Tag Archives: VOD
5 Sep

Summer — ‘tis the season of the blockbuster, or so Hollywood hopes, right? But who knew a blockbuster would sweep through the beloved Boston-area art house, the Brattle Theatre?

In case you were sleeping or don’t believe me, it happened, lines around the block and sold-out shows, night after night.

In Tinseltown there are formulas to these things, but it’s not all that secret or complex: something old (remakes and sequels to money makers), something borrowed (TV shows, young adult hits) or something novel (let’s pair up Walter White and a lovely French actress with a giant CGI lizard). Many of these endeavors cost well over the $100 million mark and while they receive poor to tepid critical reaction, they tend to turn a buck in the long run when you factor in foreign releases and Video on Demand (VOD). But every summer there’s always a wild card, that offbeat something cooked with a modest budget (just tens of millions) that comes out of left field and hits bigger than most expect it would.

(Courtesy, Brattle Theatre)

“Lucy” is one such example. Made by French provocateur Luc Besson through a collaboration of European outlets. The gonzo sci-fi crime thriller was modestly released stateside by Paramount in first run theaters and made more in its first week in the U.S. than its entire budget (of $40 million). Of course, having the actress du jour (Scarlett Johansson) and a ready made audience (those who love Besson for his edgy, cultish works; “Le Femme Nikita,” “The Professional” and “The Fifth Element”) helps, but not always does such pedigree guarantee big box office biz or fiscal love from the mighty studio machine.

Take the case of “Snowpiercer,” the bleak futuristic depiction of the remnants of a post-apocalyptic society living on a super Acela after the battle with global warming has gone bust and Earth is little more than a giant ice cube. Directed by Joon-ho Bong, the Korean auteur behind “The Host” and “Mother,” making his first English language film with an international cast featuring Ed Harris, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell (“Billy Elliot”), Octavia Spencer (“The Help”), Kang-ho Song (“The Host”) and Captain America himself, Chris Evans.

Movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, who has always had a reputation for tweaking the product (his fingerprints are all over “Gangs of New York” and “Next Stop Wonderland”), wanted Bong to dumb-down the film to broaden its appeal. Bong refused and Weinstein sent “Snowpiercer” off to his Radius/TWC subsidiary for a smaller foot-print/alternative release.

What that means is, no mass marketing and a soon-after-theatrical-release, or simultaneous, VOD issuance. No big movie chain like AMC or Regal wants to touch such a film as the prospect of a looming VOD date tends to kill the box office draw (the thought being that viewers will just stay at home and stream the film for less) and that’s when the Brattle jumped in. “Snowpiercer” had already done killer business in Korea and France.

With acumen and luck, Brattle program director Ned Hinkle booked the film. The cherished Harvard Square institution got in a week scot-free as the VOD date was set for one week later. and the film wasn’t playing anywhere else in Boston.

The decision bore box office gold as fans of Bong, dystopian futurescapes and the hunky actor who happens to also play “Captain America,” lined up around the block.   Continue reading