The surprise theatrical success of Nicolas Cage's new movie 'Mandy' has forced its distributor to completely overhaul its release strategy
- Panos Cosmatos' latest movie "Mandy," starring Nicolas Cage, is achieving the impossible for most day-and-date movies, as audiences would rather see it in theaters than Video-On-Demand.
- Thanks to fans demanding it be shown in more theaters, RLJ Entertainment, the distributor of "Mandy," has the movie booked in theaters until November.
- Business Insider explores why "Mandy" could be the next "Rocky Horror Picture Show."
With the fall movie season in full swing, much of the weekend box office discussion has focused on the impressive staying power of titles such as "The Nun," "A Simple Favor," and "The House with a Clock in Its Walls," which audiences continue to flock to after their opening weekends.
But if you dig a little deeper, you'll come across a title currently playing that has the kind of hold on audiences that it has the makings of being a cult classic the likes we haven't seen since "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."
Panos Cosmatos' acid-laced revenge movie starring Nicolas Cage, "Mandy," isn't just having a solid theatrical run, it's defying the release strategy of most day-and-date movies before it.
In the three weeks since opening, the movie has only played in 210 theaters, but to date it's grossed close to $840,000. And that doesn't even count the money coming in through Video-On-Demand, which the movie's distributor, RLJ Entertainment, boasts is in the millions.
When a movie is released on a day-and-date platform, meaning its distributor releases the movie in theaters and streaming/Video-On-Demand simultaneously, the theatrical component of the release is often used almost as a unique brand of advertising for the VOD option.
Because the major theater chains won't allow day-and-date movies to be played in their multiplexes (as they are not exclusively shown on the big screen), these titles instead play in limited release at independent chains and art houses, typically in major cities. So the reviews, feature stories, and any other attention from the theatrical release boost the movie's VOD exposure, as people who want to see the movie but don't live near one of the theaters showing it can easily order it on their TVs. Cage, in particular, has capitalized on this recently, as many of his movies in the last few years have been straight-to-VOD or day-and-date.
So RLJ Entertainment, which is known for releasing genre movies ("Brawl in Cell Block 99," "Bone Tomahawk") and has handled movies starring Cage in the past ("Rage," "Dog Eat Dog," "Pay the Ghost"), moved forward with the usual game plan for "Mandy." They released it in 75 theaters its first week, and had Cosmatos, Cage, and co-star Linus Roache show up for live Q&As following some special Thursday-night screenings before its opening weekend, the hope being that exposure and the 94% Rotten Tomatoes score the movie has would bring in the audiences that a limited marketing budget a day-and-date movie can't.
And boy did it work.
The twitter handle @CheddarGoblin - named after the mac & cheese puking green goblin featured in a commercial that appears in the movie - suddenly became the destination for "Mandy" fans to get the latest updates on which theaters around the country were playing the movie.
And the hunger for the movie only increased in the second weekend it was out, as the number of theaters showing "Mandy" dropped down to 71. The loss of four screens may not seem like a big deal, but it was for fans living in southern California, because "Mandy" didn't show at a single theater in Los Angeles that weekend.
This wasn't because RLJ Entertainment had given up on the movie, it simply was going with its usual formula of decreasing its theatrical count in week 2 and letting VOD become a more attractive option to see the movie. The company had done its theater bookings long before the fan outcry, and that meant it couldn't add new screenings because the theaters already had a full slate of titles for the weekend (the movie playing in three LA theaters the following weekend).
Despite the loss of a major market, the movie saw a relatively minuscule 31% drop in ticket sales from its opening weekend - in fact, its $155,405 take was one of the largest for any indie movie that weekend.
"With a day-and-date release, it's really hard theatrically to break out, it's nearly impossible," Mark Ward, chief acquisitions officer at RLJ Entertainment, told Business Insider. "So it's beyond our wildest dreams that the film is performing strong everywhere, on all platforms." (Currently, "Mandy" is in the top 10 movies to rent on iTunes in "independent," "horror," and "thriller" categories.)
Ward promises that, if there's demand, the movie will continue its theater run, so it seems the "Mandy" craze isn't going to end anytime soon.
"RLJ's theatrical booker is getting all these calls from theaters saying, 'We want the movie but we have contractual obligations with other films, can we have it in October or November?'" said Lisa Whalen, CEO of SpectreVision, the production company founded by Elijah Wood that's behind "Mandy" (along with XYZ Films and Umedia). "So it's just going to keep coming out."
Ward believes we could be seeing the start of "Mandy" becoming what "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" is now: a movie that continues to be played in theaters for its fans over decades. But for the here and now, he believes "Mandy" has changed how day-and-date movies are perceived.
"I feel 'Mandy' is the new benchmark in terms of this type of release," Ward said.
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