I give TV and movie fans a lot of credit: when they get mad, they scare the crap out of the moguls. That’s happening at Lionsgate where the studio’s phones and email accounts are jammed with angry fans for the past week. They’re making a stink because new Lionsgate topper Joe Drake appears to be dumping all of ex-prez Peter Block’s movies. That includes Midnight Meat Train, the adaptation of the Barker short story that’s a fan fave. Supposedly the trailer tested higher than any film in Lionsgate history. But when Drake took over, he promptly bumped Midnight Meat Train from its May 16th release date. The result was that Rogue Pictures’ The Strangers (which was skedded two weekends later) had zero competition in the hard-R category. And guess who was exec producer of The Strangers? Joe Drake.
Then, the websites, Shock Til You Drop and Fangoria found out Lionsgate is planning only a 100 theater run on August 1st to merely fulfill the contractual obligation with Lakeshore Entertainment. The plan is to release the DVD immediately after. So fans are asking if Drake is such a dummy that he’d intentionally sink what to them is a sure-thing hit. And they want to know if the studio that was built on horror gross (both the gory and cash kinds) is going to bite the hand that’s fed it so well in favor of four Tyler Perry movies a year.
The result is a lot of anti-Lionsgate blogging in Horrorville by fans, by self-appointed horror flick experts, and also by Barker himself. “I would passionately encourage everybody who cares about my work to use this chance to change the minds of the folks at Lionsgate,” Barker, whose Midnight Picture Show company co-produced the film, recently stated on the Clive Barker’s Revelations website. “I really think, this late in the day, that grassroots support for our movie could significantly improve our chances of reaching a much bigger audience theatrically.” Lakeshore, too, is pushing hard. Midnight Meat Train is described as a cold, unyielding but also stylish slasher film that relishes exploitive gross-out gags. Not my kind of pic, to be sure. Especially when director Ryuhei Kitamura making his U.S. debut promised as much gore, if not more, as Saw and Hostel. So I’d be a hypocrite not to applaud Lionsgate for wanting to move away from extreme hard-R. On the other hand, Lionsgate is far behind in studio market share right now. In the meantime, given the active imaginations of Clive Barker fans, I have this image in my head of Jon Feltheimer under the desk crouching in terror every time the phone rings…