Rightwing Film Geek

A Passionate pitch to red-state audiences

Father Sibley posted on his blog the link to a map that lets you see where Mel Gibson’s THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST will be playing when it opens Ash Wednesday. A poster in his comment field then noted the lack of theaters in Manhattan booking the film, just one, with some in the other boroughs, but still a surprisingly small number for the nation’s cultural capital, considering that THE PASSION is getting the full 2,000-screen opening nationwide.

So I looked at my own metro area, and found the same pattern in the listings for DC, Virginia and Maryland. THE PASSION will only open in one theater in Washington DC and in one theater in the biggest and closest counties of Northern Virginia (Arlington and Fairfax). Offsetting that some is the fact it will open in 6 theaters in suburban Maryland (Prince George’s and Montgomery counties) and eight in the farther-out NoVa counties like Prince William, Loudon and Stafford. And there’s the possibility of multiple screens obviously — the particular DC theater is a 7-plex; the Arlington facility has 12 screens. But for comparison’s sake, here are some Virginia population sizes: 2 theaters in DC/Arlington/Fairfax — population of 1.7 million; 3 in Richmond — population of 200,000; 2 in Charlottesville — city proper, 45,000.

According to the same map, THE PASSION will open in 5 (five) theaters in Los Angeles (scroll down or use the search box above, on the PASSION site page) and also in 5 (five) theaters in … (drumroll, please) … Alaska. I didn’t search for any of the numerous LA suburbs (Adam?), but Los Angeles proper is still an awfully big city (3.7 million — almost six times the population of Alaska) and somewhat important in the film industry one would think, that the city itself suffices for the point of my comparison. I checked the listing for New York state and found 8 theaters in New York’s five boroughs (though I don’t know the region’s geography well enough to judge the number for NYC suburbs). Or exactly the number of theaters (8) as the Tidewater corner of Southeastern Virginia — Norfolk, Chesapeake, Newport News, Virginia Beach, Suffolk.

jesusland.jpgThis is an unconventional booking strategy and is a clear indication of how Gibson plans to make a box-office hit — from red-state audiences with minimal reliance on the blue-state metro areas; hence the months of courting Christian preachers and cold-shouldering the ADL and the opinion-leaders in journalism and film criticism.

(Idle thought #1: Does the mass American moviegoing public realize that THE PASSION has subtitles, something they have hated and punished at the box office since the birth of the talkies?)

(Idle thought #2: Have there been any critics screenings yet, less than a month before opening? Enough pro critics read this blog that I know that if my guess that there have been none is wrong, I’ll be corrected).

THE GOSPEL OF JOHN used a not-dissimilar marketing strategy. It opened in late September on a few dozen screens in the South and Midwest, and concentrated on smaller and medium-sized cities for weeks before it played any of the country’s biggest Metro areas (Washington and Los Angeles got the film in mid-November; as far as I can tell, it has still never played New York or Chicago). But GOSPEL is a small film that has never played on more than 113 screens nationwide in any given week, so that was a traditional “rollout” strategy; it just reversed the customary order for the bigger and smaller cities. If GOSPEL were to have become a hit, it would have been in the MY BIG FAT JUDEAN EXECUTION mould. But dissing the biggest cities is just not done by a 2,000-screen-opening-week movie.

This booking strategy also tells me that Gibson’s distributors are preparing for a critical drubbing from the nation’s film-critic establishment, much of which is liberal or radical and based in New York, Los Angeles and a few other big metro areas. Playing THE PASSION relatively little in those cities seems like a way to immunize the film from their expected reaction. Or as making provision with defenses and barriers against fortuna, which I compare to one of those raging rivers …

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January 31, 2004 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

St. Blog’s outsiders

killa.jpgFor the half of my readers who came here from film-criticism or entertainment sites, have fun with this — a picture of Father Bryce Sibley, for which the Good Padre asks us to come up with a caption.

