Convinced the traditional method of releasing most Australian films in cinemas is failing, producer Brian Rosen is rolling the dice with an adventurous plan to launch the Christina Ricci-Jack Thompson drama Around The Block.
The former chief executive of the Film Finance Corporation, forerunner to Screen Australia, has abandoned a conventional cinema season to self-fund a round of ”special event” screenings in June followed by a fast release on video-on-demand (VOD) and DVD just a month later.
Rather than a traditional cinema season of up to 20 cinemas, Rosen is staking $200,000 in advertising to tap the potential of iTunes, Foxtel, BigPond, Apple TV and other similar services.
Director Sarah Spillane’s gritty debut film, which has Ricci as an American teacher who introduces Shakespeare to the Aboriginal students at Redfern High School, had an encouraging reception at the Toronto International Film Festival last September.
Shot in Sydney on a $2 million budget, it also stars Hunter Page-Lochard (The Sapphires) as a student from a troubled family who wants to be an actor and Thompson as the school’s headmaster.
Rosen says the market has ”dramatically changed” since another film dealing with contemporary indigenous life, Samson & Delilah, took $3.2 million in cinemas five years ago.
In specialty cinemas, such as the Palace and Dendy chains and independents, Australian films have to compete with an increasing number of mainstream movies, festivals and screenings of theatre, opera and ballet productions.
”It’s always been tough for Australian films but now it’s really, really, really tough,” Rosen says.
”The traditional [model] of theatrical [release] then DVD, then pay television is broken. It doesn’t work for us.
”Anybody who invests in Australian film is losing money on that model, unless it does major sales overseas.”
While The Railway Man and Wolf Creek 2 have had strong results opening in more than 200 of the country’s 2000-odd cinemas in recent months, other Australian films have struggled to get a decent release.
Rosen backed away from a conventional release for Around The Block when cinema operators baulked at a faster-than-normal release on VOD and DVD.
”We said we’ll lose money if we do it in a traditional way and only go out in 10 or 20 screens.
”We have to try this other model. If we ever want to see any real money back from this film, we need to make it available to people whichever way they want to get it.”
Around The Block will follow The Turning in having special event screenings that include Q&A sessions with the director and cast – minus Ricci – at half a dozen cinemas around the country.
”We’re having to four-wall the movie ourselves,” Rosen says. ”So we’re paying to put it into cinemas, have an audience come to it and build up the word-of-mouth.”
The film reaches cinemas on June 16 and, after an advertising campaign, it will go out to the home entertainment audience on July 16.
”We’ve decided that instead of spending to promote the theatrical release, we’re going to spend to promote the VOD and DVD release.”
Rosen says research and the reception at festivals suggests the film has an audience, especially among women aged 35-plus and young people who are more likely to download than go to cinemas.
”We’re saying let’s see if we advertise in that VOD space, can we get 100,000 or 200,000 people to download it? If they do that and a download on iTunes is $7.99, suddenly you’ve got $1.5 million, which is a good result.”
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Christina Ricci, best known for her early role as Wednesday Addams in The Addams Family, has made a long career out of playing dark characters. “I think unhappy, complex people make the most interesting characters to play,” Ricci said.
In her latest film, Ricci plays Lizzie Borden, the woman infamously acquitted of the murder of both her father and stepmother in the 1980s. Lizzie Borden Took an Ax originally aired on Lifetime earlier this year and is coming out on DVD Tuesday, April 8.
During a recent chat with the 34-year-old actress, Ricci discussed the fascination around Lizzie Borden, growing up in front of the camera and why she can’t wait for Game of Thrones to come back on TV.
Why do you think there’s such a fascination around Lizzie Borden’s story?
Well, it was one of the first real tabloid, sensational trials in our country. So I think it left an impact, definitely, because it was such a huge scandal at the time. And also, she was found not guilty. Everyone sort of had the impression that she was guilty, but the fact that she went free led to the story having a certain amount of infamy.
What do you think would happen if this story took place today?
[Laughs] I don’t know, I can’t remember all of the specifics. I would imagine they would have been able to gather more evidence to exactly who committed these crimes, and if it was indeed her, I think the evidence would have been damning and would have led to her conviction.
In the movie Lizzie kills one of her parents in the nude. How did you prepare for the nude scenes?
Well, they weren’t going to show anything [laughs], so I wasn’t too worried about it. Also, it’s not really a movie about how good you look, so I didn’t really think about it.
Was your preparation for the role more psychological then—getting into Lizzie Borden’s mind?
