Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Hostel Territory

(***Women's Studies update: Last weekend and this weekend are B-Roll shoots. Our next big scene will be shot on June 30/July 1.***)

Hostel II tanked and everybody keeps asking me what I think about it. Since I haven't seen the movie, I'm not sure why my opinion matters. Rest assured that I want to see it and probably will see it. Anyway, here goes:

Director Eli Roth posted this blog in response to Hostel II's poor box office showing.

Hey Everyone,

I'm in Paris, doing press for the French release of Hostel Part II, and tonight I'm off to Rome for the last leg of the press tour. After that I'm going to take a long overdue break, since I've gone from one film to the next without stopping, just to recharge my brain a bit.

I want to thank all of you for your kind e-mails and incredible support for the film. However, piracy has become worse than ever now, and a stolen workprint (with uninished music, no sound effects, and no VFX) leaked out on line before the release, and is really hurting us, especially internationally. Piracy will be the death of the film industry, as it killed the music industry, and while it makes a smaller dent in huge movies like Spider Man 3, it really hurts films like mine, which have far less of an advertising and production budget. Not only that, critics have actually been REVIEWING the film based off the pirated copy, which is inexcusable. Some of these critics I have actually known for a few years, and while I wouldn't dignify them by mentioning them by name, I know who they are, as do the studios, and other filmmakers, and they will no longer have any access to any of my films.

What I'm saying is, this is your last chance to see one of my films for a while. If you haven't seen it, go now, because after next weekend the film will be gone from theaters. There are too many other summer movies coming in, so basically we get two weeks in cinemas, and then the film will live on DVD. I am not directing CELL any time soon, and I most likely will take the rest of the year to write my other projects. Which means I wouldn't shoot until the spring, and you wouldn't see a film directed by me in the cinemas until at least next fall. If everyone on my friends list went to see the film this weekend and brought a friend, it would make a huge difference. Bring a non-horror fan - try to convert them. It's the only way these films will live. But right now the R rated horror film is in serious jeopardy. Studios feel the public doesn't want them any more, and so they are only putting PG-13 films into production. The only way to counter this perception is to get out there and support R rated horror. It's the only message they'll hear. People love the movie, and even though it only cost $10 million dollars (as opposed to the other summer tentpoles which cost $300 million), and has already earned its money back, if it's not a massive money earner then they'll just continue to make the same PG-13 films everyone complained about a few years ago.

To counter piracy, fans can flood file sharing services with fake Hostel II downloads just so no one can ever actually get the movie, but the only thing that really makes a difference is supporting the movie in the theaters. Also - the theater OWNERS know this as well. If horror movies aren't bringing in customers, they're not going to program them. If we are going to send them a message, we have to do it with our wallets, and we have to do it now. I've done all I can to make a great film for the fans, as violent and bloody and fun as possible. The rest is up to you guys...

Thanks again for all your support,


I undertand your disappointment, Mr. Roth. We all hope our film will be huge. However, may I put this in perspective for you?

First off, Hostel II tanking supports my argument that horror, true horror, is still a fringe genre that only a small percentage of the population seek out. People try to argue me on this all the time with shit like, "But The Ring . . ." "But The Exorcist . . . "But Scream . . ." Yes, all three of those are both good horror films and made oodles of money. That said, it's a big jump away from watching Heather Matarazzo get strung up and gutted while some other chick masturbates in her blood . . . which I hear happens in Hostel II.

For months, Eli Roth has been out and about touting how Hostel II would be one of the most disturbing, goriest movies ever made, and why not? The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre made a small fortune on such a reputation. The problem is that your average moviegoer who likes horror probably doesn't shine to all that. They like to get sacred, and a little blood and a little horror, but not the gobs of it that the old 80s low-budget films offered. They want (and I hate to use this term) "Horror Lite," those PG-13 horror movies that Hollywood is so in love with right now. (It allows them to advertise to a wider audience.)

Are there exceptions? Sure there are. The original Friday the 13th made it's money because of the gore effects, but that was 1980 and no one had really seen effects like this before. Make no mistake. The star of that film was Tom Savini's make-up, not Adrienne King as Alice.

When you look at the horror movies that make big money, they do so on concept not gross-outs.

This is why the original Hostel and the Saw movies were such big successes. They came out when the nightly news was filled with stories about Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, and "Holy Shit, are we torturing people?" Torture was "in the ether" so to speak, and people used those movies to work out their discomfort with the fact that torture was something very real in the world. (It still is, but for better or for worse, it shocks us less than it did two years ago.)

Finally, and most importantly, let's take a look at the numbers. The original Hostel was made for $4.5 million. It pulled in about $20 million on it's opening weekend in the U.S. and levelled off theatrically with a total of around $50 million. Throw in another $30 million for DVD rentals and sales and you're looking at $80 million .

Not bad, right? In fact, pretty damned good especially when this isn't accounting for overseas theatre and DVD business. Certainly enough to warrant production of a sequel.

Lion's Gate gives Roth $10.2 million to make a sequel. But after two weeks in the theatre, Hostel II has brought in $14 million WORLDWIDE. It's a drop off to be sure and definitely one the producers can't have anticipated. Even with the traditional 50% box office drop off sequels often get, they had to be expecting around $40 million in gross receipts. But then again, if you go back and look at those original numbers, you see that while for it's budget the original Hostel was a hit, it was only gathering up a small percentage of the movie going audience.

No one could have anticipated Hostel II tanking especially after Saw III made more money than each of the two previous installments last fall. That said, there was no reason to expect a huge hit either, especially after Grindhouse had also tanked with marquee directors Rodriguez and Tarantino attached. Both Hostel II and Grindhouse will make their money back over the long haul on DVD because that's how horror movies make their money. They get a following, friends tell friends. Tobe Hooper is still collecting royalty checks for the original Chainsaw.

Piracy shot down Hostel II? Bullshit. Spider-Man 3 and Pirates 3 made a shitload and they were pirated to hell and back. The fact remains that the gory type of horror film Roth makes (And makes well, I might add. I loved the first Hostel.) appeals to a niche audience. Horror may seem mainstream, but it isn't.


(*Sound of me hopping off my soapbox.)

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