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AMC Theatres Slashes Screens for “Hatchet II”

AMC Theatres Slashes Screens for “Hatchet II” (photo)

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No good dead goes unpunished, not in real life and certainly not in horror films. When AMC Theatres decided to exhibit an unrated slasher movie like Adam Green’s “Hatchet II” on 68 of its screens, they must have assumed that showing themselves to be a supporter of independent films and uncensored content would net them some good PR if nothing else. Not quite; when AMC yanked the film after just three days of release due to poor box office performance it set off an Internet firestorm. Green blamed the MPAA, telling Entertainment Weekly that his film’s swift exit from movie screens “probably had something to do with the controversy online about an unrated movie playing in theaters.” When AMC insisted their move was purely a “business decision,” horror fans aimed their bile directly at the multiplex chain: if you’ve ever wanted to hear a large, multinational corporation described as a bunch of pussies, well, your day has finally come.

Green’s problems with the MPAA go back to the first “Hatchet,” which was released with an R rating only after repeat visits to the MPAA ratings board. Last week, Green talked about the experience with EW:

“They kept giving the movie an NC-17. There is absolutely no way that movie should have gotten an NC-17. All the gore in it is so ridiculous and over-the-top that you can’t take it seriously. It was a terrible, terrible loss when “Hatchet I” came out in theaters. None of the fun stuff that people had been reading about for two years was in the movie anymore. But the MPAA is notoriously hard on independent movies… [They] are a very big and powerful — even though they’re evil — organization. But if people support this, and we make enough noise at the box office, it will change the game for the genre. That’s when it’ll be a win. It’s up to the fans now to support this, so it isn’t all in vain, and we can start to change the system. I’m really hoping for a [box office] miracle.”

Green and his marketers pinned their hopes for that miracle on AMC, and an ad campaign specifically tied to “Hatchet II”‘s lack of a rating (I saw posters for the film at Fantastic Fest that even used the tagline “Support Unrated Horror”). If nothing else, “Hatchet II”‘s $52,000 weekend gross proves that turning a gory, tongue-in-cheek slasher movie into a referendum on free speech isn’t a shortcut to box office gold. Those “uncut and unrated” slogans are on DVDs because people want to see extreme blood and guts, not because they’re looking to strike a blow against organized censorship. They’re horror fans, not freedom fighters.

Given Green’s history with the MPAA his attempts to scapegoat the organization for “Hatchet II”‘s problems aren’t surprising. And there’s no question the film would have made more money if it had gotten an R rating (I haven’t seen the film, so I can’t comment on whether or not it deserved one). But to suggest that there’s some sort of Star Chamber conspiracy demanding AMC get rid of “Hatchet II” is absolutely ludicrous, especially given the film’s low grosses and even lower per screen average (PSA) of just $775 a screen. When a massive success starts vanishing from theaters, you cry conspiracy. When an underperformer does, it’s an unfortunate but understandable business decision.

Some observers online cited the fact that AMC did not remove the R-rated horror film “Chain Letter” from its multiplexes (even though it had a lower PSA than “Hatchet II”) as further evidence of said conspiracy. But as John Campea, a writer for AMC’s Script to Screen blog, pointed out on his (currently very heated) Formspring page, “Chain Letter” had contracted with AMC for a “standard release” which guarantees at least a week’s run in theaters. “Hatchet II” did not.

There are lessons here. First: in situations like this, independent filmmakers should get a guaranteed run in writing whenever possible. But separate from that, and maybe most importantly, they need to choose their release date carefully. “Hatchet II” opened on October 1st during the busiest time of the year for horror films, against “Chain Letter,” another indie slasher movie, plus far bigger movies like “Case 39” and “Let Me In.” Plus they were all up against “The Social Network,” a film geared to the same young, male audience. In that sort of crowded marketplace you have to make yourself stand out. Being the “anti-censorship slasher” just didn’t cut it.

Which is a shame. George Lucas used to talk about how the transformation in the exhibition business brought about by blockbusters like “Star Wars” was good for independent filmmakers. He claimed that big multiplexes meant more screens, which meant more places to show independent films. This story proves, once and for all, that that’s simply not true. Companies like AMC support indie film only as far as audiences support them, and if they can make more money showing “The Social Network” on three screens instead of two, that’s what they’re going to do. They’re a business, not an arts advocacy group. And if all they get for their trouble when they do go out on a limb is low grosses followed by bad publicity and name-calling, why would they ever take a risk again?

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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