Back in 2007, Random House Films released its first feature, Reservation Road. The film received a modest opening, beginning on 14 screens and never expanding above 36 screens, and grossed an even more modest amount: $1.7 million worldwide. It was a hard lesson for the new distributor and its president, Peter Gethers. "I think we've learned a lot more about the development process, which makes us even more selective when buying or trying to buy film rights to a book," Gethers said.
Those lessons will be put to the test on August 19, when One Day opens, the second release under the RH Films banner. But Gethers and his team see something special this time around. "The entire process of buying One Day for both book and film was remarkably easy," Gethers said. "The book was submitted as a book and film simultaneously—the agents and the author, David Nicholls, knew they had a novel that was a natural film adaptation. There was no question in our minds that the book would make a wonderful film."
One Day follows Emma and Dexter (played by Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess), two friends who meet on the night of their graduation from Edinburgh University in 1988. The story traces their friendship in subsequent years on the same day, July 15. To promote the book along with the release of the film, RH released a movie tie-in edition with a print run of 365,000 copies.
One Day's time line followed a traditional path—book publication and then film adaptation—with one key difference: the whole process was streamlined. A few factors made the process easier than most—the book and film rights were bought simultaneously by Random House and Focus Features (which also has worldwide sales and distribution rights), as part of the two companies' agreement to co-finance, co-develop, and co-produce feature films, and Nicholls is also the screenwriter for the One Day film. "The only writer we considered as a screenwriter was David," said Gethers. "He was ruthless about what he'd do to his own novel for the screen adaptation. He kept saying, 'This has to go! I need to cut this.' He wound up turning in one of the best first drafts of a script I've ever seen."
Nicholls, for his part, was equally grateful for Random House's support of his story. "All of the studios passed on it. Focus and Random House seemed like a great fit," he said. "There was never a sense of wanting to Americanize the story. That was part of the appeal."
But even with his publisher/distributor's vote of confidence, he joked about his worry. "I always expected to get sacked after the first draft. I thought they'd say that it was too close to the book. So I didn't mind the changes—that's part of the process."
Random House Films started operations in 2005, and if two films in six years doesn't exactly seem like a jammed production calendar, it's because it isn't. Gethers acknowledged the company's frustration. "The greatest difficulty has simply been how long it actually takes to get a movie made from start to finish," he said. "It's taken longer than I'd hoped to really get our slate of films on track. But now things are indeed on track."
Principal photography for RH Films' third feature, Lay the Favorite, starring Bruce Willis, Vince Vaughn, Rebecca Hall, and Catherine Zeta-Jones, has already wrapped. The story comes from a memoir by Beth Raymer about professional sports betting. Brad Pitt and Darren Aronofsky are tied to another RH Films project, an adaptation of The Tiger, which is a true story about a man-eating Siberian tiger and the effort to trap it. According to Gethers, there is a script and they're now looking for the right director.
But for now, all their attention is turned to One Day. Gethers is confident in the film and expects it to do well commercially: "The only way to make a name for oneself is through the quality and commercial success of the projects. Plain and simple."