Friday, April 27, 2007

Back to the Grind

Before I got sick last week, I had promised to let you know my thoughts on what went wrong with GRINDHOUSE. For a pair of movies that cost around $50M to make it's very disappointing to hear that it only took in around $12M the first weekend. GRINDHOUSE was supposed to be a slam dunk for the Weinsteins - their two favorite directors delivering what they do best -- genre entertainment.

So where was the ball dropped?

1. The movies were too expensive.

Grindhouse exploitation cinema was a cinema of the cheap and the lurid. A kinetic equivalent of looking at a "true crime" or bondage magazine from the fifties. These two pictures, and the trailers cost $50M. What would have been much cooler would be to shoot them for $5M each and use lower level tv names or complete unknowns (except for a cameo or two).

2. The movies were released over Easter weekend.

That is "family time." Parents who wanted to see the films couldn't take the kids with them, and teens who wanted to see it were at Spring Break or stuck with the whole family over the weekend. These are "niche" movies - designed to appeal to the prurient interests amongst the audience.

3. The movies pulled their punches.

Grindhouse cinema was unrelenting. It dared to show the things only hinted at in larger studio releases of the time. Their modus operandi was torture, sex, violence, horror, sex, nudity action and violence. That was the only way they could compete with the studios and make money.

PLANET TERROR was a laughfest. DEATH PROOF was a gabfest. When the action was there - it was there, but you had to wade through a lot of stuff to get there. Grindhouse movies cut out that stuff. they knew what the audience was there for and they delivered. Rodriguez and Tarantino didn't.

Even the trailers were funny. Not a one failed to elicit laughter. Not good. Not good at all.

4. Apparently, some segment of the audience left after the first movie not realizing it was a double feature.

I really don't know what to say to this as I thought it was pretty clear. I'm of average intelligence. I can read a paper or a magazine.


So is releasing the films as separate entities going to fix this? I don't think so. It's only going to add to the expense sheet. Theatrical distribution is an expensive proposition. Now it might be cool to "round robin" the prints territory by territory, but that takes time too.

My thought would be to release the films separately on DVD with their full length cuts, then release a double feature package with tons of extras. I'm going to pick up the book this weekend and take a look at the screenplays and all of the pre-production material.

All this said, I want to see this as a label under the Weinstein name. MACHETE would make a great $2M movie and GRINDHOUSE is a great hook for these pictures - developed by Tarantino and Rodriguez and written and directed by other folks. The Weinsteins did this with the FROM DUSK TIL DAWN pictures to great success.

Any way it shakes out, I applaud Rodriguez and tarantino for bringing back the double-feature and the sense that going to the movies was an event.

That's been lacking for far too long at the theater.

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