Indie films usually start their theatrical rollout in blue cities.
If audiences showed up in droves, studios expanded the films to theaters across the country. It is an effective strategy that relies on word of mouth to generate interest.
Roadside Attractions opted for a different release strategy for “Call Jane,” and it made sense on paper.
The film stars Elizabeth Banks as a woman in her 60s who seeks an abortion due to medical complications that threaten her life. The story is fictional but connected to the real-life Jains, an underground network that helped secure illegal abortions in the era.
“Call Jane” is staunchly pro-choice, one of several recent films discussing abortion.
And, given the 2022 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade ended a few months ago, the progressive desire of “Call Gene” should be as strong as possible. Why was the drama not released a few days before the midterm elections?
Except very few people go to see a movie on weekends. That is an understatement.
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The film grossed just $243,922 at the box office from over 1,000 screens. It’s not a wide release in the traditional sense, but it’s more than most indie films.
“The Banshees of Inisherin,” an Oscar-bait release that opened on just 58 screens on Oct. 28, earned more than double the production of “Call Jane.”
You can’t blame lack of awareness for the results. “Call Jane” gained media attention. The New York Times gave co-star Sigourney Weaver a major profile feature attached to the project.
Banks earned the same with a New York Times Vanity Fair feature story.
Planned Parenthood also used the film extensively to promote it.
The film and its partners, including the Planned Parenthood Federation of America — which also worked on the film in a collaborative role to ensure it reflects the realities of barriers to abortion access — and the Abortion Care Network’s KeepOurClinics .org campaign, screening Phyllis Nagy. – Directed the film with several American clinics.
Banks and Weaver worked the late-night circuit, and the respective hosts echoed their pitch about the film’s real-world implications.
The couple also made a joint appearance on “The View,” another smart marketing move that gave the show a thriving following.
Maybe “Call Jane” would have resonated with audiences if it had hit theaters with Roe v. Wade would come close to a reversal. Instead, the film arrived as evidence that a red electoral tide is accelerating, and that voters are coming to grips with that reality.
Or, the conventional wisdom that abortion would be Democrats’ best bet to refute GOP arguments never had much impact in the first place.
The film’s commercial failure is another sign Democrats may have plenty to worry about come Nov. 8.
updated: “Call Jane” disappointing box office numbers clearly affected Lionsgate’s home video release schedule. The company just announced that the film will be available via VOD on December 6 and on Blu-ray on December 13.