Friday, August 8, 2008

Passage DVD Update

At last the numbers are starting to roll in, and to our relief and joy, that landscape looks very positive and reassuring.

This week was the annual LDS Bookseller's convention that takes place at the South Towne Expo Mart in Sandy, Utah. Mostly, I was at this event to publicize the release of my newest novel Eddie Fantastic. (Technically, this is a re-release of Eddie since the original version of this novel was published in the early '90s. But the newest version is so different and improved from the older version, it's hard not to think of it as a new release.) In any case, the story of the day seemed to be Passage to Zarahemla. At this convention, LDS retailers from around the world (but mostly in the US) gather for a week to rub shoulders with LDS publishers and artists. And the picture presented through various reports from my distributor and from LDS retailers were very positive indeed, and seem to indicate that the movie is performing better in their stores than any LDS-themed movie that has been released since 2004. (There is one exception that had a budget seven times as large as ours, but with all the advertising spent, and eventual blowback (units returned) on that title, the perception is that this "exception" film was a disappointment for retailers.) What I received from LDS retailers was a heart-felt "thank you." And one was so bold as to say "Thanks for making us a lot of money this slow summer!" Generally I am somewhat skeptical of praise that comes to me in person. Not many people are so brazen as to tell a writer/director to his face that his movie sucks (unlike anonymous lurkers who don't hesitate to do so on the web). But when such reports enthusiastically mention specifics from the film, I might accept their comments more readily.

I realize that some might wonder who would even care about this kind of aggrandizing update, but I get so many emails from fans asking me how the movie is "doing"--perhaps as a result of the obsession that so many Americans feel for "box office"--that I felt some kind of a report on the DVD's retail journey was warrented. Yes, we're tooting our own horn. And proudly.

For the last 10 weeks the Passage DVD has been the top-selling movie for Deseret Book (check out their website!) and Seagull, as might be expected, but we also got a glowing report from Wal-Mart, who expressed sincere pleasure with the performance of the DVD in the approximately 40-50 outlets that sell the product in Utah. Though the initial placement was light, (it is the off-season, after all, and what with uncertainly about the economy, etc., etc.) our re-orders seem to be brisk from independent LDS retailers. Several major outlets have also sold through most of their stock and are expected to reorder. Also, certain vendors who were skeptical in the beginning have now started to get into the act, including Hollywood Video. Prior to this, the DVD was only available for rent at Blockbuster. And we personally started receiving many complaints--that's right; customers were complaining to us, the filmmakers!--that the DVD never seemed to be on the rental shelves. No worries. Hollywood Video will jump in the fray as early as next week. (For a while we'll likely avoid Redbox. I know, I know. Many of us have grown addicted to one dollar rentals. But we need to wait for a while, as the producers of Singles Second Ward did, so we don't undermine our other retailers who frankly offer a better wholesale cost.)

The result of all this for us, the producers, has been a collective sigh of relief. It seemed so odd and curious at the very outset of the DVD's release that there were numerous bad and so-so reveiws from various bloggers. Though I'm sure many of these were from genuine, honest-hearted saints who simply thought the movie stank, many others seemed to be from "fringe" Mormons, or anti-Mormons, who viscerally wanted to believe that there was no such thing as a "good" LDS film, never would be, and that all LDS filmmakers should give up the quest. Some of the initial condemnation from such reviewers might have been expected for a movie that unapologetically celebrates LDS doctrine, but in the end, sincere appreciation seems to have won out and the number of positive reviews now seems to far outnumber the negatives. I'll offers some links. Unfortunately, links to some of my favorite reviews are no longer working. Oh well. Here's some samples:

http://queenoftheclan.blogspot.com/2008/07/blog-tour-passage-to-zarhemla-movie.html
http://randomanna.blogspot.com/2008/06/there-shall-be-no-title.html
http://teachinfourth.blogspot.com/2008/06/my-friend-chris.html
http://www.lds.net/forums/lds-movies/12167-passage-zarahemla.html
http://toddlillywhite.blogspot.com/2008/06/passage-to-zarahemla.html
http://dictionarylexicon.blogspot.com/2008/06/june-23rd-2008.html
http://loraleeevansauthor.blogspot.com/2008/07/passage-to-zarahemla.html
http://rusandbren.blogspot.com/2008/07/happy-24th.html

So what does all this mean??? Nuthin' much. Just that the movie has been worthwhile to certain viewers. Now, by focusing only on the positive, some bloggers love to point out arrogance and overconfidence. So I'll also admit that there are reviews you can find that focus on "cheesiness" or "too much violence" or "plotholes." I believe all of those things are in this movie for many viewers. But we hope as time passes that we are most recognized for the sheer achievement. Namely, the most ambitious LDS movie to date on several levels, and a hearty attempt to introduce fantasy and adventure to the LDS consumers.

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8 comments:

Three Coin Productions said...

Great update, Chris. Congrats on the incoming re-orders. The DVD should pave the way for future LDS releases. Hopefully this can be a turning point for LDS Cinema.

queendecoupage said...

The blockbuster thing is true, the one in west jordan only have like 5 copies, 1 was damaged, 2 were kept by the customers, so there is only 2 avail to rent and they were never there! Congrats on the good update! I know have laughed at some of the reviews I have seen on this movie, people come up with some crazy things! Now is walmart selling it just in utah? or the entire country?

Chris Heimerdinger said...

Most Blockbusters averaged around 14 copies as far as we could tell. And yes, it was vastly underordered based on many reports. But hey, they had it exclusively for more than two months!

Wal-mart, I believe is only local. Wasatch Front. Utah. Maybe southern Idaho, but I'm not certain.

Chris

queendecoupage said...

you should check on that, I believe LDS films would do so much better if they can touch all LDS around this country not just utah and idaho....When I lived in tampa many years ago the only deseret book store was in orlando which was almost 2 hours away..and now it is no longer there..so walmart would reach more LDS countrywide.

The blockbuster here is down to only 5 copies lol people kept it.

Chris Heimerdinger said...

We would love to get into more retail outlets of Wal-mart or other stores than just those in Utah or in heavily populated Mormon areas. But even in a store as large as a Wal-mart, space is limited. There was an effort, I believe to put an LDS "section" in Wal-marts throughout the country when the first and second "Work and the Glory" came out. This effort failed miserably and hundreds of thousands of the first "Work and Glory" movie were sent back to the distributor unsold. So what you say, sadly, is really not true. There are not enough Latter-day Saints outside of the mountain west, and probably not even outside Utah, to support LDS movies or other products in general retail outlets or rental stores. It's been tried. It failed. Very sad.

queendecoupage said...

lol Just because "chinese-walmart" won't carry LDS selection elsewhere does not mean there are not a big population of LDS members out there..it just means that the research has not been done for this. I am from florida and although we dont have a church in every corner we do have a lot of members there. You have to understand that with the internet Members just go online for it..they are used to this since no LDS store is around..Walmart just chose not to do this because then they wil have to cater to Jehovah witness, or jews or catholics and they did not wanted to be seem as bias..I don't think it had anything to do with with profits for them.

queendecoupage said...

hahaha did you just called me a liar? :P

Chris Heimerdinger said...

Liar? No sweet queen. :) Just mistaken in your belief that Wal-mart would do well with LDS products outside of regions with a heavy LDS population. Besides, the LDS bookstores (especially mom and pop store), who are already miffed at LDS publishers for selling to local Wal-marts, might stage a riot. They have a tough time surviving with the business that they already get.