The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is the last film Heath Ledger was working on prior to his untimely death. A group of well known actors, Jude Law, Colin Farrell and Johnny Depp, took his place in the film that is now being released, a year after Ledger's passing.
With such name power and buzz prior to the Cannes premiere, one would think the film would have a chance for a strong sale after (or during) a festival premiere. In fact, that has largely been the model for selling independent films in the past. Capture a slot at a major film festival, build the anticipation, fill the theater with acquisitions execs, and let the offers roll in.
Well, that model of releasing at a top festival and creating a bidding war has all but vanquished due to buyers taking less risk on indie fare. There have been too many losses on the films purchased in this fashion and buyers are still licking their wounds and a number have never healed from them.
So has Cinetic Media started a new, more profitable trend on how to sell independent films or perhaps a new trend on how to sell problematic films? Could it be that Cinetic feels Imaginarium will have a mixed or controversial or even a poor reaction so they would rather err on the side of caution and have acquisition execs make their decision on the sale during calmer, buyer-only screenings before critics and finicky Cannes audiences have a chance to weigh in? Terry Gilliam's films are known to be brilliant, yet tough.
Or perhaps the film is remarkable and they feel the acquisitions execs will pony up more cash prior to the anticipated premiere so they can use Cannes to launch the film?
My gut says the film is not an easy sell, despite the early buzz and starpower and Gilliam's fanbase, and Cinetic is using this strategy to create a wonderment about the title. Even embarking on an out-of-the-box sales strategy gets the rumor mill going, resulting in, you got it, publicity! It's all very intriguing. I will be watching to see how it fares and I look forward to actually seeing the film!
Here is a link to the Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus blog and a teaser trailer:
By selling the film in advance of Cannes, Cinetic and the distributor(s) can "riff" off the publicity of the Cannes premiere and any other subsequent festival screenings, and plan to dovetail more quickly, perhaps, into its theatrical release. Instead of rebuilding the PR/publicity wheel up to a year after its Cannes premiere for its theatrical and/or other-specialized release, they'll try to ride this first wheel of awareness. My 2 cents. :)
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