F&LILV Question #11 - Back to the Movie for a Bit

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F&LILV Question #11 - Back to the Movie for a Bit

Unread postby Liz » Fri Sep 16, 2005 9:24 am

From an interview with Terry Gilliam by Paul Fischer on Darkhorizons.com, August 12, 2005 http://www.darkhorizons.com/news05/grimm1.php:

Question: THE IMPRESSION IS THAT 'FEAR AND LOATHING' WAS NOT A HIT.

Gilliam: It wasn't a hit, it made its money! It was made cheaply. It was always going to be a limited release, not a release, it was also the worst campaign I've ever seen, to sell that movie. What it has ? here's what particularly about 'Fear and Loathing,' you know, the Criterion Collections, the DVD's? They've finally broken into Wal-Mart, they've never been sold in Wal-Mart, the first one of the films to be sold in Wal-Mart is 'Fear and Loathing.' It's actually, the success has been at the DVD level.

Question: WHY DO YOU THINK, IS IT BECAUSE HUNTER THOMPSON RECENTLY DIED?

Gilliam: No, I think they :censored: up, the technical term is :censored: up, the release of the film. I mean, they just sold it as two wacky guys on a wild weekend in Las Vegas, that's just ridiculous, that's not what it is. And also, and a lot of people didn't like it [laughs]. However, I can tell you that at Eton, the school of the royals in England, it was the most popular film, so we were busy corrupting the youth of England, at least. I think it's how bizarre it is, you do the work for studios, and Johnny [Depp] and I were doing promotions for 'Fear and Loathing' and we were in Boston, and the Harvard newspaper, we were talking to them, and we said, because we ? the film came out in May, and we said, you know, we were doing a work at the end of April, I said when's this coming out? And they said, oh, it'll come out in August, I said why August? Well we're closing down for the summer, when the film comes out, so we discovered that all the colleges which we thought would be the beginning of the campaign for 'Fear and Loathing,' the core audience, when the film came out, most of them were on holiday. And I talked with the distribution people at Universal afterwards and said why did you do this? Well we thought they'd have time on their hands because they wouldn't be studying and they could go to the movies. And the idea of a college is, it's critical mass, you can reach critical mass really quickly there, the word of mouth is there. So these are the people that are releasing films and don't even understand what a college audience means. I'm always shocked and surprised when I learn these things.


http://www.darkhorizons.com/news05/grimm1.php

Do you think the poor promotion by the studio was responsible for its lack of success or do you think there is another reason?
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Fri Sep 16, 2005 9:34 am

From personal experiece I think Gilliam is on to something. I was very surprised to find out that this movie was a favorite of my college age son and his room mate. He said when they discovered it on dvd they watched it all the time as did their friends. I also think it was not a "mainstream" movie and no matter how it was marketed the average America consumer (if such a beast exists) was not going to "get" F&LILV. I certainly don't believe it should have been marketed "as two wacky guys on a wild weekend in Las Vegas". Geesh. :-/
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Unread postby Sands » Fri Sep 16, 2005 11:16 am

It is astounding how little these so-called 'experts' seem to know about their business. This reminds me of the fuss the Disney 'suits' made about Captain Jack when any normal movie-goer would've known straight away they were onto a winner :-?
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Unread postby DeppLovesBananahs » Fri Sep 16, 2005 11:25 am

I agree with you DITHOT, it wasn't meant to be a 'mainstream' movie. I think that would've defeated the whole premise behind the book. Other people might not "get" the humor behind FALILV. They might pass it off as weird or simply stupid, they could also think that HST was a dingybat which is latin for EXTREMELY bad cheese. But seriously, them finding a market for this movie is simply ludicrous. Just go into any college, like your son DITHOT, and find that its still alive and well.

Hannah

P.S. I'll add sort of what suec said about JD's appeal with this movie, as far as "selling" it. I think you're right that this was probably a factor for people who just liked Johnny Depp and really didn't want to see him as HST. So I guess unless you were really into Hunter at this time, maybe you wouldn't have seen it.
Question though, does anyone think that if this movie was rereleased in theatres, now, would it have done better? (Purely curiousity's sake, not because HST died, like let's suppose he didn't die, would it still have the same effect as 1998?)
Last edited by DeppLovesBananahs on Fri Sep 16, 2005 9:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread postby KYwoman » Fri Sep 16, 2005 11:35 am

I have to say, I don't remember a thing about this movie's release back in 1998. Where was I??? :dunce:

I agree with the others that feel this is not a mainstream movie (it isn't) and studio PR people maybe know more about how to promote only that type film. Even though it was a studio film, I really see it as an indie cult/art house film and could have been promoted that way. Tapping into the college culture was a good idea done poorly, it seems. Maybe they could have said it was a Crosby/Hope Road movie on acid! :lol: Of course we all know it's more than just a savage ride down the Vegas strip.
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Unread postby suec » Fri Sep 16, 2005 1:24 pm

When I first saw the film, I came to it completely cold. I was a new fan and I just bought the video because he was in it. I knew nothing about it - had never read the book - so I certainly wasn't influenced by the marketing. I had a bit of a shock when I started to view it. I remember thinking, what the heck??? In fact, once I got to the reptile bit, I just stopped it. It just wasn't my thing. I had nothing in common with the two characters and couldn't relate to them at all (or so I thought at the time. I was wrong.) So my first impression wasn't at all positive. I only went back to it because of Johnny. And for some people, (Johnny didn't have the appeal he usually would have, because of the baldness. Terry Gilliam had something to say about that. When I watched it through, I realised that I had misjudged it and then gave it more consideration. It is a film that repays that, of course. But not everyone wants to do that. Some people just want entertainment. So, if the key audiences weren't being targeted properly, and there was no word-of-mouth either, well, it wasn't going to succeed. However, Terry Gilliam has also said that all kinds of people have since informed him of their appreciation, which is nice. It still gives me sensory overload, by the way. But each time I watch it, I love it a little bit more.
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Unread postby QueenofKings » Fri Sep 16, 2005 1:33 pm

I agree with a lot of what's been said about the movie not really being a mainstream-release kind of film.

