Discussion Continues on Sony Pictures Classics' Purchase of The Wackness
One of the big Sundance sales that we've been following very closely was that of Sony Pictures Classics (SPC) purchase of Jonathan Levine's The Wackness. Once the purchase had been confirmed last Saturday, we ran an announcement article that included an alarming look at why Sony Pictures Classics was a bad studio for The Wackness to end up at. The short story is that The Wackness is an amazing film that could be a huge hit, and that Sony Pictures Classics has had almost nothing but box office flops for the last two years. My negative opinion was also mirrored by Peter from SlashFilm and Neil from Film School Rejects and caused such an incredible stir with everyone involved, that indieWIRE followed up with the director Jonathan Levine and Sony Pictures Classics' co-presidents. The discussion really continues now!
I'm quoted quite extensively in indieWIRE's piece, both from my original article as well as from a comment I had written in response to article on Movie Marketing Madness. One thing is for sure - the message that Peter, Neil, and I had been trying to get across really got across, and it shows the impact that we can actually have on Hollywood. We really want Wackness to be big, and our first response was negative, but from here on out the best course of action will be to try and help Sony Pictures Classics turn Wackness into as big of a hit as it should be.
First things first, let's address some of what was stated in indieWIRE's article. The most poignant statement made was by SPC co-president Tom Bernard, who said that, "this journalistic crew is so young that they don't have a history of Sony Classics and Michael and I." Anyone who attacks the age of the other person arguing against them is just attempting to use a dominant personal attack to demean and disqualify the other end. There's no reason that my age should play against me, especially when I can do the research and see that SPC has not had a film make over $15 million in the last two years and especially when I'm this immersed in the movie business, both on the theatrical and filmmaking ends. While I may not have the same financial experience as them, I'm knowledgeable enough and passionate enough to fight for a movie that I believe should be big, especially when I know it can be big.
Another interesting quote to point out from their article is that even Baghead's sales representatives noted that "the film has a younger audience than [SPC] traditionally target[s]." Baghead is the low-budget comedy thriller from the Duplass Brothers, one of my other favorite films from the fest. The rep also adds, "in going after 'Baghead' and 'Wackness,' it seems they're trying to find titles with broader and younger appeal." That's certainly true, which is why I'm concerned. However, maybe if SPC turns things around, gets some great marketing and promotion out there, and really supports both of these movies, they could make it big. And considering money is the most important aspect in Hollywood, the bigger a movie becomes, the more it makes - so who wouldn't want that to happen?
SPC's Tom Bernard isn't done yet, he goes on to make some more alarming claims, saying that, "it's a fractured reception among bloggers that every movie has to be 'Juno.'" The real consideration of success in Bernard's terms is the money. "If you want to evaluate a movie, evaluate the deal. That's what tells you. It's the difference of how much you take vs. how much you spend."
Here's where what Bernard is saying starts to really get under my skin. He seems like one of those people who only cares about money and finances and how much he has in his bank account than success from a filmmaking standpoint. I'm sure Jonathan Levine wants to make money, sure, everyone does, but we also want more than that (and so does Levine, I imagine). The Wackness should go down in history as a classic film to be remembered years from now, despite how much it makes. However, usually it's a good sign that something will be remembered if it makes a lot in its theatrical run.
And why can't we hope that every film should be as big of a hit as Juno? If any other film is even as remotely entertaining, heartwarming, and memorable as Juno, then why can't it also strive to be as (financially) successful? Especially when, as a movie fanatic myself, I loved The Wackness so much that I don't want to see it buried by a movie studio who isn't willing to push it.
Lastly, indieWIRE brings up a statement I made in my comment on Movie Marketing Madness.
But long-time profitability isn't good enough for some of the "Wackness" acolytes, who have unrealistic expectations for the film. FirstShowing.net's Billington posted a comment on the Movie Marketing blog, stating, "We want 'Wackness' to be a big hit, and big means anywhere from box office earnings of $50 - $100 million+."
Director Levine suggested if they want the movie to make that much money, they should all go see it numerous times.
Levine is right, Juno is as successful as it is because there are people out there seeing it numerous times. I won't argue with him, but it seems like he's just blowing off the fact that his film is amazing. The first aspect is that people need to go see The Wackness for the first time before they go see it multiple times. If SPC doesn't market it enough or doesn't release it in enough theaters and doesn't support it, that won't even happen. Then the second aspect is that because the film is so good, and that was confirmed when it won the Audience Award, then people will go see it multiple times. Maybe he does understand how awesome The Wackness is, but is missing the point that SPC won't even market it enough for people to see it the first time.
In the following few days I'll be putting together a separate article looking at ways that SPC can better market and better support both The Wackness and Baghead. I'm not out to argue and fight anyone, I'm just trying to promote two movies that I loved and that I know plenty of other people will love. I think SPC knows they could be big hits as well, which is why they bought them, but they need to get their marketing correct. And the first way to start doing that is not argue with all of us by saying we're too "young" or inexperienced to understand the business of movies. We are the people who see the movies with everyone else and who build the buzz.
Totally off-topic. But does anybody know when the forums are going to be opened up.
Chris on Jan 31, 2008
Really glad you're standing up for this movie Alex. Great job responding to them as well. It does seem like Levine doesn't quite understand the concern here. What everyone is worried about is that SPC won't actually spend the money to tell people his movie exists. If people don't know it exists, they can't see it. He seems focused entirely on simply getting the thing released at all, which is perhaps understandable after what has happened to Mandy Lane. But better not to release it at all than to release it in 2 theaters without any marketing behind it.
Josh Tyler on Jan 31, 2008
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