Apparently a negative New York Times review does have an actual impact on one’s box office results—or at least, that’s what those in the know have been telling me for quite some time (all I have as a personal reference is my first movie, which received a somewhat gentle and kind Times review yet did donkey squat during its limited theatrical run). So, as of last week, I didn’t really believe it when people said one needed a positive Times review to at least lay the potential foundation for a somewhat healthy run. Now, I might not be so sure.
One thing cannot be argued: good ol Septien fared cringingly unwell at the B.O. this weekend. But the truth is that it would be idiotic to expect anything less. This movie was made as a thumb-smudge in the face of “weekly box office reports” and anything industry related. That sounds asinine, I realize, as well as defensive considering the situation, but it’s true. I always said that I wanted to make something that would really excite and invigorate a small handful of folks, and though I’m obviously in too murky a position to say for sure if that’s true or not, it does seem like many other filmmakers have really been latching onto it. Perhaps it’s the recognition of just how difficult it is to make a feature film, mixed with the realization that we actually tried to do something different, something that we weren’t even sure would work (no need to get into the subjective game of it actually “working” or “not working” here, thank you very much).
Certainly, there are other factors at play when taking into account this opening weekend result: we technically opened on Wednesday and actually had a solid crowd in the big house for our 8pm screening that night; we’ve been on VOD for two months now and have had several thousand rentals, at least some of whom are probably from folks who would have gone to the theater otherwise; we just screened at BAM a few weeks ago; etc. But those explanations all sound just a tad too desperate. The reality is that this is a tiny movie without stars that was made to purposefully defy easy categorization. No amount of publicity and marketing could have saved us (but, boy, did the folks at Brigade Marketing try—HIRE THEM IF YOU CAN).
Having said that, it’s not like we’re sad or depressed about this. When you consider the above stated reasons for having made this film, the fact that I’m even writing about our “theatrical opening weekend” is like the coup of the century. It’s like a bona fide miracle. I’ve been assured that no one is going to lose their job over any of this, which, at this stage, is honestly my most practical worry.
***THE PARTY AIN’T OVER, FOLKS***
Septien is still screening through Thursday night at the IFC Center (go here for screening times and to buy tickets). If you have seen the film and did actually like it, please-please-please be sure to let people know that they have a few more days to see it!
***LAST BUT EQUALLY AS EXCITING***
Onur Tukel’s dementedly brilliant artwork was so embraced by the Pennington Gallery that they are allowing him to leave it up until Friday morning! The gallery is at 355 W. Broadway, just above Grand St., and I cannot stress enough how wild it is to be standing in a room surrounded by these drawings and paintings. Onur has already made some sales, yet there is so much more still to discover, so if you are an art collector, or are a fan of Septien, or are simply drifting through the neighborhood, do yourself a favor and stop by (buzzer says “Pennington”; gallery’s on the second floor). You can see the artwork here—http://www.simiannation.com/art_septien_2011_home.htm—but that's no substitute for the real thing.
One year ago, on July 11th, we were on our seventh day of our 16-day-in-a-row shoot, still wondering what we were doing, but excited that we were doing it and hopeful about what it was. I know I’m more excited than ever about Septien and I trust that as more eyes slowly become aware of it, some of those eyes will be excited too.