Wednesday, June 2, 2010

To Open Wide Or Not To Open Wide

Was reading Harry Knowles' review of Splice last night and found myself obviously thrilled to be reading yet another great review for a movie I adore, but also found myself bothered by certain parts of the review. See if you can notice a theme.

SPLICE is such a film. A delicate, crazed, wonderful, beautiful and warped film that we don't see in wide release any more. Mainstream horror & science fiction is generally these days a remake or a gore fest....

SPLICE is going to be on more that 2,500 screens this weekend.

A release on the same scale as the global abomination known as MARMADUKE, the lessor film KILLERS and the hysterical comedy GET HIM TO THE GREEK. That is, frankly, AMAZING...

It is so amazing to see this released by a major studio. Reminds me of DISTRICT 9 that way. A lower budget independent science fiction taking on issues and making a compelling genre film

While Harry clearly loves the idea of Splice being opened wide - I'm not quite on board.

Sure, District 9 opened wide, but it also had a huge campaign, covering all bases - genre, viral, mass market, screened & had a panel at Comic Con, had those Humans Only signs out and about before anyone even knew the name of the movie, and it was CLEARLY a summer movie. It had aliens and guns and spaceships, people. Plus while D9 had its hard to handle moments, it doesn't go anywhere near where Splice goes in terms of a certain level of fucked-up-ness. D9 had a chance at a huge opening weekend, the pieces were in place. Splice just doesn't.

Now, let me clarify. I love Splice. I LOVE Splice. Which is WHY I'm concerned about it opening wide. This movie is amazing, but it is not for everyone. People who don't know what they are in for, if they bother to see it, very well may walk out. It's controversial, it's provocative. A lot of people outside of the genre community haven't even heard of it. At Wondercon, when Vincenzo Natali spoke so eloquently about the film and spiked my interest - barely a single person in that room knew anything about that movie coming in. Which means Splice has had only TWO MONTHS to do, in terms of buzz & publicity, what District 9 did over YEARS. Sure people loved the movie at Sundance, in January, but if I wasn't even hit by the buzz then, I'm not sure it really counts as the marked beginning of buzz-building. I don't see a scenario in which this film mimics D9 in terms of box office either. If Splice magically pulls off a 25 million dollar opening weekend, I will HAPPILY eat my words. But I think 10 million would be a huge accomplishment at this point.

Now, if Splice weren't opening wide, if it were opening limited, it would have time to find its audience without the giant studio behind it wondering immediately if they made the right investment.  It would have time to build word of mouth, to grow steadily, to become the film you MUST go see NOW,  because it's too good and unique to let slip by. I worry, with a 2,500 screen opening and not the publicity or star power to back up that big of an opening, the numbers will be considered a disappointment and the movie will fade into obscurity. The reason why non quality horror films open wide is because everyone goes to see it opening weekend, makes all of its money right when it comes out, then it has a huge drop off and soon leaves theaters because it's a piece of shit.

But because Splice is such a HIGH QUALITY film, a special film, it deserves better. It is not meant to be thrown out into the vicious competition of summer in the hopes of finding an audience, somewhere, anywhere. Opening a "word of mouth" movie WIDE in the  SUMMER means if it doesn't open with huge numbers, it will be pushed out of theaters the weekend after, in favor of the plethora of high profile summer movies that, ohwhatdoyaknow, COME OUT IN THE SUMMER. June 11th, we have Karate Kid & The A-Team (I will see A Team). June 18th we have Toy Story 3 & Jonah Hex (the latter of which which I suspect won't be in theaters for very long, but movies have to leave theaters for this one to enter theaters, regardless of its box office performance! Though I WILL be seeing it. And Toy Story. Duh.), the 25th we have Knight & Day and Grown Ups (neither of which appeal to me) and June 30th, Eclipse (Obviously seeing it. But I won't get drunk this time. Promise.)  These movies have to be on multiplex screens somehow and how are those decisions made? "Which movie is bringing in the smallest numbers? You're out."

I think you guys may be interpretating a wide release as a sign of support from the studio, when really it just means Splice was a pick-up that they needed to release. Don't get me wrong, I love Warner Brothers, I just think someone needed to take the time to say, this belongs in the fall and deserves a much longer, a much better campaign, and maybe, just maybe, it should be released limited. (And KEEP SPOILERS OUT OF THE TRAILERS. Is another thing. Someone should have thought of. But that's another issue entirely.)

I hope I'm wrong. I hope this movie exceeds our expectations and opens huge.

-I'll scream and bless this country if it hits 30 million.

-I'll be bouncing off the walls if it hits 20-30 million (25,000 means 10,000 per screen, just like District 9's 30 million to 3000 screens, and boy, would that be great!)

-I'll be sad, but not suicidal if it hits between 10 & 20 mil -12,500 means about a 5000 per screen average, which is dealable.

-I'll sadly shake my head and think "I knew it" if it opens between 5 and 10

-If it opens under 5? Let's not talk about that scenario, shall we?

I don't mean to sound as if I don't support small movies getting a chance or a studio release. I think that's all fantastic! I just worry about the pieces not coming together. Why is this movie not coming out closer to Halloween? If you're making the push to get big numbers (which is the only reason, speaking from a business stand point, to open wide initially, isn't it?) then how can you not have the marketing campaign to back that up? Even opening the film in October would have given it more of a chance. But June? Counter-programming, sure, but what part of Middle America is going to see Splice before seeing any number of movies currently out or coming out this Friday? And if you don't care about that audience...why are you opening so wide? Not to mention, Splice would STILL be counter programming in the fall, because it is a fantastic, high quality, genre film. It's not some shitty gore-fest, which most everything else is around Halloween. It IS counter programming, people, in any effing event.

This may all be silly. The movie may open just fine. I just hate seeing films I love not even stand a chance.

Please prove me wrong. Please go see Splice this weekend - give it a HUGE opening weekend (25 mil would be the D9 equivalent & considered a huge success) and encourage the studios to keep picking up smart, fascinating, well-made genre films like this.

I love this movie so much. I hope you do too :). I've seen it twice. It holds up. GO SEE IT. And stop watching the trailers.

P.S. If you think I'm totally wrong, and hey, I might be, don't be afraid to comment! I'm interested in your thoughts on this subject, readers, and am open to all ideas.


Eleni said...

It's that good? OK then, I'll try to get to the theater to see it this weekend. I understand your anxiety--when movies don't do well that you want to do well, it doesn't bode well for there being more movies like it. Going to see something opening weekend is kind of like casting a vote in support of that movie (and others like it).

Thanks for the warning about the trailers.

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Eleni said...

So it looks like it's coming in between 5 and 10 million. Could have been worse, but you were right.

I did my part and saw it in the theater on Saturday. I can't really say it was my kind of movie. I love sci-fi in general, but I've never been a fan of horror (I actually kind of enjoyed Paranormal Activity, but the only other horror movie I've seen in recent memory, The Descent, I hated). I think especially because Splice ended with the horror movie stuff, that was what was in my mind walking out of the theater, and it was hard to make myself remember the interesting sci-fi and moral dilemma aspects of the film. I can see it was good for what it was, but I don't expect to watch it again.

Amy-Elizabeth said...

I can't say that I agree with you about enjoying Splice, but I will agree that it should have been marketed differently. Oh wait, that they had marketed appropriately at all. I think I would have liked the movie a lot more knowing that it was more than just a dumb creature feature - which is what was implied by the marketing campaign.

I am glad that they picked up on the original and awesome of the script but pissed that they didn't think to market it in any thoughtful sort of way.

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