19 Apr 2007

Tarantino’s Grindhouse Not Attracting an Audience

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The London Times thinks that the box office failure of Quentin Tarantino’s latest homage to cinematic genre trash demonstrates that high budget parodies filled with obscure references to the director’s own personal cinematic obsessions are just too esoteric and too demanding to bring in the popcorn-eating mass audience needed to recoup their cost.

When a high-profile $100 million movie flops at the box office Hollywood groans. When that movie has been directed by two of the hottest hitters in town, produced by the best in the business, filled with sex, violence and stars, and yet it still flops, then the entire industry panics.

Such is the case for Grindhouse, the new double-feature homage to 1970s exploitation movies, directed by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. The movie, a three-hour self-aware smorgasbord of genre action, zombies and killer cars, represents the creative apogee of the relationship between its directors and their long-time producers Harvey and Bob Weinstein. (The movie takes its title from the down-at-heel venues that once specialised in sceening B-movies).

Tarantino and Rodriguez are the Weinsteins’ golden boys, responsible for such commercial and critical Weinstein smashes as Pulp Fiction , Desperado , Kill Bill and Sin City . These two — more than any within the Weinstein stable (which includes the likes of Kevin Smith and Anthony Minghella) — have given the producing brothers their brand identity as the masters of populist yet edgy “indie-wood” entertainment.

The shock was thus all the more profound when Grindhouse managed to turn in only a paltry $12 million (£5.9 million) from its opening Easter holiday weekend. Things got even worse last weekend, when figures revealed that audience members were walking out halfway through the movie, unaware that it was a double bill. Others were complaining about the degraded nature of the film footage (itself a nod to Seventies production values), while the movie was often playing to near-empty theatres (14 people per screening was the average).

Read the whole thing.

I must admit: I haven’t made it out to this one yet myself, and I’m a strong Tarantino aficionado.

Easter weekend doesn’t really inspire in most of us a major yearning for a 1970s exploitation flic. I really like Tarantino’s work, but I see Robert Rodriquez films grudgingly. It’s one thing for Quentin to show up in a bit part in a Rodriquez film, or even to write one as a lark, but combining the work of Rodriquez with his own, and marketing them together on an equal basis does not strike me as a really great idea.

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