a vanity project by Jolie that will be quickly forgotten or find an audience a generation from now at the repertory theatres.
So why was the movie even made?
The Pitts are still huge movie stars, and with “By the Sea” being touted as the pair’s first time together on the screen since 2005’s “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” many were intrigued.
Jolie also has a strong relationship with Universal, the studio that released the film. Her last directing effort, “Unbroken,” was made at the studio. To keep the relationship secure with one of its big stars, Universal made a relatively small gamble in forking over $US30 million ($US10 million budget, the rest for prints and advertising).
But with negative reviews (the film currently has a 32% rating on Rotten Tomatoes), the chances for “By the Sea” to do well in its opening weekend were slim.
On Sunday, “By the Sea” came in with a disappointing $US95,440 in 10 theatres for a per-screen average of $US9.544. But Universal isn’t giving up. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the studio will expand the movie to 100 theatres in 40 markets next week.
But that’s more to show it’s not burying the movie. Universal has no intention of campaigning it for the awards season, a source close to the studio told Business Insider.
Tom O’Neil, of awards tracking site Gold Derby, told BI that early screenings of the film proved its lack of awards buzz.
“Audience reaction was mixed,” O’Neil said of the screenings. “Some people view it as a lightweight vanity production brimming with arthouse pretension. Others truly appreciate the film, but don’t feel passionately enough about it to champion for Oscars.”
The film currently has a 100/1 shot to win Best Picture, according to the odds Gold Derby lists for the movies that could be eligible for the Academy Awards. That’s one very long shot.
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