It’s really hard to write about this whole Red State thing without sounding unnecessarily disparaging, so right away I’m going to clear something up…
I appreciate what Smith is doing, think it’s a shrewd, admirable business decision, and think it’s a fun, interesting way of capitalizing on his brand and product in a way that offers his fans something potentially very cool.
Every word of that I believe, but it’s going to be very nerve-grinding to hear bullshit like “record breaking” and “revolutionary” and “game-changing” tossed around by Kevin Smith’s camp, the bloggers covering it, and/or his fans. It’s also annoying that Kevin Smith’s Red State tour was created with this false revolutionary underdog vibe that will make its big’ish number seem like monumental triumphs rather than foregone conclusions. What big numbers?
$161,590 from a single show at Radio City, with 3600 people attending
That sounds holy shit on first impression, except this isn’t a movie, it’s a concert experience. Even bringing up “a per-theater average” for this kind of an event is ridiculous in the first place, even if it’s a qualified mention. With tickets from fifty bucks to a hundred bucks, an included Q&A experience, star appearances, and everything else that goes with this tour, this is a Kevin Smith Circus Event, not a movie. Also, to look at the nastier side of the number, New York’s Radio City can seat nearly double that attendance (6,000 people) and this is likely one of the more prestigious locations. Yanking out the 60k for the theater rental, that leaves them with 100k in profit- very nice. That said, even if the tour does that well at each stop, then the film will still have a significant amount of money to recoup (well over half its budget still) once it “hits” theaters. The problem will be that Smith’s hardcore audience will have already been tapped (for very expensive tickets), and the theatrical release looks like it will be more of a limited, prestige-style release.
Still, there’s no doubt the economics of all of this will probably work out for Smith. He’ll likely make more money from this than any of his studio arrangements, even if the numbers are never that impressive. But spinning it as “the 10th best theater average of all time” or even the best of the last year is disingenuous. Even moreso is Smith’s constant line about how anyone can rent out Radio City or do their own thing outside of the studios. This idea will work because Kevin Smith is a brand- a brand that tens of millions of studio dollars were invested in building for nearly two decades leading up to Smith ditching the hand that fed. This is a model that will work for Smith, and only Smith, and any implication that he’s paving the way for young directors to get their films out there is garbage.
I’m not trying to rain shit on Smith’s parade- obviously his venture is starting out well and will likely work just how he wants. He’s going to make a ton of money with his tour, and his budget and bar are so low, that any gross at all on his theatrical release will be icing. He’s throwing a loaded die though, so I’m not looking forward to the horse-race coverage of each city’s receipts and his bullshit about sticking it to the studios.
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