Monday, August 17, 2009

Don't panic! Kick-Ass is not Midnight Meat Train 2.0

If anything, the acquisition of Matthew Vahn's Kick-Ass by Lionsgate is a true test of that whole 'we're a grown-up studio now' mentality that started about a year ago. If you recall, Lionsgate took out a big ($350 million) loan, more or less dumped their straight-to-DVD horror business and tried to rebrand themselves as a real studio that was about more than Tyler Perry melodramas and Saw sequels. Alas, a year later, they are still primarily known for Saw films and the various socially-contentious adventures of Madea. Ironically, they actually had a pretty decent start to 2009, with My Blood Valentine 3D and The Haunting In Connecticut opening near the top of the horror ceiling (around $23 million). And they scored a $40 million opening weekend with Madea Goes to Jail, which despite being Perry's worst film to date almost made it to $100 million (cough-second run theaters would have made the difference-cough). But they completely gave up on the surprisingly potent Battle For Terra 3D, they couldn't build on the audience goodwill for Crank 2, and the atrocious New In Town was destined to flop.

So a year later, they are left as they have been for the last few years, with one or two mainstream hits to smooth the ride while they wait for Jigsaw and Tyler Perry to save their asses. Their truly ambitious twelve-film-release strategy during the last quarter of 2008 was more or less a draw. For every solid hit (Saw V, The Family That Preys), there was an embarrassing flop (The Spirit, Bangkok Dangerous). And for every studio dump that looked good on the roll call (Religulous, The Lucky Ones) there was an "either spend the money or send it straight to DVD" clunker (Repo: The Genetic Opera, Midnight Meat Train). Yes, The Spirit wasn't exactly a winner, but strong marketing can by definition open lousy movies. And opening The Transporter 3 and Punisher: War Zone within a week of each other was a stunningly bad idea that maimed both pictures. It's do or die time for Lionsgate to prove that they can open a geek-friendly film that isn't already presold from the get-go (for that matter, they need to learn how to sell top-quality dramas like Akeelah and the Bee and Away From Her).

But come what may, they paid $50 million for this much-publicized Comic-Con favorite. They aren't going to just turn around at the last minute and dump it in a bunch of dollar-theaters just to honor contractual agreements (also, I hope that Kick-Ass is actually a better film that the limp-to-the finish line Midnight Meat Train). This is likely going to be a full-on marketing push, the sort that opened a star-less, low-key PG-13 Haunting In Connecticut to more than any Sony Screen Gems opening weekend to date. But the $15 million opening, slow-ride to $55 million finish of 3:10 to Yuma won't be good enough this time. The studio is at a crucial juncture if it doesn't want to be the studio that Jigsaw built and Madea maintains. If anything, Lionsgate will try much harder on this one than a bigger studio that just saw this as another mid-budget comic-book adaptation. Kick-Ass being acquired by Lionsgate may actually be a blessing. Because Lionsgate needs Kick-Ass more than Kick-Ass needs Lionsgate at this point.

Scott Mendelson

1 comment:

chuck said...

The comic-con footage to Kick Ass is just insane. There are 4 seperate scenes which can be seen on trailer addict. The fourth scene is over 4 minutes long featuring an 11 yr old girl called hit girl. The scene is incredible and will bring down the house when shown in a packed theater. It also won't win approval by the Sean Hannity crowd as it depicts an 11 year old girl kicking ass and killing people. The soundtrack music they use during this scene is a blast. Personally I'd pay $100to see this movie today. It's guaranteed to be a huge cult favorite already.
Did you ever think you would see the day when your local anchor says the number one movie at the box-office this weekend was Kick-Ass! Sorta funny when you think about it.


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