Kristen Stewart and Garret Hedlund in 'On the Road,' with Sam…
Even casual media consumers probably were aware of "On the Road," Walter Salles' adaptation of the Jack Kerouac novel starring Kristen Stewart, in December.
That month, Stewart appeared on numerous TV programs, including "The Daily Show" and "The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson," talking up her role in the film as the free spirit Marylou, while also touting the movie in appearances for "Breaking Dawn: Part 2." Garrett Hedlund, who plays Dean Moriarty in the Beat drama, was also a frequent media presence.
After "On the Road" grossed just $150,000 in a total of six theaters and the film failed to pick up much awards interest, distributor IFC decided to shelve plans to widen the film in mid-January.
But in an unconventional move, it will give "On the Road" another whirl. Beginning March 22, the movie will play on 150 screens, including several in cities, such as Chicago and San Francisco, where it never played. IFC will also make it available on VOD for the first time.
"We were planning a pretty major expansion for January," Jonathan Sehring, president of IFC Films, said in a phone interview Wednesday. "But when you don’t get the awards attention that you're hoping for, you have to be willing to change your plans." Sehring said he believes March offers a clearer runway, without the traffic of the holidays' major awards titles.
Studios routinely try so-called "qualifying runs" in December before a wider release the following year. But those tend to be deliberately below-the-radar plays for one or two weeks designed to give the film awards eligibility, and usually seek to avoid extensive media and review attention that a distributor prefers to come later.
"On the Road," on the other hand, received buckets of print and broadcast coverage in December, particularly in big markets like New York and Los Angeles, where it played, and was reviewed by many major outlets at the time. (At the moment it has a very modest 43% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.)
March is indeed a more open period for prestige titles; the month is populated with more commercially minded entertainment like "Oz: The Great and Powerful," Sam Raimi’s 3-D prequel of "The Wizard of Oz," or "Olympus Has Fallen," the White House disaster epic starring Gerard Butler.
Still, in the rapid-fire news cycle of movie marketing, it’s rare that a film can recapture interest several months after its initial push.
Hedlund’s publicist said in an e-mail that the actor had done "so much press from Cannes on" that he would not be doing anything additional to promote the new release. Stewart’s rep did not respond to a request for comment.
IFC will also have to contend with a competing title of sorts in "Spring Breakers," the Harmony Korine movie about a youthful vacation gone awry that opens on March 23 on about 500 screens. Featuring the likes of Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens, it could play to many of Stewart’s young fans.
Sehring, though, said he doesn’t see the two movies as competitive.
“This is a movie that played Cannes and is directed by Walter Salles,” he said. “I like Harmony Korine a lot—we did a movie with him—but it’s not exactly the same audience.”