Snowpiercer: An Open Letter to The Weinstein Company
It is no secret that this is a bad “movie summer.” My friends and I agree that there have been few films calling us to the theaters even on oppressively hot days when some industrial AC would be welcome. Transformers Part IX did not induce me to fork over $10.00 and simply reading reviews of Dawn of the Rise on the Morning of the Planet of the Apes prompted a nap. 22 Jump Street is the kind of confection adults watch two years after the fact On Demand as we did 21 Jump Street just last week (a surprisingly funny film, here’s to you Jonah Hill). All I see on the docket this summer is a vast wasteland of uninspiring films between Marvel’s excellent Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy, which brings me to my central question. Why, in the name of Wilford did you dump Snowpiercer, the best movie of the summer thus far, in art houses and worse on VOD?
The only rationale I can come up with for this inexplicable decision is that the film earned a paltry 97% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes instead of the 100% that would have spared it the indignity of a VOD release. Here’s the thing that lots of Americans know about Video On Demand – most of the time, as in nearly every single time, a film that is “available same day as theatrical release” on this platform sucks. We have learned this lesson in our house the hard way. A wretched Nathan Fillion/Dwight Schrute outing comes to mind [easy with your criticism, I will follow Fillion anywhere]. VOD can give a new film a bad reputation and dissuade people from paying to watch it. On the off chance they decide to view the film they will save money by skipping the theatre all together, invite their friends over and pay pennies per person to see the iffy film in question. I am not an accountant, but this type of movie consumption does not appear to bode well for TWC’s profit margin.
Speaking of profits, embracing VOD gave your company the excuse to save money by skipping the marketing campaign for Snowpiercer, though why TWC would find such a campaign daunting is unclear. Perhaps there was a question about the lead’s ability to draw fans into the theatre given that three of his previous films only earned a collective $1 billion domestically. Someone on the third floor might have determined that clever advertisements would be too difficult to generate noting that the cast only included two Oscar winners. Did Susie in Accounting say, “Hey this little film has only earned $80 million overseas, it’s never going to do well here, let’s just phone this one in.” Or was it Tom in Research who pointed out, “Americans have shown little interest in apocalyptic action films. We all know that genre is a non-starter in middle America.”
Have you all lost your minds? Taken a vacation? Outsourced your jobs to a third party?
My bet is on option number three. You owe Entertainment Weekly a fruit basket, because that magazine marketed Snowpiercer for you. We would not have known the film existed without EW’s five-page spread on its production. After reading Chris Nashawaty’s comparison of Snowpiercer to The Matrix and District 9 in his glowing review, our family was ready to head downtown to the local independent theatre and buy three tickets. Marcus Theatres, which has a movie monopoly in our city, has no plans to show the film at any of its six establishments. As you might have guessed that trip never took place. We noticed Snowpiercer listed right there on our television screen as a VOD option. While a big screen experience might have been nice, frugality took hold and we watched the film together for the bargain price of $6.99. We would have paid a total of $30.00 at the theater. I am glad we saved $23.00, but you shouldn’t be.
Snowpiercer is a fantastic film. It had my teenage son standing atop a chair practically hyperventilating with excitement and my husband and I clapping as certain characters found themselves gruesomely dispatched. The film manages to provide nail-biting action and ask big questions about class and privilege at the same time. Not that common in a summer film. The performances are extraordinary and the film is visually stunning; bright colors and sushi for the rich, dark hues and gelatinous protein blocks for the poor.
For the first half of Snowpiercer I could not decide if the title referred to the train or Chris Evans’ blue eyes. By the way, I would have shown up to see Captain America alone, but to hear Captain America say “f**k” on screen, that’s worth the $10 price of admission all by itself. And such strong female performances! Alison Pill’s Teacher, a true believer in “the sacred engine,” sent chills down my spine. Surely you will run an Oscar campaign for Tilda Swinton’s delicious turn as Mason. An Oscar campaign that would benefit first, it would seem, from an actual marketing campaign for the film.
I concede that Snowpiercer lacks a typical Hollywood ending and therefore probably would not achieve blockbuster status in the States. That, however, is not enough of a reason to sideline this film. Anyone who needs a Hollywood ending can see Transformers in which I am sure all the transformers survive, unless they are supposed to die, then they all die. Snowpiercer, like a Popsicle, has finally brought some refreshment to the great summer movie drought of 2014. Should those of you at TWC ever come across another film like Snowpiercer and I doubt you will, I hope you give it the marketing campaign and wide release it deserves.
Oops, I have to run. The 48-hour clock is ticking on my VOD copy and there is no end to the number of times I can watch Octavia Spencer crack an egg against that child’s forehead.