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Bride And Prejudice's US release postponed

By Arthur J Pais in New York
November 18, 2004 15:05 IST
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Martin Henderson and Aishwarya RaiNever mind how excited The New York Times is about Aishwarya Rai -- a recent piece on Bride And Prejudice said she deserved to be an international star --- distributor Miramax isn't ready to roll out the musical on Christmas Day.

The film was to open in a handful of theatres in Los Angeles and New York in December in the remote hope of getting Oscar nominations. Its release in North America is now postponed to the second week of February.

It is not uncommon for Hollywood distributors to juggle the release date when the market seems too crowded or the test screenings suggest the film needs more time and less competition to find an audience.

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There are times, though, that a Hollywood distributor releases a film ahead of the original schedule when there is an overwhelming buzz for it. Warner Bros, for instance, will release the Clint Eastwood directed Million Dollar Baby, a story of an older boxer and his ambitious protégée (Hilary Swank) in December. The film was to open next year. But test screenings suggested it stood an excellent chance of nabbing Oscar nominations including one for Hilary Swank.

Miramax honcho Harvey Weinstein, who scored a big hit with the musical Chicago and had admired Gurinder Chadha's Bend It Like Beckham, had very high hopes for Bride And Prejudice. But the much-hyped film opened to mixed to downbeat reviews in the United Kingdom and India. It opened at top spot in the UK but with a not-so-great $3 million over the weekend. The same weekend saw Shark Tale taking $4.5 million in previews.

In the second week in the UK --- not to forget India --- the film that cost about $7 million lost a big chunk of its audience. Its gross in the UK is at $9 million, half of what Bend It Like Beckham minted, and the film, fast on its way out, is being shown in just about 50 screens.

Trade publications such as Variety and Hollywood Reporter had wondered, even while giving the film good reviews, whether it would have the kind of legs Beckham had. It was too much of a Bollywood film, they had said.

Exhibitors in England had thought the film would do well in areas with big South Asian population where many Brits were also aware of the tandoori culture. Their analysis held as the film had not many fans in Ireland and in smaller British cities while it scored big in London, Manchester, Birmingham and Edinburgh.

The postponement of its American release robs Bride And Prejudice of a few chances of nominations for the Golden Globes. Unlike the Oscars, the Golden Globes have a separate section for musicals/comedy --- which makes it easier for some films to get a toe in.

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Arthur J Pais in New York