After weeks of saying he would pick his distributor in the theater following the World Premiere of "Red State," writer-director Kevin Smith pulled an about-face and announced that he would distribute the film himself through his and producing partner Jon Gordon's new company, SModcast Pictures.
Many buyers were in attendance (including Smith's mentor Harvey Weinstein) under the guise of a live auction, but Smith surprised everyone in the Eccles Theater on Sunday night by winning the bidding war himself before it even started for the low-risk price of a crisp $20 bill.
Smith did add that he's looking to partner with a "smart exhibitor" to show the sure-to-be controversial movie.
Prior to the announcement, Smith spent more than 15 minutes railing against tricky Hollywood accounting, arguing that it makes no sense to spend $20 million marketing a $4 million movie, which was the budget for "Red State." Smith said it took "Clerks" seven years to turn profit, despite the fact that the black-and-white film cost little more than $27,500.
Smith said he won't spend a dime on traditional marketing such as print & TV ads, as well as outdoor billboards. Instead, he plans to make investors their money back by relying on his devoted fanbase to spread word-of-mouth.
SModcast, named for Smith's popular (and now lucrative) podcast, will release "Red State" on Oct. 19, but fans in select cities won't have to wait that long to see the film.
Smith is taking "Red State" on a month-long, cross-country tour, which kicks off on March 5 at Radio City Music Hall in New York. Tickets will be significantly more expensive than your average movie ticket, but Smith promised that attendees will get more bang for their buck, not to mention the chance to see the movie six months earlier than the rest of the country.
Tickets go on sale this Friday, Jan. 28, and other dates include:
3/6 – Wilbur Theater, Boston, MA
3/8 – Harris Theater, Chicago, IL
3/9 – State Theatre, Minneapolis, MN
3/10 – Michigan Theater, Ann Arbor, MI
3/11 – Clowes Memorial Hall, Indianapolis, IN
3/12 – Midland Theater, Kansas City, MO (home to Rev. Fred Phelps, whom the main character in "Red State" is more or less modeled after)
3/14 – Clark State PAC, Springfield, OH
3/22 – Paramount Theater, Denver, CO
3/26 – McAlister Auditorium, New Orleans, LA
3/28 – Paramount Theatre, Austin, TX
3/29 – Cobb Energy Centre, Atlanta, GA
4/4 – Marion Oliver McCaw Hall, Seattle WA
The "Red State" website (named after the town where the main character preaches intolerance) allows fans in other areas to request screenings in their hometown, which is the same approach that "Paranormal Activity" took en route to its staggering success at the box office.
Additionally, Smith and Gordon used the newly-unveiled website to release a statement regarding their surprise decision, which is available in its entirety below.
The Red Statement
The Harvey Boys have witnessed first hand the vagaries of "studio math" – the byzantine numbers game that sees an uneducated media and public celebrating "huge" openings at the box office while ignoring the obscene marketing costs attached to reach those figures. We believe it's a pyrrhic victory to simply "buy" an opening weekend by pouring millions of dollars into TV spots, billboards and print ads. As storytellers, why not instead use our creative abilities that resulted in a film in the first place to also creatively SELL that film directly to our public?
We believe the state of film marketing has become ridiculously expensive and exclusionary to the average filmmaker longing simply to tell their story. When the costs of marketing and releasing a movie are four times that film's budget, it's apparent the traditional distribution mechanism is woefully out of touch with not only the current global economy, but also the age of social media.
Therefore, The Harvey Boys will not spend a dime on old world media buys (such as TV/Print/Outdoor) as we self-distribute our film, Red State, in an admittedly unconventional, yet extremely cost effective, word of mouth/viral campaign.
Knowledge is power, and we believe in empowering the filmmaker – so the Harvey Boys vow to make the financials of Red State open and transparent from which anybody hoping to follow suit can learn. We will do what no studio has dared: open up our books for the world to see so anyone interested in pursuing a similar independent release strategy has a better understanding of the BUSINESS of Red State.
And if we're successful – or even merely effective – at producing a film distribution apparatus that can stand apart from the cost-prohibitive studio model currently viewed as the only way to get a movie into a theater? It is our intent to use the groundwork we lay with Red State to aid other filmmakers in releasing THEIR films, via our newly launched SModcast Pictures.
Don't hate the studio; BECOME the studio. Anybody can make a movie; what we aim to prove is anyone can release a movie as well
The Harvey Boys
Jon Gordon & Kevin Smith