Wednesday, April 18, 2007

FILM The Grindhouse Split!

This is old news by now, but I had to weigh in anyway. Harvey Weinstein is raising a big stink saying that he’s thinking about splitting Grindhouse into two movies and releasing them both, but without the “missing reels” gag. Mr. Weinstein is blaming audiences for not understanding the concept of the double feature. Allegedly some people left after Rodriguez’s feature, and Mr. Weinstein believes they didn’t know about the second feature, though I think walking out may have been a more conscious decision and the “intermission” was the least disruptive place to go.

Well, The Weinstein Company was planning on releasing the two movies as separate entities in Europe, so they probably already have the prints ready. The real question is, Do they want to spend the money on a new ad campaign to re-release the movies, appealing to the same audience with the promise of new footage and the need to buy two tickets instead of one. It’s a choice that is doomed to failure. It’s doubtful that they’d attract many new viewers to the mini-franchise, and it’s doubtful they’d make the new ad budget back in ticket sales.


Because the two features are more drive-in movies than sleazy grindhouse fare, I’m left wondering what indie film legend Roger Corman would do. How would he have protected the investment and sold the movie and the split better? The simple answer is: He wouldn’t have gotten into this mess in the first place!

This is pure speculation, of course, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. Roger Corman would have looked at the projected returns of the movie(s) and adjusted the budget accordingly. With opening weekend grosses predicted to be $22 million or so (it came in at half that), Corman would have kept the budget for both films to be between $20-$25 million (probably much, much less). He would have been able to keep the double feature running time to the initial estimate of 2 ½ hours, despite diva directors, and even if he had to jump into the editing room himself.

Finally, in regards to the split, the drive-in circuit had a long tradition of renaming movies to trick people into either seeing them again, or to bring in new audiences. In the old days they would add shots of helicopters exploding to trailers of films that weren't working (footage which they would then feel obligated to cut into the movies).

In this regard, splitting the movie into two and re-releasing them under separate titles is right up the Roger Corman alley. But this is a different time where nobody would be surprised or tricked. Because of the Internet hype machine, everybody would know what they're in for. Consequently, it won’t work.

The Weinstein Company would be better off releasing the two movies on video instead of theatrically, which it sounds like they’re going to do anyway.

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