Because no one’s tired of this story yet…
I hate that the post-release Grindhouse discussion is focused almost exclusively on the picture’s disappointing box office performance, but a) it is a story, and b) this is how mainstream film discourse goes nowadays. And here I am furthering something I despise.
Today’s big Grindhouse development: Harvey speaks to Nikki Finke. And what he says probably won’t surprise you given his notoriously aggressive nature. The plan now with Grindhouse is to split up Planet Terror and Death Proof, beef up both with additional footage and release them as two separate features as soon as the end of April. Since we’ve known for a week or so that Quentin Tarantino’s final cut of Death Proof is headed to Cannes as an official competition entry, this isn’t terribly surprising. What’s changed, however, is The Weinstein’s Company immediate need to find a way to make a little more money off a movie that cost anywhere from $53 million to $85 million depending on whom you believe (the truth, as always, is probably somewhere in the middle).
As a fan of both movies, I’m overjoyed that Weinstein is still supporting two movies by two important filmmakers, both of which should surely be able to find a bigger audience. What worries me, however, is his timing; re-releasing these pictures as separate entities so close to their absolute rejection by, according to Weinstein’s research, the Midwest and Southern markets doesn’t sound like a winning strategy. Obviously, Weinstein knows more about this shit than I do, but I’m pretty good on film history, and I can’t for the life of me recall a movie that rebounded immediately following its failed initial release without the support of a major Oscar victory.
Then again, these are two movies that were sold as one; once they’re divided and sold on their own exploitation terms, maybe they’ll make more sense to the average moviegoer. If this were Miramax during the 1990s, I’d lay good money on Harvey pulling this off; unfortunately, my confidence in The Weinstein Company is non-existent. Their intentionally frugal marketing campaigns for dreck like Hannibal Rising have been bafflingly inept; meanwhile, to be completely honest, my dealings with their publicity department have proved monumentally frustrating (and I’m not the only one voicing that latter complaint). Most of the time, it’s as if they don’t want to promote their movies. I don’t know what’s going on at The Weinstein Company.
And when Harvey bluntly admits to Finke that "We’re making profits everywhere but the movie business", he gives the impression that he’s not sure what’s going on either. I’m glad his diversifying is keeping the company operational, but I’d much rather have Harvey succeeding in the movie business. I mean it. Though I’ve laid into the guy plenty for accumulating wonderful foreign releases and hacking them to pieces in the past, the fact of the matter is that Harvey loves movies, which is a rarity in this excessively commercial age. He’s good for the industry. And he indulges a great filmmaker like Tarantino, something that no other studio would do unless QT capitulated to making an unabashed piece of product every other time out.
It’s weird being on Harvey’s side.
One more thing: Harvey tells Finke, "We’ll be adding those ‘two missing reels’ that’s talked about in the movie." This is news to me, as Rodriguez, to the best of my knowledge, never scripted or shot the missing segment of Planet Terror. If someone knows better, please pipe up. As for Death Proof, it was always Tarantino’s intention to rip out a juicy portion of his movie just to piss off audiences.