Although the feature film adaptation of John Green’s latest novel courts the same female teen audience as franchises “The Hunger Games,” “Twilight” and “Divergent,” “Fault” is a dramatic departure from those worlds. The story revolves around a pair of lovestruck teens battling cancer, played by Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort. While the film may not seem like an obvious box office draw — Woodley wears a cannula (plastic oxygen tubing) throughout the film — the theme does have a precedent: 2011’s low-cost drama “50/50,” starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a cancer victim, was a surprise hit. Plus, young women love a good cry (think “The Notebook,” a weepie based on Nicholas Sparks’ book).
Fortunately for Fox, social media-obssessed teens have been fervently spreading the word about “Fault in Our Stars,” which debuts June 6.
“We’re (looking) for counterprogramming to all the big supernatural larger-than-life films,” said Elizabeth Gabler, president of Fox 2000. “We feel like a reality-based story is the next big thing that would catch on with young viewers.”
Made for just $12 million, “Fault” could gross roughly $35 million in its opening weekend if tracking surveys are correct.
Fox 2000 optioned the novel weeks after it was published in January 2012, and the book has sold more than 18 million copies worldwide in 47 languages. Executives and publishers agree that Green has ushered in a new excitement for literary realism.
As “Twilight” and its brethren proved, if fans are rabid enough and interested in repeat viewings, a film doesn’t need to appeal to everyone to be successful. “I don’t know how many quadrants it is going to cross,” said David Bank, media analyst at RBC Capital Markets. “It’s not a franchise. But relative to the budget, I suspect it’s going to be a very profitable movie.”
Recent pictures targeted at the young female demo all have exploited the symbiotic relationship between youth and social media. But “Fault” has taken it to a new level. Relentless Instagram and Tumblr postings of photos and elements encouraging fans to submit artwork or tweet messages helped draw droves of girls (who unite with the #faultfanatics designation) to sold-out events in cities including Cleveland and Nashville. To kick off the release, theaters are selling $25 preview tickets the night prior to opening that include a live simulcast with musical performances and talent from the film.
At the March premiere of Lionsgate’s “Divergent,” teenage fans were already clutching pictures of Woodley and Elgort’s “Fault in Our Stars” characters Hazel and Augustus. The onscreen pair play sister and brother in “Divergent” and girlfriend and boyfriend in the upcoming film, which arrives in theaters just three months later.
Spencer Klein, Fox’s senior vice president of domestic distribution, is encouraged by the buzz surrounding the movie. “The whole thing has taken on a life of its own,” he said.