Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Elusive Little Children

This is old news but after 18 weeks in theaters some of you still aren't able to see Little Children, are you? 18 Weeks! and the widest they've gone is 115 theaters? I keep trying to suss out the business plan behind this.

______Executive: Let's spend gazillions to create awareness and then
______not let people buy the product we're selling!

______Executive Sycophant: Brilliant.

Imagine if they did this with other products pushed with multi million dollar campaigns. You go to the store: "I'm sorry. We only sell that product in New York and Los Angeles. buh bye" Now there are people out there (and some of them are critic friends of mine) who will tell you this is a blessing in disguise. But still... It has to be the most puzzling release of 2006. They didn't capitalize on the reviews. They missed the window of Kate Winslet's promotional push. They didn't go crazy once they achieved a pretty good Oscar nomination tally. Do they actually think they're going to win Oscars? They aren't. What's the rationale? I don't claim to be smart about the business side of Hollywood so someone help me out in the comments. Am I missing something really obvious? Even if theatrical release is just a commercial for DVD shouldn't they try and make the commercial better?

20 comments:

OhMyTrill said...

um...how is limited release a blessing in disguise? I live in Houston (now the 3rd biggest city in the country) and the one independent theater is just now getting movies like Babel...hmmmm.

Chris said...

Seriously?

I've already seen "Babel" weeks ago and "Little Children" ten days ago and I live overseas in Luxembourg. What's going on with these people? Don't they want to sell their (by the way brilliant) product?

Joe R. said...

This is seriously an outrage. OUTRAGE! It's the dumbest thing about this whole dumb movie year/awards season. Shortbus played in Buffalo in October, okay? There's an audience for small films like this and there always has been. Open your goddamn movie or don't campaign for Oscars. ASSHOLES.

Michael said...

I just finally saw Little Children, and I realize this isn't quite the topic of this post, but I actually thought there was an error with the film at first when the narration kicked in.

Sorry to spin this off course but did anyone else take issue with the narration? It positively RUINED the film. Narration is a weak device anyway, but when the actors are perfectly capable of conveying the necessary emotions and subtexts, it detracts heavily. I hope they release a non-narrated version on DVD. It would elevate the film so much!

NATHANIEL R said...

omt i mean in that they think little children sucks.

chris i seriously don't know. hence the question. The other strange thing is that this company doesn't have much as else to sell this year. It's like their warner bros and they have 12 things they're juggling.

michael i wish that DVDs had that option for every single movie ever that has narration. I can't tell you how relieved i was when I could finally watch blade runner without it. I'd never again sit through the narrated version.

StinkyLulu said...

US distribution is idiotic.

ABQ has one of the top-grossing cineplexes in the nation. (Every week the place ranks somewhere in the top 10 of tickets sold nationally.) And Little Children was barely here for a couple weeks, with Volver and Notes on a Scandal finally getting here in late January.

But as to the narration of LC: I will scream this till I die: there are two great things about Little Children, neither of which the filmmakers really were brave enough to fully launch. One, Kate Winslet's performance. Two, the narration. (Patrick Wilson's ass is amazing, but not in the realm of greatness.)

The fact that, for the narrator, they cast the same voice as the PBS Frontline documentary series is the first tip that this is not mere exposition. Rather, the narration is meant to "take you out" of the story, to encourage a kind of engaged distance...

I'm not saying it worked entirely. (I think there should have been about 20-30% more narration.) But the narration is one of the two things I keep loving about that film...

Beau said...

I agree entirely. I was lucky enough to live in L.A. and saw it at the Arclight for its midnight showing, but had I not lived in this general area, I'd have had to wait a good two months before catching it.

Ridiculous, considering the quality of the film. Not only the most puzzling release pattern of the year, but one of the most puzzling films of the year, period. One yearns for the extended cut.

P & A Guy said...

You don't throw good money after bad. It's really that simple. New Line had a bomb on its hands, and they knew that early on. They knew this before the picture was locked, in fact. It might be difficult to remember this from within the relatively intelligent confines of cinematic blogger land, but the film was not generally liked by average-Joe audiences. There was no word of mouth, no build, no cash registers ringing up mega sales and, most importantly, bad reviews from some of the most important market hacks. Do you know how much it costs to go wide? Or even to release in 100 theaters? If you did, you would not be perplexed as to why "Little Children" sits where it sits.

NATHANIEL R said...

p&a --i understand the concept of not throwing money away on a flop but they have been spending money. And if the money were being spent to insure oscar nominations since it doesn't seem to have been spent in expansion (which is what laypeople like myself assume) --what good is chasing the nominations without using them to garner more sales/interest once they're captured?

isn't that also throwing money away?

still confused.

Anonymous said...

P&A,

According to metacritic.com, 'Little Children' has a positive rating of 76 (out of 100) -- well ahead of 'Babel' and 'Notes on a Scandal,' and on par with 'Dreamgirls' too.

