Yet more Grindhouse head-scratching

It sure is a mystery: Why didn't GRINDHOUSE do more box office? Could it be because the film was an over-hyped vanity project that failed to deliver?

Naw, if something went wrong - it must be the audience's fault!

Think I'm being sarcastic? Then check out this quote from Harvey Weinstein:

  • "I don't think people understood what we were doing. The audience didn't get the idea that it was two movies for the price of one. I don't understand the math, but I do want to accomodate the audience."

The quote comes in the context of an article in Guardian Unlimited, to the effect that the Weinstein Company will (as previously suggested) cut GRINDHOUSE up into two separate movies for distribution overseas; in fact, they are even thinking about re-releasing it as two films in the U.S.

Typically, blame for the poor box office is attributed to the film's running time, which extends well beyond three hours. The rational is that this limits the number of showtimes, which limits the number of tickets sold.

Why anyone thinks this lame excuse will continue to fly in the era of the multiplex is beyond me. Sure, an old-fashioned single-screen theatre would be restricted to screening the film every four hours - which works out to three times a day (four with a late show). But how many single-screen theatres are left in America? We're in the era of the multiplex, baby, when theatres can start the film at noon in Theatre One and 1:00pm in Theatre Two, and 2:00pm in Theatre Three, etc.

The article also suggests that some audiences have been exiting after the end of the first feature, Robert Rodriguez's  "Planet Terror," unaware that Quentin Tarantino's "Death Proof," still to come. I didn't see any walk-outs in my theatre, and considering that the film plays continuously, without an intermission, I have doubts that many people are leaving because they think the film is over. I strong suspect this is spin to cover the fact that the first half of "Death Proof" is colassally boring, prompting people to leave because they're fed up, not because they're confused. In any case, walk-outs would not account for low box office numbers because - to overstate the obvious - the tickets have already been sold.

In an era when the opening weekend is of paramount importance, when films that underperform are abandoned, you have to give credit to the Weinstein Company for not giving up on GRINDHOUSE. I suspect this has less to do with altruism than with the fact that the company has suffered a series of disappointments and needs to do anything it can to milk some kind of success out of GRINDHOUSE - which was supposed to be the blockbuster that would turn the company's fortunes around.

However, the plan to split GRINDHOUSE into two discreet films seems like throwing out the baby with the bathwater. The only thing the film has going for it is the attempt to recreate the ambience of a cheesy double bill, where neither film is so great, but you cut them some slack because you're getting two for the price of one.

 

As individual features, neither "Planet Terror" nor "Death Proof" has a chance of standing on its own. If anything, seeing them in isolation will simply undermine how disappointing they are. Maybe each one could work as a midnight movie/cult item, but the cult audience is really the only audience to have embraced GRINDHOUSE in its present double-bill form. General viewers are not suddenly going to be more satisfied when they receive half as much film for the same ticket price.