LOL isn't just the name of Miley Cyrus' latest movie. It's also the industry's reaction to the film's embarrassing box office performance. LOL, an adaptation of a 2008 French film about teenage romance and heartbreak, earned a pitiful $440 at each screen it played on over the weekend, collecting a mere $46,500. What happened? Here, a brief guide:
How badly did the movie do?
That $46,500 gross is less than The Avengers made per screen this weekend. Cyrus' effort screened at 105 theaters nationwide — more than other limited-release films such as The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel — but made "less per theater than any other film in conventional U.S. theaters this weekend," says Meriah Doty at Yahoo. Only Wrath of the Titans' $640-per-screen average rivaled it, but that film has been out for more than a month. One Ohio theater owner reports that only 12 patrons purchased tickets to LOL over the course of the weekend. "It didn't pay for the lights to be on."
Why did it gross so little?
Lionsgate, the studio distributing LOL, gave it virtually no marketing support, says the Los Angeles Times. The promotional campaign began and ended, essentially, with an online trailer. Cyrus occasionally mentioned the film on her Twitter account, but she was not trotted out on talk shows, as is customary for a new film's star, and wasn't made available for press interviews. As well, the film wasn't screened for critics, so didn't benefit from reviews.
Why wasn't there more publicity?
The studio doubted the movie would be "commercially appealing," says the LA Times, citing anonymous studio sources. Joe Leydon at Variety agrees, calling it "charmless and shapeless." Lionsgate reportedly wanted to ditch a theatrical release altogether and send LOL direct-to-video, but its deal with foreign distributors obliged the studio to release LOL in at least 100 theaters in the U.S. and Canada.
Were expectations originally higher?
Much higher. Cyrus' first three films are all considered successes. Her 2008 Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds concert film had the highest-opening weekend ever for a concert movie. Hannah Montana the Movie grossed an impressive $80 million in the U.S. Her most recent film, the 2010 Nicholas Sparks romance The Last Song, grossed a respectable $63 million and made the case for Cyrus as a grown-up star, says Tiffany Wan at Wetpaint. It "proved she should could attract an audience beyond her Hannah Montana fanbase."
What does Miley have to say?
She's on damage control, says Doty. "Thank u so much for everyone who went to LOL. It is a film I loved making and I am proud of…. That's really all that matters to me," she tweeted.
What does this mean for her career?
It's not good. "That Lionsgate gave this star vehicle such a half-hearted theatrical dump… speaks volumes about the dimmed wattage of toplined Miley Cyrus," says Leydon at Variety. She'll have to switch directions if she's hopes to stay relevant, says Phil Contrino of Boxoffice.com. "Ditch the family-friendly stuff and go for something a little more edgy." Whether LOL's failure was a fluke or proof of Cyrus' declining popularity will become clearer when her next film, the comedy So Undercover, hits theaters June 27.