On the Road with RED STATE

On Sunday night, The Harvey Boys announced a per-theater gross of $160,000 for the Radio City Music Hall kickoff to Red State.

Thanks to all you beautiful RED-io City ticket buyers, RED STATE now sits #10 on the list of Top 10 Per-Theater Average of all time.

That’s pretty funny: RED STATE enters box office history… and yet the movie doesn’t even come out ’til October.

Previously, we’ve talked about why we’re taking the flick on the road as well hitting our minimum at Radio City. To sum up: the tour is NOT engineered to make the biggest chunk of change back. It’s nice recoupment, sure, but first and foremost, it’s a word-of-mouth tour the audience is paying for simply by attending. If all seats were sold, there was an absolute potential to gross $1.5 to $2 million from the tour… which STILL wouldn’t be enough to pay back the budget. But, again: the tour’s not meant to pay back the budget in full – just a portion. Our current $1.5-million-in-foreign-sales-so-far as well as the international territories we’re still working on deals with and our impending post-theatrical streaming offer ALONG WITH our tour profits (merch as well) will get us within a pubic hair of total budget recoupment BEFORE we open Red State wide this October – where, like all movies, we’ll hopefully make the BIGGEST chunk of our gross.

I mean, don’t forget: THIS TOUR ISN’T THE THEATRICAL RELEASE. This is just the second stage: a word of mouth tour (first stage being Sundance). If we earn money from this, awesome! But the chief aim is to get the most passionate of the audience in there seeing it early, so they’re then out there in the world talking about it – which is what’s happened. But as I wrote here, with the little time (a month and change since tix went on sale) and zero marketing budget, there was no way we were gonna sell out all, if even any of the shows. We knew that long before we announced ticket sales. But so long as we reached our house minimums, we were fine. The house minimums have now been reached in all the venues. The tour is in the black and will actually make a nice, chunky profit that’ll go toward recoupment. And if there is another round of touring, as we’ve always said there could me? We’ll take everything we learned from this tour and apply it to that tour, making it more affordable the second time around.

Speaking of this tour, lemme give a shout-out to our generous and Gretzky-like tour sponsors:


Thanks to them, we haven’t had to touch the money we’ve made on tour – not even for flying the cast around, bless ‘em (in the indie spirit, most of the cast paid for themselves to get there that night). Our sponsors lend financial and crucial tech support that allow us to operate the tour at the lowest budget possible. Thanks, folks: happy to have you aboard!

I’ve also read a few disclaimers pointing out the venue cost $60k to rent (it didn’t; rental cost was actually $30k), so we allegedly really only made $100k. That’s not true, but it’d be excellent if every film released every week were as scrutinized. I’ve seen box office reports about how RANGO (dug it!) earned over $30mil at the box office this weekend, but there was no additional caveat or asterix like the qualifier RED STATE received, explaining that the RANGO marketing costs (TV commercials, outdoor, magazines/newspaper ads, radio, etc) were easily over $30mil and that the studio doesn’t actually keep all that money the film reportedly earned: they split that figure with the exhibitors who actually own the theaters and screens.

So in a world where RED STATE is singled out for a release cost when none of the other films’ release costs are discussed, can I at least throw out an additional qualifier to put it all in perspective? Our single-show $160k was earned WITHOUT SPENDING ON MARKETING. Instead, I simply got in front of every mic or TV camera I could – which costs nothing but gas money. And in the case of the TV appearances on talk shows? You actually get paid a union minimum wage of a couple hundred dollars to appear – which means instead of spending money on a commercial, I can go on TV with a clip of the movie for far longer than a commercial spot, and it’s not only ABSOLUTELY FREE, I can actually make money doing it. Amazing.

Fact of the matter is, it’s weird a movie like RED STATE is on any historic top 10 box office lists – and it’s also not really accurate, because it’s tabulated in 2011 dollars. Even GONE WITH THE WIND – the long-time, all-time, true box office champ – can’t get over the wall of adjusted grosses to take its rightful place at the top of the all-time-highest-grossing-movies list.

If the American box office was gauged the way the French box office is reported, you wouldn’t hear misleading dollar figures: they count ADMISSIONS, not DOLLARS. In France, they tell you how many people came to see your movie; in the States, we’re trained to respect the dollar carried by the People – not the people themselves. We’re reduced to numbers on a business ledger.

It’s dopey and dehumanizing to the very audience upon whose shoulders fortunes rise and fall, but I didn’t write the rule book; I’m just looking for ways to exploit it harmlessly and creatively so we don’t have to spend money on marketing. I’m not proud of RED STATE’s top 10 position on the all-time, per-theater chart but folks only speak dollars around here. So, yeah: we grossed $160k in one night, at one theater, from one screening. And, true – ticket prices weren’t comparable with any multiplex on the planet. But then, the director and entire cast don’t show up at every venue either.

In a world where every studio charges a premium for a 3D movie (or, lately, a Justin Bieber flick), expect LOTS more of this Movie-Plus-A-Premium event programming. For the Bieber flick, I think the audience paid nearly $30 and got a t-shirt. For RED STATE? Folks are paying between $40 and $65 for a Q&A (which is what they’ve been paying for the last two years for Q&A shows at which I wasn’t presenting a new flick) – a Q&A that also includes a bonus movie. You don’t get a t-shirt, you get Friar Fatty McNoFly – all over your chest like a t-shirt. Or a string of pearls.

And if this top 10 all-time per-screen chart thing seems unfair, as a cineaste, I encourage you to fight it. Speak out against it. I’d do it myself but we were aiming at that list since September.

