Remember Margaret? The Anna Paquin-starring drama was written in 2003, shot in 2005 and then given only a token release last September: on screen for just two weeks, with almost no marketing or promotion. After that, it was virtually impossible to see.
The good news is, you soon will be able to see it. Just three weeks after L.A. Weekly named Margaret the best film of 2011, Cinefamily has booked it for a one-week run beginning Jan. 27. Meanwhile, this week Variety published on its front page director Kenneth Lonergan's second interview ever about the movie, and Margaret star (and L.A. Weekly cover girl) Paquin suddenly was made available for select interviews on behalf of the film.
In light of the timing — Oscar nomination ballots are due by 5 p.m. on Fri., Jan. 13 — one could assume distributor Fox Searchlight is flipping its script and now making a last-minute campaign for recognition for a film it previously seemed indifferent to.
Lonergan's ambitious, contentious film was the victim of a protracted post-production and ongoing legal battles. (Even Lonergan's recent Variety interview was carefully worded and monitored by his lawyer.) As we reported in our Winter Film Issue, critics had been forced to petition Fox Searchlight to send out screeners of the movie so that it could be considered for year-end awards and top 10 lists — essentially, to treat it like every single other movie the distributor released in the second half of the year.
Just before the Weekly's Winter Film Issue went to press, we learned that Margaret had been booked to run for at least a week at New York's Cinema Village. But later it emerged that, while Searchlight made a print available to that independently run art house, the engagement was not initiated by the studio.
Instead, the booker of the theater, Ed Arentz, told Indiewire blogger Anthony Kaufman that he approached the studio about playing the film. “I booked it because I missed it, and figured there were plenty like me that wanted to see it.” He wasn't wrong — Margaret is going into its fourth weekend at the Cinema Village, making its ongoing second run twice the length of its first.
Cinefamily director Hadrian Belove was another of the many who missed the film in that first run and wanted to see it. And as #TeamMargaret fervor swelled online, patrons of his nonprofit theater, which has a history of giving unfairly under-seen movies a second chance, were begging him to book it. So, like Arentz, Belove approached Fox Searchlight and made it happen.
Reached by phone, a Fox Searchlight publicist said the studio would not comment on its marketing strategy. At the same time, though, the publicist denied said strategy had changed. In other words, the studio has remained passive as movie theaters have sought to book the movie, and as Paquin has been pursuing press opportunities on her own.
However, the publicist did confirm that the distributor sent screeners of Margaret to every member of the Academy — which, considering the movie's scarce availability up to this point, seems like a huge breakthrough.