Before I forget, I wanted to mention that there’s an article detailing how the money came together for The Last Lullaby in the latest print issue of MovieMaker Magazine (Spring 2009 edition, with Seth Rogen and Anna Faris on the cover). For those of you who want to take a look, the issue is available at most Barnes & Nobles, Borders and newsstands—or you can order it online.
Okay, now on to week three of our national release…
How honest am I supposed to be? Am I supposed to figure out a way to spin to you that every week we’re on a course of upward mobility? That it’s just getting better and better as every week passes? Well, I’m not going to do that. I don’t want to mislead and certainly don’t want anyone following our model, saying, “But, Jeffrey said…”
Look, it’s rough out there. It’s no coincidence that most movies chunk huge amounts of money in their first weekend and are rarely on screens for more than a few weeks. We’re no longer living in the late 1970s/early 1980s, when movies would hang out there for 30 or 40 weeks—and maybe even increase their weekly grosses in some of those later weeks. The midnight movie, the slow build, the cult film… those are outdated terms for another time and place. We’re living in the era of instant consumption, and that’s a fact.
What we’re doing with The Last Lullaby—going city to city, slowly, taking the long tail approach—has never been the norm. But it sucks so badly out there right now for independent movies that I really don’t see any other option.
So where are things?
Well, week #1 we did gangbuster business and ended up as the independent movie with the second highest per screen average in North America. Last week, our second week overall and first week in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, we did enough business for us to come out $2 ahead—a victory, really. But now this past week, reality struck.
So what happened? Hard to say. We were in Davenport, Iowa and received pretty significant publicity. We were on the front page of the entertainment section of the daily newspaper the Sunday before we opened. And we were on several TV stations. But still, the audiences were much smaller than I had expected. In fact, I thought we would easily do three to four times the business we ended up doing our opening weekend in Davenport.
I don’t think I’ll end up losing much—if any—money in Davenport. But it’s really given me some pause as we move to the next city. I need to continue revising and revamping, looking at what works and what doesn’t. There will probably be other cities like this one, where for one reason or another things just don’t quite work out the way that I had expected. But, truth be told, if I have too many more Davenports, The Last Lullaby will not be playing at a theater near you.
So, what can I take from this past week?
1. No matter how well I prepare, some weeks just will not work out.
2. I didn’t have a street team in advance in Davenport, and that probably didn’t help our cause.
3. Having our movie at a first-run theater that’s also showing Star Trek and Angels & Demons probably isn’t the right fit. We need to be either at an arthouse or a second-run theater where we can kinda compete with the big boys/girls. Otherwise, we’re in a place with two or three other movies, each with advertising budgets about 4,000 percent bigger than ours. And I don’t know about you, but something tells me we’re probably not gonna win that one.
Next week, I’ve got high hopes as we head back to Shreveport, Louisiana (my hometown) for a one-week run at the Robinson Film Center.
In the words of Mike Tyson, “The thing that separates the strong from the weak all boils down to how you react after that first punch to the face.”
After living in Los Angeles for seven years, Jeffrey Goodman returned to his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana to direct The Last Lullaby. Co-written by the creator of Road to Perdition, and starring Tom Sizemore and Sasha Alexander, The Last Lullaby was filmed entirely in and around Shreveport and financed by 48 local investors.