When the movie came out and we went to see it I can remember my husband and I being disconcerted at the amount of people who walked out of the theatre during the movie. We are both such big Hunter fans and had a hard time with that. But now looking back, I can understand that the movie is not everyone's cuppa tea.

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Unread postby Veronica » Fri Sep 16, 2005 1:52 pm

My first reaction to this film was this is "Really Weird".

I couldnt understand a word Johnny said because he was imitating Hunter & sometimes I cant understand Hunter either. I dont remember it being advertised or even playing where I love. If Johnny hadnt been in it I wouldnt have rented it.
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Unread postby Liz » Fri Sep 16, 2005 2:08 pm

This is not a movie that should get your mainstream promotion since it is not a mainstream movie. I think that they blew it, just like Gilliam said. I don't think Universal (I think that's the company) hired the right promotion team. They were obviously out of their league when it came to this movie. I just wonder why they don't trust the people directly involved with the subject matter to take their advice. And if I'm rambling and not making sense it's because a few of my friends are in front of Grauman's right now and I'm having a hard time concentrating. They also should have done heavy promos in Las Vegas, Aspen and San Francisco--gearing the promos to fit the respective cultures.
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Unread postby Theresa » Fri Sep 16, 2005 9:37 pm

I think it’s a combination of things. Of course the studios didn’t promote it properly, but until POTC and CATCF, they apparently bungled most of Johnny’s movies. Even Finding Neverland was mishandled.
FALILV definitely did not fall into the mainstream, and should have been allowed the time to build an audience like an indie film does.

I remember the commercials for it, especially the scene where they parked the Shark on the sidewalk. From those commercials, I never would have imagined that the film was anything like it turned out to be. To be honest, I’m not sure I could have sat through it at the theater, either. I only saw it at home and even then I had to pause it several times because it was just too much for me. Seeing all that for the first time on a movie screen would have really been more than I could have handled.

QueenofKings wrote:When the movie came out and we went to see it I can remember my husband and I being disconcerted at the amount of people who walked out of the theatre during the movie. We are both such big Hunter fans and had a hard time with that. But now looking back, I can understand that the movie is not everyone's cuppa tea.

You’re right QueenofKings, it isn’t everyone’s cuppa tea….being Hunter fans, you went into the theater knowing what to expect -- or at least, be prepared for -- but there are a lot of people who still don’t know who HST is. I didn’t. And now, when I mention that we’re discussing FALILV, most of the people that I know just give me a very blank, uncomprehending stare. Now imagine those people going into the movie on a Friday night to see a “comedy”. Talk about culture shock!

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Unread postby nebraska » Fri Sep 16, 2005 10:26 pm

I saw the movie in the theater........twice maybe? ...can't remember for sure. Based purely on my Depp addiction. Shocked a bit, I was prepared but not for all that I witnessed and I sure didn't understand it. Now, after all the Hunter I have absorbed and reading F&L with a new appreciation, I want to watch my DVD again. I think I will have a completely different view of the movie; I know this reading of the book was completely different from my previous experience.

Johnny has never been about commercial success. I think of the millions he spent on Hunter's Gonzo fist cannon, and all I remind myself is that for him it has never been about the money, it has been about the art, so if he has the money, so what? spend it! I think Johnny would be much happier with the cult DVD following (which seems to be a more permanent and meaninful thing) than an intial box office success. I suppos Hunter would feel the same way.

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Unread postby Still-Rather-Timid » Fri Sep 16, 2005 11:57 pm

Maybe not enough people were doing acid in 1998 to appreciate the film. ;-)

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Unread postby dharma_bum » Sat Sep 17, 2005 12:37 am

I have a slightly different take. I think the studio knew EXACTLY who the audience for FALILV was going to be and promptly ignored them—they assumed JD and HST fans of would seek out the film against all odds. Instead, they gambled that they could manipulate the market to make a few more bucks by twisting the movie to fit the demographic they wanted to tap. I disagree with TG that the studios missed the college audience by releasing the movie at the start of summer break, they missed the college audience because the studio sold it like it was the Blues Brothers meets Dumb and Dumber: a brainless, gross-out humor road movie for frat boys. Nebraska… I remember the trailers too. And yeah, even in cool, hip, ennui-filled LA… I saw a few people walk out of the theater.
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Unread postby Theresa » Sat Sep 17, 2005 1:02 am

dharma_bum wrote: Instead, they gambled that they could manipulate the market to make a few more bucks by twisting the movie to fit the demographic they wanted to tap.

That's a good point, dharma_bum.

So by the studios twisting the promotion, the people that would "get it" didn't go, and the people that went didn't "get it". And so they lost both audiences.

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Unread postby shame_about_rasins » Sat Sep 17, 2005 2:06 am

Interseting topic, but I am not sure I will be much help, as I was not aware of it's release, too young probably :blush: .
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