The Rotten Truth: Midnight Meat Train

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Wait, who are we supporting again?

Clive Barker’s Midnight Meat Train opens in theaters today. Good luck trying to catch a ride. In the wake of months of questionable decision-making concerning the Ryuhei Kitamura-directed film, Lionsgate opted to release the film on 100 screens (as previously reported) in bargain theaters only. Websites are rallying together, initiating a move to seek out theaters selling tickets online, then buy as many as you’re willing to pay for, even if you can’t make the screening. But I’m confused. Who is this supporting, exactly?

Since the drama began, Lionsgate’s fumbling of the film appeared to be a callous consequence to new and old regime in-fighting. Reports, including a few here on Shock, pointed to Joe Drake – a Ming the Merciless of horror, if you will – as the offender, accused of dropping all pictures once shepherded by Peter Block (save for anything Saw-related, natch). The studio’s mindset extends much deeper than personal grudges and veers into – gasp – business-related territory as it turns out. One insider called in today to tell me Lionsgate was “sweetening a deal” it has set up with the theaters selected to run the film. They’ll be granted greater incentives later down the road when sure-fire hits like Saw V are released. Also, keep in mind these are theaters that have no qualms about harboring a film sans a major advertising push. Lionsgate has injected next to zilch in a marketing campaign. They drop the film into bargain theaters so they don’t have to spend a dime on ads.

Taking that one step further… As distributor, Lionsgate was contractually obligated to give the film a theatrical release. But as one source says, even though they’ve made back any money spent on the production thanks to foreign sales, Lionsgate is still in danger of paying out fees if its domestic box office reaches a certain mark. So, again, the solution to avoid this is to put the film in obscure bargain theaters and ensure they don’t reach that number.

This brings me back to today’s rallying cry for help. To me, it’s like hitting a deer, finding it by the side of the road fatally injured, propping it back on its feet and, like a marionette, helping it to move again thinking all is okay. The damage is done here. Lionsgate obviously dropped the ball, the fans got screwed and the individuals behind-the-scenes (I’m talking about those who creatively worked on the picture) are left with a sour taste in their mouths. I know Kitamura if frustrated as f**k and is ready to move on. Others are over it and are hoping MMT will find its recognition on DVD.

But to stir up everyone to buy tickets online (which is a difficult feat in and of itself) shows what, exactly? That the fans are out there? Well, sure – they’ve been supporting it since they smelled trouble months ago. That the fans want horror? That’s nice, dear. Lionsgate doesn’t care. They know you’re going to be back in their lovin’ arms when Saw V comes a-hoppin’ along. Your ticket sales are going right back to them anyway – so it’s a double-edged sword. On one side you want to support the film, on the other you’re supporting the very studio that screwed you. Ouch.

And don’t get me wrong. I’m behind the flick. My review falls in line with the many positive opinions of support. It has just got me thinking about all of this craziness. Just before I sat down to spew some thoughts (and mind you, this is just my opinion – you’re free to disagree with me, of course), I got a call from a filmmaker who begged the question, “Where is this kind of support for all of the other great films facing distribution troubles? Is it only because it’s Clive?” I don’t believe it’s simply because of Barker’s attachment. It goes beyond that – the movie is good. Audiences do deserve to have it as an option when they walk into a theater this weekend. But it did get me thinking of the other flicks waiting in the wings – like, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, delayed for well over a year now – or those that have forgone a theatrical run and were dumped to DVD, such as Inside.

How does one pick and choose the films you fleetingly mention from time to time and the ones you fight for tooth and nail? Furthermore, to the point where you’re telling people to go out and buy tickets? That’s a lot of responsibility and putting your own neck on the line. Because if those fans don’t like the film, you’re f**ked. My stance is this: MMT has fallen victim to Hollywood’s Darwinian law of survival. It was devoured by the hyenas of the boardroom. And as an observer, all I can do at this point is understand the “whys” and the “hows” of this unfortunate thing that has happened to a good film.

If you want to buy a ticket – even if it’s playing nowhere near you – by all means, do so if it makes you feel like you’re supporting a cause. All I ask is question how that dollar or two is being used.

Source: Ryan Rotten