Saturday, May 2, 2009

Straight to DVD

The question that comes up the most, whether on Myspace or Facebook or from the clerk at Blockbuster or from the person dressed in zombie makeup at a Fangoria convention, is "Is it going theatrical?"  I'd like to think that this is an innocent question by people who really like to see movies in theaters, but it always seems to have a loaded connotation.  Things that go direct to DVD are bad, movies that come out in theaters are good.  While there is some truth to this, it is certainly not an absolute -- and these days, it's definitely NOT the way that we all should be thinking.

Let's get one thing straight -- movie theaters are the best places to watch movies.  They have big screens, good sound systems, and, well...they're movie theaters.  It's obviously a lot more immersive an experience -- not to mention the fact that you're in the dark, surrounded by people having a like experience, all hopefully feeding on each other's emotions.  Like I said -- fuck, they're movie theaters...and as filmmakers, that's where we all want our movies to be shown.

Unfortunately, these days most horror movies come out -- without much fanfare -- on DVD.  Once more, this is for primarily economic reasons.  To put a movie in wide release in theaters costs a minimum of $15 million -- usually a lot more.  Most horror movies are made for under $5 million.  It doesn't take an economic genius to figure out that putting a low budget horror movie in wide release in theaters is highly risky.  It's not hard for studios or investors to make their money back if the movie's budget is low and it comes out on DVD.  However, if it takes $15 million to put a $3 million horror film on 2500 screens and the opening weekend makes less than $8 million, voila -- you've got yourself a flop, and a lot of people just lost a lot of money.  Most big theatrical horror movies have budgets between $12 and $30 million -- this equals high production values (known actors, great sets, big special effects), so the only way they CAN make their money back is to put it in wide release.  

It should be noted that there are exceptions to this rule --  SAW, CABIN FEVER, OPEN WATER and the THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT being prime examples.  We all root for this to happen.  But let's face it -- it's rare.  Hundreds of low budget horror movies are released every year -- and maybe -- MAYBE -- one gets a big theatrical release.

So what's all this mean?  Don't expect low budget horror films to come out on 3000 screens.  It just doesn't happen often -- nor should it.  In order for a film to appeal to the masses, it can't be that edgy, risky, sloppy or bloody -- and that's what we all like from a good horror film.  Was MARTYRS at your local multiplex?  What about FRONTIERS?  Or my personal fave, BAD BIOLOGY?  Are any of these films not worth watching because they went straight to DVD?  (Actually, in BAD BIOLOGY's case it hasn't even made it to DVD...and I certainly wouldn't expect it in a multiplex anytime soon.)

In another note of interest, EVIL DEAD, HALLOWEEN, NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and the original DAWN OF THE DEAD were all extremely low budget films.  Most of them would now probably go direct to DVD.  Let's give some of these smaller direct-to-DVD films a chance -- there are hidden gems out there.  I was really impressed recently with SPLINTER.  My buddy Dave Parker's movie THE HILLS RUN RED will be out (on DVD!) in October, I think.  It's bitchin', so check it out.

Let's all just come to the realization that small low budget horror films will be viewed mainly on our home theater systems.  This isn't can pause to go to the bathroom, after all.  Get a drink from the fridge.  Or just because a chick has absolutely amazing breasts.  Direct to DVD should not be a stigma.  It just takes a little more work to find, but there's great shit out there.  As horror fans, let's support the genre, and not pick on the little guy.  I like to think of us as a big family.

On a personal note, the last couple of films I've been involved with -- MOTHER OF TEARS and AUTOPSY -- both got very limited theatrical releases, but most people saw them on DVD.  I was grateful to be able to watch them in a theater, but most people didn't get a chance to see them that way.  All of the other films I've been involved with as a writer went straight to DVD.  NIGHT OF THE DEMONS is due for a bigger theatrical release in October -- all I can be is grateful.  Tonight I'm going to watch THE COTTAGE -- it went straight to DVD.

Blood, guts and pussy,

Adam G


  1. Congrats on the theatrical release of NOTD. I think it's funny that this prejudice still exists, given the fact that most people rarely go to movie theaters anymore unless there is some compelling visual reason to see something on the big screen--high budget special effects or 3D being two that come to mind. Most GOOD horror movies don't bother with either of those items, as far as I can determine. The best horror movies are gritty, grimy, and still use hand-built FX. It's part of why real horror fans love them--trying to figure out "how did they do that?" is based in the idea that with a little luck and training, we could probably figure out how to make gore in our kitchens, as well.

    Given the fact that I don't enjoy being ass-raped by the current theatrical pricing system, and I like watching movies in my underwear, I almost always see the movies I end up loving most on DVD. So wtf do I care if it came out in a theater first?

    People are funny.

    xox Stacey

  2. Very true, and very informative to the masses. The sad part of this all is that the stigma from straight to DVD arises from the assholes out there who are making horror because it's cheap and easy; trying to turn a quick buck off of some decent cover art on top of a shitty movie. But you're absolutely right-- there are some horror gems out there. It just sucks we have to dig through the bull to find them. But isn't that why we're the fans? Because we're willing to dig to find the gems?

    The best thing we can do is rape the hell out of any little horror film that hits theaters to send a message to the studios that we want to see these bad boys on the big screen again! The more that horror keeps being pushed into the home, and not out into the masses, the more it remains "a grade above porn".

  3. If anything, going straight to DVD lately should be a compliment, since so many studio releases that receive theatrical treatment are dog balls. Not the good ones either, the shitty dog balls.

  4. I know it's a little selfish, but I get irritated when I hear that a movie I want is getting a "limited" release instead of going straight to dvd. Since I am not within easy driving distance of one of those "limited" markets, that adds an extra 6 months or so to the time I have to wait to buy/rent the movie. I realize it can be good publicity to the filmmaker, but it still bothers me sometimes...

  5. Adam, as a matter of fact, Martyrs DID play in theaters here in my home city of Montreal BUT this is obviously a bilingual city. So a french movie even if it is from France being aired in Montreal is not a big deal. But so was Let the Right One In. There are two theaters in this city that play foreign releases. You can only imagine how jealous a lot of my fellow horror lovers are of the fact that I get to see all these movies before them and on the big screen too!

  6. If u like realy good horror films check out trick r treat I was starting to lose faith in horror movies but this one Brang it back rob zombie and michael bay suck balls they reck classics the only good movie makers are Sam rami and Michael dougherty and more. I also liked splinter