One of the biggest events at this year’s Sundance Film Festival involved Kevin Smith’s “auction” for the rights to his indie horror flick Red State. When the screening ended, Smith took the stage to start the bidding…and subsequently sold the rights to himself for $20. Whether one viewed it as a ruse (or as Randall from Clerks would say, a “cunning attempt to trick me”) or Smith just being Smith (the guy certainly is a showman), what followed was the filmmaker unveiling his master plan to cut Hollywood out of making money off his work.
Smith didn’t think his four million dollar film could get into the black if it were saddled with a ten million dollar ad budget – so rather than let a studio blow that kind of cash, the filmmaker decided he’d take his film out on the road personally. For a premium price, viewers could see Red State and then watch Smith get on stage and talk about it afterward. The Red State tour worked out pretty well according to Smith – who says the film is already in the black.
However, you can’t take your film onto VOD without some studio assistance – and because of that, Smith will team up with genre-friendly studio Lionsgate to bring Red State to various VOD platforms starting on Labor Day weekend. For around $10, viewers will be able to see Smith’s latest (and penultimate – if he sticks to his word about retiring after he finishes his next film…) offering from the comfort of their own home.
What does this mean for Red State’s planned wide theatrical release in October? Apparently, plans are for Smith to release the film in a smaller way – showing it as a “special event” screening where patrons will pay $20 for the film, then be treated to a live-streamed Q&A and other goodies once the film ends. This is pretty clever on Smith’s part – it gives folks a reason to see the film theatrically after it’s already been available on VOD, something most audiences are unwilling to do.
Say what you will about Smith, but it seems as though his plan to release Red State in a different way than normal actually worked out quite well. We doubt that other films would achieve the same kind of success following this paradigm (Smith has a huge and devoted following who would gladly pay more than the standard ticket price to see the film and their favorite director – it was like two shows in one), but it’s always nice to see filmmakers finding new ways to get their films out there without relying on the traditional distribution system. Smith may be teaming up with the traditional powers for the VOD release, but it seems as though his plans for the theatrical release were a success.
With that being said, will you be checking out Red State when it hits VOD this September?