'The Virginity Hit' strikes out
It's almost too easy to make jokes about the performance of "The Virginity Hit," Sony's foray into micro-budget raunch (with an assist from producers Will Ferrell and Adam McKay).
As in -- Q: What's the worst that can happen when you take out a low-budget sex comedy with a low-budget marketing campaign?
A: You don't get any.
Even by the standards of dismal box-office performances, the micro-budget film was a macro-size failure last weekend. The last time a major Hollywood studio tried a grass-roots campaign for a no-star film with the help of a big-name supporter, it was Paramount and Steven Spielberg, and the movie was "Paranormal Activity." The spookfest became one of the most successful low-budget films of all time.
It didn't work out quite as well last weekend. Over the past few weeks Sony has been slowly rolling out "The Virginity Hit" -- a neo-verite, gross-out tale of an awkward teenager looking to lose his virginity -- using screenings on college campuses and stealth billboard advertising.Yet all that came to naught this weekend, when the movie grossed just $300,000 on 700 screens.
Put in perspective, that's $415 per screen ... or about an average of four people in any given showing. Put in further perspective, that's one fewer person in each theater than those who came out for the opening weekend of "Twelve," the Joel Schumacher disaster from earlier this year. Perhaps the best that can be said about the Sony release is that the studio didn't spend a lot of money on the marketing campaign.
There's plenty to question here. The stealth marketing campaign sometimes seemed obscure to the point of confusion. Also, although it tries hard, the trailer doesn't exactly bring the funny. And trying to sell a new version of "American Pie' for an audience that has seen the original or one of its many DVD offshooots -- or routinely watches (or shoots) real-life gross-out sketches -- seems like the epitome of redundancy.
On top of that, low-budget comedies aren't low-budget horror movies, which historically have felt like events, not a sketch that got lost on the way on the way to a viral-video site.
One hopes this failure doesn't drag down our perception of all low-budget relationship films (an upcoming improvised number called "The Freebie" manages to prove that quality isn't measured by budget decimal places; more on that film in a later post). But maybe what one should really hope is that the next time someone wants to make a low-budget sex comedy, they make sure that Oz and Stifler didn't get there first.
— Steven Zeitchik
Photo: The Virginity Hit. Credit: Sony Pictures.
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