One of the first things The Harvey Boys did after we decided to release our own flick was to see how much RED STATE would need to earn to show up on that all-time per-screen chart. In the top five slots, the dollar figures were higher than we’d ever be able to reach with only a month and change to promote the gigs (and, again: no marketing dollars whatsoever). But the bottom slots we realized we’d have a real shot of hitting if we had a large enough venue. While we knew we’d never sell out Radio City’s intimidating 6000 seats, we also knew we didn’t need to in order to land on the chart. So honestly? Part of the reason we went for Radio City Music Hall on March 5th (aside from it being Jon’s Dad’s birthday) was very calculated. And as seemingly “meh” as you’d imagine showing up on such an obscure all-time list may be for business, as we’ve seen today via Tweets & ticket sales, it did what we were hoping it’d do: impacted our sales POSITIVELY this morning.

But why? Who knows? Maybe it’s because it was just one more piece written about the flick that maybe saw wider exposure because of the freak value of the newsbite? Or maybe because folks are hearing the tour is a reality and happening right now, complete with a flick that the same audiences are cheering? Or maybe it’s just because people like lists. Whatever reason, that stupid, arguable 10th place position sold us some tickets today! And it cost us nothing to accomplish. Ta-da.

You can go far breaking the rules, but you can go even further by learning and playing the rules to your advantage.

Sadly, there are still some folks taking shots. While waiting for a delayed flight, my Mother called to ask what I’d done to our home state’s newspaper, The Star Ledger. She said there was a man writing that I was angry or crazy or both. I looked it up and read the Stephen Whitty article, which essentially read as “I didn’t talk to Kevin myself, although I easily could’ve because he’ll clearly talk to anyone, even all day long on Twitter, so instead, I’m writing a piece pulling Kevin’s quotes from other journalist’s articles.”

In any event, the article is all about how I’m supposedly angry and unhappy and pissed off at the world for some reason. To show I wasn’t mad, I posted one of those multi-part Tweet-screed things (ironic, I know), but I didn’t get out the bit about his dopey piece that ticked me off the most: the guy bitches about the RadioCity Q&A, insulting my audience for a caliber of question he labels as boring. If that’s how he felt that night, he was right there in the room, too: he could’ve gotten up and asked a question himself that might’ve somehow made the Q&A better for him. But, no: sit, watch, carp much later from far away.

The ironic thing is this: I’ve been interviewed by Whitty before, in-person. And I’ll say this kindly: the man has no room criticizing the questioning skills/content of anybody. This is like the pot not only calling the kettle black; it’s like the pot fucked a stranger in a bar and convinced him to kill her husband, then the pair blamed it on her husband’s family friend, the kettle, supplied false evidence and testimony, and watched the kettle get hauled off to prison for a crime it didn’t commit. Stephen, whenever we spoke, your questions were of the “What’s Bennifer really like?” variety. Maybe that’s why Stephen thinks I’m mad: because I won’t tell him all about “the stars” anymore. Might I suggest a subscription to US Weekly, sir? Or just tune in to TMZ everyday. Or tap one of your many Hollywood contacts you sighted in your fiction narrative about how mad I supposedly am. You seem to indicate you know how people in “Hollywood” are feeling about me: I just assume you’ve got a direct line to each studio head. If so, you can easily call Amy Pascal to get answers to your un-boring important questions, like “How funny is Seth Rogen in real life?”

Making fun of my fans is shitty, Stephen – and what bums me out about that is how for years, publicists would tell me “You don’t have to sit down with Whitty, you’ve already got all the NY papers.” And on each occasion, I’d say “No – he’s from Jersey’s paper. I wanna talk to him.” If you’re gonna make fun of me for anything, Stephen, make fun of me for asking people in my various casts at all the junkets to give you, personally, ten minutes of their time – even though they’d never heard of you or your paper. But I’d explain “It was my Grandma’s favorite newspaper and every Sunday, I’d go to Cumberland Farms and spend 35 cents of my own money to get it for her, so I’ve got this sentimental attachment to The Ledger. Plus? It was Tony Soprano’s newspaper as well.” What a dick I feel like now…

And before anyone start saying “FATTY’S GOING AFTER THE PRESS AGAIN!” – I’m not. I’ve been doing interviews for weeks now without issues. Not surprisingly, the first time there is an issue, it’s with someone I didn’t sit down with (although, all he had to do was ask).

Pete Travers over at Rolling Stone, however, I did sit down with, and we had a great time. Check it out…

Meanwhile, the RED STATE USA TOUR continues! Both shows so far have ROCKED. There were nine spontaneous audience applause moments in Boston – which is saying a lot because there’s no guaranteed, sure-thing Jay & Silent Bob appearance earning those applause – which means we’re coming by the applause honestly; RED STATE herself is earning those reactions.

I’ve sat in the balcony for both shows, and it’s been a fucking BLAST. This is the audience the film was chiefly designed for: folks who already like what I do. It played like a dream in both NYC and Boston (hashtagged as #SMoston on Twitter), but there were subtle differences in laughs or applause between the two cities.

Tonight in Chiacgo, at the Harris Theater, I’ll be sitting in with the crowd again, observing for more of the same subtle, regional differences – a pastime that makes me feel a little like The Architect in that MATRIX REVOLUTIONS scene.

“Interesting: your predecessors didn’t find Goodman’s ‘giant cross’ line as amusing at you.”

Join me tonight at 7pm Chicago time for a Live-Tweeting of tonights RED STATE screening.

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