Musings From The Mausoleum…

December 5, 2011

Greetings & salutations to all of my ever faithful acolytes on this dreadful holiday season. Yeah, that’s right…I called it dreadful. All it means to me is spending an inordinate amount of cash on things that no one in my circle really deserves, or needs. What this holiday season needs is some rants from someone whose idea of a “Merry Christmas” includes dressing up in a white Santa suit & finding imaginative ways of turning it red….

I have one issue that’s really been bugging me as of late & I want to get this off of my chest. I’m sure all of you know what the term “Token Release” means in Hollywood. Basically the term refers to films that studios have very little hope for. Either the films tested badly or have been languishing on the shelf for (in some cases) years for various reasons. In reality though, most of the time the movies just stink to high heaven. These are the usual “Direct To Video” fodder that we see released every week. More often than not, we’ve never heard of these titles until they get released to the public. They have names over the title of actors we’ve never heard of before, some atrocious CGI & some ridiculous plots that we have no interest in.

But every so often, a film that has been anticipated by many gets relegated to DTV status. Usually these films have one or two well known actors in them & are directed by someone we’re familiar with. Take Joel Schumaker’s “Blood Creek” for instance, It starred Dominic Purcell (Blade 3), Michael Fassbender (X-Men: First Class) & Henry Cavill (Immortals, Man Of Steel). The script was written by David Kajganich (The Invasion) & it wasn’t too bad a movie actually. You would think that the film deserved something more than a one week regional release to give it a bit of exposure before it got dumped onto the home video market. Especially with those names attached to it. Granted, Schumaker’s star has dimmed from his glory days as a director & his last few films tanked but he’s not a hack (Most of the time anyway..). But that’s all the studio felt the film deserved & I wonder why this is so. I understand that it might not have warranted a major release to 2000 screens and once you factor in the cost of prints & advertising the film would have to become a sizable hit to recoup the studios investment in it but a film like this one might have done really well if it was given a slow rollout over time to let word of mouth give it some momentum. Maybe opening it at 100-150 screens to start and slowly upping the screen count to 500 screens at it’s peak.

It received fair reviews from the few critics that took the time to watch it & I believe that if handled carefully it could have turned a small profit in the end. Now I don’t know how much it made on it’s release to home video & I believe it got a small international release as well so I can’t say how much money it ended up making in the end but I’m willing to bet that it’s yet to turn a profit. And I wonder why this is so? The idea is to MAKE money isn’t it? I can go on & on….films like “Outlander”, “Hatchet 2”, “Dylan Dog”, “I Spit On Your Grave”, “The Ward” & “Creature” have been unceremoniously been dumped on a few screens before they get dumped to home video. 

In some cases (“Creature”, “Dylan Dog”), the studios trepidation was well warranted. Both of them were just heaps of celluloid crap. But the others deserved a bit more than they got. Especially those that had some inherent value to fans just from the people who made them. “The Ward” was John Carpenter’s first theatrical release in ten years. His name alone would have brought in the fanboys who worship at the altar of Michael Myers & The Thing. It got dumped to less than ten theaters in NY for one week. It got absolutely no publicity either, no newspaper ads, radio spots or commercials. Very few even knew it was in a theater & when they found out…it was already long gone.

But what really got my goat was last months release of Darren Lynn Bousman’s “11-11-11”. Firstly, it was directed by a well known (To fans of the genre anyway) director who has made something of a name for himself with his previous efforts (Saw 2, 3 & 4) but has also shown a bit of diversity by directing the interesting if flawed “Repo! The Genetic Opera” & the remake of “Mother’s Day”. I should note that “Repo!…” got a token release as well but has since gained a sizable cult following & “Mother’s Day” has yet to receive a theatrical release. Secondly & most important though is the inherent value in it’s title. it’s called “11-11-11” for Christ’s sake! Why wasn’t there a slow build up starting at the beginning of the year stating that “11-11-11” is coming? Something to build a sense of dread? Some quick teasers for theaters claiming the same. Something to take advantage of that awesome title & the value it brings with it? Say it’s from the director of “Saw 2” or something to that effect, do something….anything! But it got nothing, nothing at all. In NYC, I believe it opened in two theaters. TWO THEATERS! With absolutely no advance promotion whatsoever, no print, radio or television ads at all. No one thought enough of the film to give it any kind of push whatsoever. 

I don’t understand the rationale behind this. The film has received tepid reviews but I can’t say that I saw it so I can’t comment on it. But there’s no way it wouldn’t have had a nice opening weekend if a halfway decent marketing approach had been used in the manner I described. The budget wasn’t big either. It would’ve been very hard to lose money on this movie unless….you just didn’t care about it. And this is my problem, why put the time & effort into a film that you just don’t care about? Why spend the millions of dollars that you spent making it if you’re not going to even try to recoup them? Why not feed some hungry children with the money if it’s so apparently disposable to you? 

Why do I care about this so much? Because I respect filmmakers, that’s why. Even the people behind “Creature” & “Dylan Dog” will get a nod from me because they poured their hearts & souls into their finished product. They made their films, how many of us have made a film? I know I haven’t. I talk a lot of mess but that’s all it’s been up to now, talk. I respect the drive & the desire that it takes to get a film made as we all should. No matter how the end product turns out, they got it done. These efforts deserve more than the bullshit releases they received. And in the case of “11-11-11” it’s a boneheaded bullshit release because if nothing else it would have made some nice coin with the support it should have received. Bad films, good films, big films, small films. They all deserve some respect & so do the people behind them. These token releases are a waste of time & money. Money that could be better spent on figuring out how to promote the next film they don’t have much confidence in.


– The Black Saint


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