Kevin Smith Explains His Oscar Campaign Plans, Defends $20 Ticket Price for Qualifying Run
When word hit that Kevin Smith was aiming for the Oscars with a qualifying theatrical run for his divisive film, Red State, critics split over his perceived goals and, more specifically, the financial terms of his week-long engagement at L.A.'s beloved, family-run New Beverly Cinema. Reached for comment, Smith explained his award season intent and why he's charging $20 for a screening and Q&A at a theater where you can get a double feature for $7 every night, often with an amazing Q&A for free.
Smith, who's achieved a successful run thus far with his self-distributed Red State roadshow tour charging $65 a ticket with little advertising costs and expenditures, will screen his film from August 19-25 at the New Beverly Cinema in order to qualify for Academy consideration for his cast, including actors Michael Parks, Melissa Leo, and John Goodman.
"To be clear: this Academy-qualifying run is STRICTLY about the ACTORS," Smith said in an e-mail to Movieline (emphasis his). "I'm not looking for consideration (or even kevsideration) for myself; I just want to see the true talents behind our flick get at least a shot at their propers."
Smith's overall awards season campaign plans will follow the cost-effective plotting of his release strategy, which was publicized through word of mouth, social media, and Smith's established fan base and podcast. "Naturally, in keeping with every aspect of [the] Red State adventure thus far, any campaign will be no-budget," Smith wrote. "I'm hoping common sense saves us a bunch of money for costly trade ads: When December 31st rolls around, if there aren't five better supporting actor performances than the dramatic clinic Michael Parks operates in Red State, he should get a nod, no? Same with John Goodman. Same with Melissa Leo. Same with anybody in our cast. Why NOT them?"
Technically, Smith is not four-walling the New Beverly qualifying run, since it was arranged through director (and New Beverly landlord) Quentin Tarantino. The single-screen theater will serve as a test run for how Red State tours in smaller cinemas in the future, with ticket sales going through Smith's SModcast.com site. While details of his arrangement with the New Beverly are not known, it's unclear how ticket sales will be split with the "Mom & Pop single-screen theater tours" planned for this fall.
In response to criticisms of the $20 ticket price for his New Beverly run, Smith points out that not only is it a bargain compared to the $65 ticket prices of his Red State USA Tour and his $50 and up Canadian Red Province Tour (Aug. 14-18), there are also lower pricing point options for audiences who want to see his film without spending as much.
"When it came to the New Beverly, we figured, '$20 bucks for a first-run flick and a Q&A is underselling it, but we might as well fill all the seats for every show by going with a cheap ticket price,'" he explained. "And if $20 is too much, skip the New Beverly screening. Wait two weeks and watch it on any Video On Demand platform for half that price starting Labor Day: $9.99.
"And if you don't want to pay to see it at all, you'll likely be able to download a Bit Torrent version for free by the end of the Red State Labor Day debut. And still, someone will bitch that even THAT costs too much somehow."
Smith is, ultimately, playing a numbers game as he forges a new path in self-distribution, sans millions in additional P&A and other costs. "I'm really interested in redefining the standard theatrical release window by touring and selling Red State screenings-with-Q&A's long after the flick is available for home video and streaming," he emphasized. "The ad-spends that kick in two-weeks-out and cost millions of dollars feel uncreative and wasteful. I'd rather walk down the hill, as the man said, and fuck all of those cows."
And as Smith points out, others are starting to give the added-value theatrical run strategy a shot: "Now that [Francis Ford] Coppola is embarking on his own multi-city, in-person theater tour for HIS film, I won't be alone out there on the road anymore. Anybody else wanna join us in the future, going all Direct-To-Fan? Come on in: the water's fine."
As for his critics, Smith remains nonplussed. "Haters gonna hate: so long as they spell the title right and tell folks the name of the theater and the dates we're playing, I've got no complaints."