“Ladies and gentlemen, I came here seventeen years ago, all I wanted to do was sell my movie. And I can’t think of anything f*cking worse seventeen years later than selling our movies to people that just don’t f*cking get it”
After talking non-stop for months about his plan to sell the distribution rights to his latest film Red State in a live auction following its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, writer/director Kevin Smith has thumbed his nose at distributors by purchasing the film himself in front of a live audience for a scant $20.
Instead of a traditional release, Smith’s plan is to take the film on tour around the USA (full list of dates and cities here), selling tickets to the showings and post show Q&A’s for “six, seven, maybe ten times” normal cinema prices, before releasing the film in theatres on October 19th under his self-titled “Smodcast Pictures” label.
Following the debut screening of the film (the critical reaction to which has so far been mixed), Smith appeared on stage in front of his audience and delivered a long, humourous, self-depricating and typically profane diatribe in which he bemoaned how much studios spend on movie advertising and, how far too much stock is put in a film’s opening weekend grosses. Counting out the ridiculous numbers on his hands, Smith remarked:
“It took seven years for Clerks, a movie that cost $27575, to go into profit. When that’s happening, when you’re spending four times, five times the amount to market a movie or open a movie than you are to make it, that’s not an inspiring game at all”.
He went on to call the movie making world “impenetrable”, saying that:
“Even if you’re lucky enough to make a movie, how the f*ck are you going to open a movie?”
Finally, Smith brought his producer John Gordon onstage under the guise of opening the bidding to the many presumably eager distributors in the audience who were hoping to purchase the rights to the film. Instead, Smith opened the bidding at $20 and Gordon promptly declared the movie “Sold!”
While Smith’s plan may initially seem foolhardy, it seems to me to sort of make sense. As Smith points out, with over 1.7 million followers on Twitter, and a network of Podcast shows that regularly rack up more than three hundred thousand downloads each week, there are enough Kevin Smith fans out there to make this film profitable without spending a cent on traditional advertising. Smith’s Q&A sessions and live Podcast recordings regularly sell out large venues, include Carnegie Hall and the Sydney Opera house, so it’s not difficult to imagine his faithful audience paying inflated prices if it means an early screening of his latest film on top of his normal standup routine.
As if this weren’t enough, Smith also announced that Red State will be his second to last film as a director. He will follow Red State with a hockey drama entitled Hit Somebody, after which he plans to focus his efforts on production and distribution. This, to me, is the most interesting part of this story – Smith concluded his tirade by addressing young filmmakers:
“Smodcast Pictures belongs to all of us. You’re gonna make your movies, put them out through our studio, and it ain’t gonna cost you a f*cking dime.”
I’ve got a lot more thoughts on how this whole situation went down that I hope to get out in a post sometime in the next few days. But for now, I’ll throw the ball to the rest of you. What are your thoughts on Smith and his plans for the future. And perhaps more importantly, would you be willing to pay big dollars to see his latest film early?