Kenny Sayz: What a difference distribution makes with two limited release films

Last night while I was catching up on my movie watching with buddies of mine, I noticed the box office performance of both films in my double feature. Both “The Raid: Redemption” and “Goon” were limited release films that followed different release strategies which lead to different box office outcomes.

Considering the Internet buzz and film festival hype surrounding “The Raid: Redemption”, it appears to be the latest causality to suffer from not translating from the niche art house crowd to mainstream audience appeal.

The flawlessly choreographed, action packed Raid had a solid debut grossing over $200,000 on just 14 screens the weekend “The Hunger Games” opened. This previous weekend, “Raid” increased its theater count to an additional 700 locations only to a somewhat disappointing $1 million weekend at $1,100 per screen (with an accumulated total gross of $2.5 million). As expected, “The Raid: Redemption” looks to have peaked as it will dramatically scale back its release this upcoming weekend.

The so-so box office performance of “The Raid: Redemption” is a set back for high quality, art house cinema that rarely makes it to suburban megaplexes. Despite the outcome, the testosterone infused, adrenaline soaked Indonesian foreign film about an elite SWAT team assigned to take down a powerful crime lord deserved cross over success with its heart stopping action. Either the gruesome brutality, the audience dividing subtitles, or the lack of awareness put a damper on the too high expectations to roll out the wider then normal expansion of a film such as “The Raid: Redemption”.

Contrast this to the sophomoric, hockey comedy “Goon”, which (according to the site Box Office grossed $1.2 million it’s opening weekend in late February in just 250 theaters. Compare this to “Raid”, which made the equal amount during this recent expansion! Little has been reported about the very funny and very profane slacker sports flick “Goon”, which quietly grossed $4.5 million in two months. Goon was also available on VOD (video on demand). This format is beginning to no longer a death sentence for films to fear profitability as some in the Entertainment Industry are anxious.

The violent, slapstick “Goon” has somewhat of a soft spot in the tender jock performance Sean William Scott delivered. Sure, there’s plenty of crudeness and blood on the ice. However at the core, beyond the gore is Scott’s lovable, at times noble character. This probably appealed to audiences looking for some feel good laughs in a time of year (in late February) where this was scarce. Sports comedies aren’t common box office product and hockey ones are even more so of an anomaly.

The success of “Goon” and the let down of “The Raid: Redemption” had to do with their release strategies as well as the fact comedies are palatable, while subtitled films are a harder sell. “The Raid” expanding from over 100 locations to 800 was unnecessary for the demand. Sony Pictures Classic did this similar expansion with “Carnage” earlier this year, too. Just because a studio has a great product doesn’t mean one should saturate the market with it without planning a strong awareness campaign.

About Kenny Miles

Whether something is overlooked by Hollywood or whatever business trend has captured the Entertainment Industry’s attention, Kenny Miles loves to talk about movies (especially the cultural impact of a film). He covers various aspects of movies including specialty genre films, limited release, independent, foreign language, documentary features, and THE much infamous "awards season." Also, he likes to offer his opinion on the business of film, marketing strategy, and branding.He currently resides in Denver, Colorado and is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society critics group. You can follow him on Twitter @kmiles723.