Yeah, I spent most of my time on this movie figuring out where she would have been. She’s a very deceptive character and there’s so many layers, it’s natural to look for what your character’s truth is. But with her, there’s layer upon layer of deception: the truth she’s trying to convince people of, that she maybe knows, maybe she’s one of those people who’s able to convince herself. There’s so much ambiguity to the character that I spent most of my time sort of grappling with those sort of questions on a scene-by-scene basis.
You’ve taken a lot of dark roles throughout your career, what draws you to them?
I think that unhappy—dare I say unhappy?—complex people make the most interesting characters to play. They’re the most proactive people; they’re the people who get themselves into the most trouble. Happy, settled, contented people don’t really do much. They don’t have a lot of motivation to go out. A lot of stuff doesn’t happen. I think [dark roles] provide the stories. They end up in the most interesting situations for a character, at least for me.
You’ve been acting since you were a child. What was it like growing up in front of the camera?
You know, it was a very different time than it is now. I was able to sort of have my life feel like I wasn’t any different than anyone else. I didn’t open up magazines and see myself in pictures on the street and there was no internet when I was younger, so it was very different. I look at kids who are growing up today and I just can’t imagine what that feels like. So for me, it just felt like anyone else’s childhood really. I know it was vastly different, but I didn’t really know anything else.
Is there anything you wish you’d known as a kid when you started out?
The industry changes every year. It changes and the rules change, what people value changes, and it’s a very material kind of a thing. And I think a great thing to know is that you never know and you have to always be open to… you might not know exactly what’s going on at any time or how things work. I think like anybody else, in this industry or not, when you’re young, you don’t really have any foresight. You forget that the things you do will follow you forever. There are some things I did when I was younger—things I said in the press and stuff—that I probably would have told myself to just be quiet.
One of the roles you’re most remembered for is Wednesday Addams in The Addams Family. Did you ever find it hard as an actor to shake that image?
No, I think that I’ve been very lucky that none of these images or impressions I’ve left on people have been bad ones really. People love Wednesday, but I would love that character too, so I’ve never really attempted to shake any of the stuff. I’ve always been very lucky to have characters that people really love. I think about some people that can’t shake really bad images and I’m glad I avoided them.
Do you ever see one of your old movies or shows on TV?
I do. I don’t watch them, but I see that they’re on there.
Ever since Pan Am went off the air, people have really missed you on TV! Do you have any plans to do another show?
Yeah! I’m completely open to TV and movies. I have some stuff in development, so we’ll see what happens with that.
You’re a fan of The Voice and CeeLo Green. What do you think of the singers this season, and of his decision not to come back?
Oh, that’s just silly stuff I write on my Twitter. [Laughs] I don’t really have any serious comments on any of that stuff. I do like the show and think it’s very entertaining.
What are some of your favorite shows?
I’m really excited that Veep is coming back on the air. I really love that show. And Game of Thrones is coming back on, which is very exciting. I’ve missed the show so much I started reading the books, so I know what happens in the book. But the show can be different than TV if they stray from the original story.
Based on Twitter, you’re also a big Prince fan. What would you do if you ever met him?
That’s more like I saw Purple Rain and thought it would be really funny if Prince was my buddy, my little pal. I don’t think I’d ever want to meet him though, because I enjoy what I have going on in my mind. But I would like to be in a place and witness Prince. I hear he doesn’t actually talk to people, that he talks through people, which I think is amazing. I wish I could get away with that.
Today, Christina Ricci celebrates her 34th birthday! Confessions of Christina Ricci wants to wish Christina an amazing day today!
Christina Ricci clearly relished the chance to star in Lifetime’s upcoming movie Lizzie Borden Took an Axe, and while most peoples’ knowledge of the famous alleged murderer is limited to the childhood rhyme, it turns out her backstory is just as interesting as you might expect. Christina stopped by our LA studios to explain the movie’s surprising nude scene and talk about the Internet craze she inadvertently launched with a recent Instagram picture. Catch Christina in Lizzie Borden Took an Axe when it premieres on Sunday, Jan. 25.
The warm and articulate Christina Ricci sits down with Chris to talk about growing up in the media, being an unintentional meme generator, challenges women face in entertainment and how to cultivate an IDGAF attitude!
Watch Christina in Lizzie Borden Took an Axe, this Saturday January 25th at 8pm on Lifetime!
You can watch Christina Ricci appearing on the talk show “Jimmy Kimmel Live” in the two videos below!