I’ve edited out the jejune personal attacks. But because I’m always in favor of a dialogue based on the merits or demerits of my editorializing, I’m honored to give director Kevin Smith his say. He didn’t take kindly to my recent post Hollywood Guilds Ain’t Gonna Be Thrilled. (Or else he was looking to pick another PR fight just as he did with GMA‘s Joel Siegel.) Under the headline “Finke Makes A Stink”, Smith opines on his Internet sites:

“There’s a woman named Nikki Finke who writes for the LA Weekly, and she seems to have taken issue with the MySpace Credits Contest we did for Clerks II. ‘This could very well be the most insulting thing I’ve ever heard,’ she writes. ‘A huge diss, to anyone who’s ever legitimately earned a credit on a film.’ Yes – she’s serious… She’s presupposing an industry outrage and ire that simply doesn’t exist. No guild has said a word about the credits contest. Know why? Because there’s nothing to be upset about. The MySpace names don’t appear in the credits proper of Clerks II. The film’s credits end (with all the proper logos and copyright legalese), the screen goes to black, and then after five to ten seconds, a new crawl (although ‘crawl’ is hardly the term I’d use to describe the speed with which the names zip up the screen) begins. Why is this an issue for Nikki Finke when nary a guild member nor other film artisan seems to care? It’s so sad. Weinstein Co. finds a fun way to spice up the marketing a bit, and this woman tries to kill-joy the whole endeavor. … And since when are the credits sacrosanct anyway? If Finke feels the post-credits addition of ten thousand names is some kind of ‘huge diss, to anyone who’s ever legitimately earned a credit on a film’, what must she think of my end credits ‘Thank You’ shout-out to God. When a dog is listed in the credits, is this somehow an affront to the performers in a film with speaking roles? I dedicated Jersey Girl to my recently deceased Father (a dubious honor, I know) who had nothing whatsoever to do with the making of the picture; should the filmmaking community be livid that such an undeserving cad as my dead Old Man wound up with his name in the credits? Bottom line? Ms. Finke can try to tempest-in-a-douchebag the contest all she wants; it doesn’t change the fact that it was a fun thing to do that all involved seem to enjoy. And if nobody (but Finke) is upset about it, where’s the harm?”

Me now. Dedications are a time-honored, if rarely used, tradition in filmmaking. Dogs deserve credits, along with their handlers. Total strangers to the film who merely entered a contest don’t deserve credit, no matter how quick the crawl. It’s crass and commercial. But it’s certainly Kevin Smith’s right to embrace that, just as it’s my right to denounce that. The director also took issue with my box office analysis calling Clerks 2 a failure. Here are Smith’s thoughts:

“In addition, of an earlier promotion the Weinstein Co. did at YouTube for Lucky Number Slevin, she also writes ‘Yeah, we saw what that promotion did for those movies’ bottom-line: Slevin made a pathetic $22 million, and Clerks 2 is well on its way to more failure.’ For someone who covers the film biz, I found that statement rather oblivious. Our flick’s budget was five million bucks. We did twice that in the opening weekend. The film’s foreign sales more than covered its negative cost. Our marketing budget was pretty modest – especially for a summer release. Even if after the box office split the Weinstein Co. will make with the theaters, our thetrical [sic] run winds up simply being a wash (meaning all costs are covered), that means everything we made on DVD is pure profit. If Clerks II DVD is anything like the DVD on Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, we’re looking at forty million bucks, easily. Forty million bucks in profit. Where’s the ‘failure’? Aside from Little Miss Sunshine (which opens this week), Clerks II may be the lowest budgeted wide release of the summer. We were modest across the boards, in shooting and opening the flick. We did this because we had a model in the Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back release. That film turned out to be very profitable, so we simply plugged in lower numbers when doing the Clerks II budget, to ensure high profitability for the Weinstein Co. Spending 75% less to make the current flick, spending far less to market the current flick and opening to roughly the same numbers ($11mil for Strike Back, $10mil for Clerks II)? In what world is that a ‘failure’? It may not be sexy huge like the Pirates numbers, but when it comes to the business half of the show business equation, being in the plus column is all that matters (on the show side of the equation? Making the film you want to make).

Back to me. I based my analysis on: the very low opening box office total, the average $36 million it takes to market a movie nowadays (and no one’s ever characterized Harvey Weinstein as stingy when it comes to spending money on promotion and advertising); and the collapsing DVD market. Given the insanity of marketing costs, it doesn’t matter anymore how little a film costs to make. Because eking out anything less than $20 mil at the box office during its debut weekend means that movie should have gone straight to video. Showing it in a theater, with all that extra $$$ output, is just ego feed. I, for one, am sickened by everybody mouthing off that their movie will make money when the reality is it doesn’t have a chance in hell. But, hey, Kevin, best of luck in your new career as a TV personality. (You’re a regular on Leno. Your work on The N’s Degrassi: The Next Generation was epic. And you’ll be sitting in for Roger Ebert next week as a guest critic on Ebert and Roeper). I think that’s going to work out more profitably for you than this film thing.

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