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 bad...you 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,