My contributions were:

  • “I’ll *show* you much I loved KILL BILL.”
  • “Camille Paglia’s favorite priest describes what he did to Donny Cavazos.”
  • “And if you don’t have a knife, sell your cloak and buy one.”

January 16, 2004 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Screen violence

Some other people at St. Blog’s Parish are debating KILL BILL VOLUME 1, as noted here. (Thanks David).

Father Bryce Sibley is surprised to find out that KB1 isn’t as violent or as twisted as some of what is common in Japan, a relatively pacific society. I can confirm that this is so. I saw one film at Toronto this year, Takashi Miike’s GOZU, that seems to revel in showcasing the most bizarre “wouldn’t it be neat if we …” ideas Miike could come up with. In the climactic scene, a man who likes having sex with a soup ladle stuck into his anus, is interrupted. And then in the course of the fight … he tips over. And then the scene gets *more* bizarre (let’s just say there is a birth). Hard-core pornography is sold and read fairly openly in Japan, though there are strict laws against showing any pubic hair. Yakuza films are one of the most popular genres and dozens or hundreds routinely die in them. There’s also a whole genre of manga porn, which involves animated films of tentacles and basically any human orifice. There’s a French film making the art-house rounds now, DEMONLOVER, that touches on the subject. You wouldn’t think it would be possible to have Chloe Sevigny and Gina Gershon star in a film about industrial espionage in X-rated Web sites and Japanese manga porn — and have the result be a dull, insipid movie. But Olivier Assayas is a director of rare talents.

I disagree with Father Bryce that most films in the kung fu and samurai genre have no plot. Like with a musical, films usually scrimp on it and we sometimes accept an otherwise undistinguished film with great fight scenes or dances (ONG BAK: MUAY THAI WARRIOR is just one long set piece). And such a film with weak set pieces generally can’t win you over with its plot. But the best such films oftentimes have perfectly strong plots (DRUNKEN MASTER 2; CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON; IRON MONKEY; SEVEN SAMURAI; YOJIMBO; SINGIN IN THE RAIN; THE BANDWAGON, THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG).

auditiondvd.jpgIn fact, Miike himself is the best proof of this, though he’s working more in the horror genre. He made one of the best films of recent years in AUDITION, in which the concluding torture scene is strengthened by its coming at the end of a movie where dread and hints at gore accumulate in half-understood ways, and then, in the greatest tone shift in movie history (yes, I do mean that), it all bursts forth like water tearing upon a dike. AUDITION certainly requires a strong stomach, but Miike was much gorier in GOZU and in ICHI THE KILLER, which had one scene in which boiling cooking oil was poured over a naked man suspended from ceiling meat hooks. Both these were much lesser films and not as disturbing and burning into the mind. Leaving AUDITION, I actually saw one woman yelling in the street at her date (not speaking, *YELLING*) demanding to know how could he take her to something like this.

I’ve already written my thoughts on the merits of KB1, which is very good for long stretches, but finally just gets to be boring. Ho, hum — another 100 yakuza to maim or kill. In fact, a few weeks ago David Morrison made a similar point about pornography (quoting Naomi Wolf — unclean! unclean!) — that’s its ultimate effect on souls may be less corruption than boredom and de-eroticization.

To make the same point with violence — it may be that seeing so much movie violence, rather than cause you to act violent, jades you to violence. But not always, or at least not yet. There’s nothing quite like being a packed theater for AUDITION and hear and feel the collective jump of the audience the second time you start hearing the words “kiri-kiri-kiri-kiri.” Indeed frankly, it was a tribute to both morality and AUDITION that the audiences reacted so strongly to it, even if to yell at their boyfriends about how immoral the film was — compared to their blaseness at ICHI THE KILLER, which the Toronto fest organizers camped up by handing out precautionary ‘Ichi the Killer’ souvenir barf bags as you entered the theater.

October 28, 2003 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment