This was emailed to me by a Bandslam insider who’s also a prominent filmmaker (and asked to be anonymous) in response to my box office report that the Walden Media/Summit Entertainment pic had a disastrous $2.3M weekend despite great reviews, and that the marketing/packaging was so young that moviegoers thought it was High School Musical when it was closer to School Of Rock:
“Isn’t there a story here? Death by marketing? A movie that gets 80% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes — 90% from top critics — won’t see the light of day because Summit consistently made some of the worst choices, and their core audience summarily dismissed the movie without seeing it based on their sale.
Start off with the fact that they chose BANDSLAM for a title instead of WILL. They thought WILL was too indie. But that’s what made this movie special. It was an indie voice wrapped up in a high concept. So, instead of selling it quirky and cool (a la Juno) they sold it on the Disney channel’s Vanessa Hudgens and Aly Milchaka. Instead of selling the concept, band of outcasts like The Commitments, they Disneyfied this movie with glitter paint. So what is an ironic, smart script with a killer soundtrack was sold like High School Musical meets Phil Of The Future. Instead of embracing it for its quirky-ness, for its unique voice (Will, the lead, calls high school “Guantanamo Bay with a lunch period”) they flattened it out so it looked like everything else. There have been literally dozens and dozens of calls today and e-mails from heads of marketing at different studios saying this may be singly the worst job they’ve ever seen on a movie whose unique voice deserved to be heard through positioning, title, marketing tie-ins, and knowing your audience. But Rob Freidman and Summit infantalized their audience. They presumed that since HSM was a hit, and the same star was in their movie singing, they should just sell it the same way.
Nancy Kirkpatrick took instructions from Rob. He had this idea in his head to sell it with the Disney slant, and no one could sway him. People tried, trust me. They knew the movie tested through the roof but the materials didn’t. And still he was bullish. He’s just so fucking arrogant. The real problem was that this was [Walden Media] Cary Granat’s baby and when he was let go, and Alex Schwartz was let go – the project got taken over by Summit. Eric Feig was in the middle of TWILIGHT, so it became Rob’s baby. He saw Vanessa singing and he could only could think of one way to sell it. The only problem is, she’s not playing Gabriella from HSM. She’s playing a dark, monotone goth character. And she’s really pretty good. But you wouldn’t know it by the ads. They should have let the audience re-discover her as this Aly Sheedy, Breakfast Club, freak, but instead, they found shots of her smiling, and sold it on that. And even though the movie was so NOT Disney. You’ve got lines like “A Nuremburg rally produced by MTV”, and a whole section that takes place in an abandoned CBGB’s talking about The Killers, The Sex Pistols, Black Flag, The Police, and U2. I mean, come on, this is NOT High School Musical. You’ve got a kid obsessed with David Bowie, writing him letters throughout the movie.
Look at the comments you got in your own section on this, the movie deserved to be seen. Todd Graff wrote and directed a beautiful lyrical film with a killer soundtrack that the Hollywood Reporter critic compared to a cross between Cameron Crowe and John Hughes. Read the Washington Post review. It’s crazy making.
For what it’s worth, Rob is very contrite now. He’s apologizing to everyone. Tail between his legs, that kind of thing. But as the reality hits, it’s too little, way too late. Heartbreaking.
Shame on them. The movie’s good. It deserved a chance.”