Bombs Away: Creature Opens to $220 Per Screen, 6 People Per Showing
It's no Worst Movie EVER!, but it's close: Over the weekend the indie horror pic Creature, opening in a surprising 1,500 locations, made box office history, all right... just not the kind filmmakers were hoping for. Despite attempts to create what they described as a "new template" for indie film distribution, the folks behind Creature -- including Sid Sheinberg, former president of Universal Pictures -- instead earned a place among the worst wide-release openings of all time.
Sheinberg and producer son Jonathan Sheinberg produced the self-financed creature feature, directed by Fred M. Andrews, about a group of 20-somethings who fall victim to a fabled swamp monster in the Louisiana bayou. Over at Rotten Tomatoes, Creature holds an 11 percent rating (including a positive review from The L.A. Times, which calls it "delightfully dopey"), which makes it better-reviewed than at least one studio-released competitor from last weekend.
But Creature seemed an unlikely candidate for wide release distribution from the start. An indie horror flick with no stars, not backed by a studio (i.e. a true indie, not an Insidious or a Paranormal Activity), it had built relatively little national buzz before popping up on opening weekend listings late last week. Even granted exhibition contracts with theater chains like AMC, Regal, Cinemark, Pacific, and Carmike, was Creature ever going to become a wide release hit?
The film's marketing campaign tapped into its low budget and B-movie trappings as nostalgic throwbacks to the era of drive-in movies and cheap exploitation flicks, so its target demo was somewhat limited to begin with. (Another draw: copious hints at Creature's boobs-n-blood formula, including shots of lead/True Blood actor Mehcad Brooks shirtless.) Promo screenings were held in top markets to build grassroots word of mouth in addition to "significant TV ad buys on SyFy, G4, and E!," according to the film's rep, who added in a statement, "Sid and Jon Sheinberg have done what the big studios do, but on a comparatively micro-budget."
Upon release, however, Creature only took in $331,000 from 1,507 theaters across the country, averaging $220 per screen and fewer than six people per showing, according to Box Office Mojo. It landed at number five among the worst wide-release openings of all time (counting 600+ theaters and greater as wide releases), behind Proud American ($96,076), The Passion Recut ($223,789), Transylmania ($263,941), and The Virginity Hit ($301,885).
Chalk the failed experiment, perhaps, to the elder Sheinberg's past successes; while at Universal Pictures, Sid Sheinberg released the game-changing Jaws and in the process birthed the blockbuster by forgoing small-scale roll-outs in favor of national release. Creature seemed to similarly attempt to launch a wide-scale release with but without sufficient awareness efforts among a proportionate audience, and as a result the film arrived without enough of a trumpet blast and lacking enough of a draw (great reviews, buzz) to make the gamble work.
The Sheinbergs' production company The Bubble Factory, meanwhile, continues a streak of poorly received films dating back to Flipper (1996), The Pest (1997), and McHale's Navy (1997). Bubble Distribution could not be reached for comment.