Is irony (or the careers of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez) dead? There seems to be plenty of shock and bemusement that the double feature Grindhouse disappointed at the box office last weekend. While there are plenty of theories floating around as to exactly how and why this happened, I've got a few questions of my own.
The box-office take for Grindhouse's opening weekend was just $11.6 million, far lower than the expectation for the $20 million range. Grindhouse was a dismal No. 4 on the box-office hits list, a pretty sad showing for an opening weekend for two pretty well-known directors. It's also a downer for the company that released it, Weinstein Co., which broke from Disney's
One common line of reasoning seems to be that viewers weren't suitably educated about the experience -- a double feature playing homage to B-grade and exploitation movies from the '70s. (One news article said that in some theaters, moviegoers left after the first flick, unaware they were getting two for one.) And of course, there's the run time of more than three hours -- I'm not convinced many moviegoers could burn three hours over Easter weekend, when many people are immersed in family time. I suspect many people my age, old enough to be nostalgic about the genre, were busy dyeing eggs and stuffing Easter baskets.
That brings me to my big question: Why release Grindhouse on Easter weekend? The double feature was supposed to be a reminder of those good old days of bad old titillating movies (sometimes known as the "so-bad-it's-good" genre) -- at the drive-in, for example. Honestly, that makes me think of the summer months, when people look for entertainment on the long, lazy days when they're less likely to stress about three hours. You know, going to the drive-in wearing flip-flops or taking haven in the theater to enjoy a three-hour blast of copious A/C.
Of course, releasing this package in the summer would have meant competing with near-certain blockbusters like Sony's
Now it's rumored that Grindhouse may be distributed as two separate movies overseas, which might not be the brightest move, either. Does the B-movie experience hearken back to anything at all for audiences overseas? These types of movies seem to me to be a purely American form of nostalgia. Furthermore, part of the appeal of Grindhouse appears to be the artistic conceit of packaging two B-movies for the price of one. You've kind of got to wonder if each movie can stand alone when they were meant to be viewed together.
It's unfortunate that an attempt at Hollywood innovation would stumble out of the gate. However, I can't help but wonder if Grindhouse's lackluster opening shot was merely a good reminder that often, timing is everything.