Monday, January 24, 2011

Kevin Smith's Red State - a Radiohead moment?

Film director Kevin Smith yesterday showed his new film Red State at the Sundance film festival, and then announced that he was going to distribute and market the film himself.

In his speech he said that the film had cost approximately $4m to make, and instead of spending something like $20m to advertise it, he'd take it on a preview tour to cover this cost, before releasing it nationally in America in October.

Initial dates announced:

March 5th – Radio City Music Hall
March 6th – Wilbur Theater in Boston
March 8th – Harris Theater in Chicago
March 9th – State Theater in Minneapolis
March 10th – Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor
March 11th – Indianapolis, IN
March 12th - Midland Theater, Kansas City
March 14th – Springfield, OH
March 22nd – Paramount Theater, Denver
March 26th - McCalister theater, New Orleans
March 28th – Paramount Theater, Austin
March 29th – Cobb Energy Center, Atlanta
April 4th – McCaw Hall in Seattle

He's releasing through his own company, Smodcast Pictures, and hopes that this will become a new model for film distribution.  He's now selling merchandise on his site to pay for the prints of the film.

I think that this is a really interesting step, and has lots of parallels with what Radiohead did in 2007.

1 - Kevin Smith is a very recognised brand.  He has over 1.7m followers on twitter, he's very outspoken, and he has a clear constituency of fans.  The new film Red State is a film about right wing fundamentalists, and so it seems as much of a sure thing as any film these days.  Kevin Smith can do this, just as Radiohead could do it; but it wouldn't work in the same way for a new film maker.

2 - The world has changed, and artists can often see this and exploit it more easily than large companies.  Smith isn't going to give the film away for free, but what he can do is sell lots of tickets directly, and cheaply.  Why spend a lot to advertise to a general audience, when you can do so very cheaply (remember the 1.7m twitter followers) to a very focussed group of people.  Similarly Radiohead knew that the distribution model for music had changed, and had no stake (employees, departments) in maintaining the old model.

3 - You can make other deals later, when the film is a hit.  So far nothing has been said about overseas distribution.  My guess is that he'll do the tour in March, then use the revenues and buzz generated to start negotiating with foreign distributors. Radiohead sold the CD rights to a studio after the album had created a massive stir online; on CD it still got to number one, despite the fact that it was legally available as a free download.

4 - Kevin Smith is innovating, but only in the scale of what he's doing.  Films have gone on tour before, for example Anvil in 2009, but this is probably the first time that a major drama film has done it.  Similarly Radiohead's innovation was that it was done on a massive scale.

5 - The fame will be self-perpetuating.  I can already see both the column inches, and the TV news items, something that hasn't happened for a Kevin Smith film for a long time.

As it's only cost $4m Red State is poised to be a very successful film.  Whether the model is reliable, or even repeatable remains to be seen.

1 comment:

Pablo Edwards said...

Any plans for a west coast swing yet?

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