Almost four years ago, I settled into a post-Comic Con screening of the horror film Midnight Meat Train, which was being introduced by source author Clive Barker and director Ryuhei Kitamura. I expected a fairly standard speech from the duo — perhaps an anecdote about the production process and then a generic “We hope you like the movie!” Instead, Barker immediately launched into a verbal tirade against the film’s distributor, Lionsgate, who decided that the film had limited commercial prospects and that they would save money by not advertising, releasing it in the bare minimum number of theaters allowed in the contact. Two weeks later, Midnight Meat Train opened in 102 theaters–mostly second-run locations–and grossed a predictably disastrous $83,000 total.
In a déjà-vu moment, it was reported today that Lionsgate would be doing the same exact thing with the Miley Cyrus/Demi Moore drama LOL. Without a single dollar invested in ads, LOL will be dumped into the contractually-required 100 theaters in a mere seven cities on May 4. For those keeping score, that’s under a month since the film’s trailer debuted online last week. Barring a miracle, there will be no further theatrical expansion after the seven-city release. No word yet on whether the theaters playing LOL will be discount houses, like the ones in which Midnight Meat Train premiered, allowing patrons to see the film at reduced rates.
The film, written and directed by Lisa Azuelos, who also made the French original, was intended to spring Miley from her kid-friendly Hannah Montana roots into the realm of more serious acting. No critics have yet reviewed LOL, so whether it could have done so effectively remains to be seen. Presumably co-star Demi Moore’s recent, highly publicized personal problems did not reflect favorably on its commercial potential, increasing Lionsgate’s doubts about the project, whatever its quality. We here at Critic Speak wish Ms. Cyrus better luck on her next film, The Weinstein Company’s collegiate spy comedy So Undercover.