Nothing scares Harvey Weinstein, so goes the general narrative of Hollywood. The maverick producer who engineered the most successful Oscar race runs for over a decade hasn’t had a stellar year in terms of awards praise. While his company have distributed Philomena and undoubtedly helped with its surprise Oscar nominations, their other supposed contenders haven’t fared as well, from Fruitvale Station to August: Osage County (I reserve my rant about that film for another day). One film, Grace of Monaco, has been pulled from release indefinitely, although it will still open Cannes this year.
The Weinstein Company’s latest distribution effort is Vampire Academy: Blood Sisters, an adaptation of the first YA novel in Richelle Mead’s successful series. One doesn’t envy the film-makers or the Weinsteins for saying yes to a teen vampire movie years after general consensus says the blood sucking trend is over. Sticking the film in the box office drought of February, where Beautiful Creatures floundered this time last year, doesn’t signal much hope in the project either.
There’s still a compelling case to be made in favour of the film being a success if it’s managed the right way. It’s a female heavy story by an author with a large and loyal fanbase, and the film comes courtesy of Mark and Daniel Waters, who know a thing or two about teen comedies thanks to Heathers and Mean Girls. While Hollywood continues to believe differently, women like to go to the movies and they’ll pay handsomely to do so. There’s a gap in the market for fresh and witty teen/college comedies. We can’t survive on Easy A and Pitch Perfect alone.
So why are the Weinsteins messing it up?
Deadline recently reported that a ticketing error led to a number of young fans being left disappointed after advertised midnight screenings never happened. There’s a clear audience for midnight screenings, even on a school night, and yet the Weinsteins didn’t seem to think about adding them. The embargo on reviews, usually a sign that a film is a turkey, hasn’t stopped the film landing at a dismal 9% on Rotten Tomatoes after 11 reviews. Add to that an ad campaign that seems cheaply and quickly thrown together and we’re left wondering if the Weinsteins even care about this film.
The issue with YA adaptations is that every time one of them fails, it’s seen as the end of the industry’s relationship with YA books full stop. Even with The Hunger Games setting box offices records alight and deals being signed from corner to corner, each flop will inevitably be accompanied with countless articles on how audiences just aren’t there for this material or (hold back the eye-rolls please) that female-led stories don’t sell. We’ve heard this before and it just doesn’t hold water, yet the narrative continues. If Vampire Academy flops, you can bet that young women will be slammed in some way during the aftermath. Teenage girls went out to screenings that didn’t even exist but they still need to keep proving their worth to studios. These stories need the support of studios which are run almost exclusively by old white men who struggle to understand how to talk to women under 25 without sounding like jerks. They simultaneously pander in the most patronising way possible and dismiss their buying power in favour of that of men.
We’ll report back on this topic once the receipts and fan reactions come in but suffice to say, one should prepare the pillows for the head-desk inducing reactions it’ll inevitably bring. Perhaps Weinstein should stick to middling Oscar bait.