By Julia Emmanuele, Hollywood Staff
In an era where every franchise gets a two-part finale, The Weinstein Company is taking a different approach to releasing Ned Benson's film duality The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby. Retitled as The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them, the two distinct films (Hers and His) will be edited into one for a wide-release on September 26, while the individual installments will get a limited release later that fall. Starring Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby attempts to tell the story of a failing marriage from two different perspectives, with the audience finding the truth of the situation somewhere in the middle.
The original, two-part cut premiered to rave reviews at the Toronto International Film Festival last year, but when Harvey Weinstein acquired it for distribution shortly afterwards, he approached Benson about cutting them together into one film. The result, Them, will premiere at Cannes before arriving in theaters in the fall. From a distribution standpoint, it makes a great deal of sense to combine the film, as the average moviegoer would be less likely to see two separate films that tell the same story than one coherent take on it.
Though studios often split films up in order to make double the profit at the box office, in this instance, it's a smarter move for Weinstein to release just one film, since there's no guarantee that a mainstream audience will flock to see one installment of the story, let alone two. Chastain and McAvoy are both well-known and well-respected actors, but neither one of them has established themselves as a major box office draw yet, and so Weinstein can't simply rely on their star power to bring in audiences to both parts of the movie.
And since it's easier to get people to watch one film instead of two, it will likely also help Weinstein earn the film some awards attention. The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby's mission to tell the same story from different perspectives helps it stand out from the other movies being released in the run-up to Oscar season, but having a single, two-hour cut of it will help encourage voters and critics to see it.
However, Benson's story was designed to be told in two parts, so cutting it into one might mean that Them loses some of the impact that the two-part film would have. Since the director himself is the one who edited it, much of his vision for the film will likely stay intact, but the additional editing a release plan means that the audience who will get to experience the film the way he intended will be much smaller.
We'll have to wait until the Them premieres at Cannes to find out whether or not a single film is the best way to present the story, but in the meantime, here's hoping Peter Jackson has learned a thing or two from this situation.
Of course, the real issue is the incongruity in the function of the pronouns at the end of the titles. Hers and His are possessive, Them is not.