Plus, the film is 89% "creme of the crop" fresh on rottentomatoes.com, and has a B+ average grade from viewers, so in what language does that constitute "bad reviews" and "a bomb."

Face it, Hollywood often is so incredibly inept in its (in)ability to market and distribute its own product effecively, and 'Little Children' is just one example.

M

Anonymous said...

My guess is that the unlikeable characters, the pedophilia, random stuff like that the studio thought Americans were too stupid to accept a film like this.

Maybe they're right. I mean, there are a lot of dumb people in this country, but they're plenty of people who just don't want to see Pirates 2 six times in a row, X3 four times in a row, and have Babel's message shoved down their throats.

I saw this in the theater (gasp!) in Atlanta (double gasp!) after I saw The Queen. I favored this more than The Queen, that's for damn sure. The only reason this movie made it to that theater, is because they get a new independent film every two-four weeks, unless the film is a big success. In this case, The Queen stayed and Little Children went bye-bye. Who do you blame? The public? The critics? The studio? I'll always blame the studio.

I just don't understand the Hollywood system, Little Children should have been one of the bigger Oscar films, but they never capitalized on anything. Which just proves my point, that New Line is completely incompetent and can only market Austin Powers and talking trees (LOTR).

J.D. Judge said...

This ain't right.

I mean, even if it came to WNY, there's very little chance I'd see it, but still. This is certaintly this years's "best films you haven't seen and not going to see."

J.D. Judge said...

This ain't right.

I mean, even if it came to WNY, there's very little chance I'd see it, but still. This is certaintly this years's "best films you haven't seen and not going to see."

Jason J said...

"Sorry to spin this off course but did anyone else take issue with the narration? It positively RUINED the film."

Yes, yes, yes, a thousand times yes. I read the (amazing) book already. I saw the movie and therefore read the book twice. I wish Field and Perrotta had gone through a few more drafts to get that damned narration OUT! They could have -- they're brilliant.

I see StinkyLulu does not agree, which gives me pause. Nevertheless, I stand by my opinion.

Kamikaze Camel said...

But, the budget was somewhere around the $20mil mark yet it's as if they didn't even want to try to recoup the costs.

It's even stranger cause it's getting good releases outside of America.

It was just released here in Australia and in it's first week it went to 41 cinemas. We have a population of 20mil and the average big blockbuster goes out to about 300 cinemas. Yet in America they can't get past 115? Crazy. Here it debuted at #17 and had the third best average in the top 20 after Hannibal Rising (#1) and Pan's Labyrinth (#18).

adam k. said...

Yeah I don't care how much it costs to put a film in theaters, films are SUPPOSED to be put in theaters. It cost $20 to make it and the way you make back a budget is to release the damn film. That is not a difficult concept to understand.

It got 3 major oscar nominations. At least a few people will see it. Everybody knew The Fountain would bomb at the BO but it at least got a chance.

Little Children should be in like 800 theaters right now. I'm sure it'd at least make almost as much as its budget with the boost from its 3 nominations.

16 year old blogger said...

I have been with this movie since last year..(I'm movietvwatcher at the imdb.com Little Children board...and there are many posts about the narration and other things about the movie) but I just kind of gave up on this film...if this were a Weinstein Film...that's all I'm gonna say, becuase if it were, Winslet would be the frontrunner, the movie would have made much, much more, it would be in huge amounts of theatres, and it would have been nominated for more awards...but this movie is too good...and if you go to the imdb.com board there is a post about how New Line will "aggressively" campaign the DVD...but I believe Nat. you were the first one to say that this was a New Line release and that was a con for it at the Oscars...

Kamikaze Camel said...

Nah, the Weinstein's woulda released it on Dec 29 and it wouldn't have gotten anywhere. They screwed up the release of three movies by doing that. Breaking and Entering, Factory Girl and Miss Potter. No matter what you think of those movies (I've seen B&E and it's really quite good), the fact that none of them cracked $1mil is unbelievable.

Miss Potter has actually become quite a big box office hit here in Australia because they advertised, released it into more than 10 cinemas and cause they released it before a lot of the prestige pictures that are now flooding the market. Crazy how this stuff happens. *lol*

16 year old blogger said...

But those three movies weren't that buzzed about like Little Children were...and if anyone could get an Oscar nom for a movie, it's the Weinsteins...they also are the ones who are to "blame" for In the Bedroom's Oscar Success...

Anonymous said...

Question for you all. A group of people joined me to watch this brilliant film and were are fascinated.

One question we did have is just what did Winslet's Character's child (Lucy) tell Jen while they spent the day together. Her mood seemd to change (brilliantly acted) mid-stream, especially when she asked Winslet about her college friend she supposedly visited and especially when Winslet asked if she could pay her.

Help us -what do you think happened here (or was it back to the book review evening comments)?

Thanks