The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
on entertainment and media

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Kevin Smith will do anything, and we mean anything, to sell 'Red State'

January 21, 2011 | 11:44 am

Kevin_smith You can take the barker away from the carnival, but I guess you can't ever suck the carny instincts out of Kevin Smith's brain. For years, the burly filmmaker who catapulted to indie fame with "Clerks" has played the press like a drum, stirring up all sorts of controversies (and making clever use of podcasts and Twitter feeds) to promote his movies and his brand.

But times have been hard for Smith lately, with his recent films taking it on the chin at the box office. So you kind of knew that when he headed off to Sundance this year to sell his new horror film, "Red State," he'd pull a gimmick out of his hat. Sure enough, that's what's happened. According to this post from Variety, Smith will conduct a live auction of the film after its first public showing Sunday night at the Eccles Center. Buyers will have to bid for the picture in front of a live audience -- which, just to make things even more chaotic, will include protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church, whose leader is apparently portrayed as a crazed and murderous religious zealot in the film. 

Smith merrily describes the film as "an 'angel worship' movie, where the killers aren't worshippers but God worshippers to some degree. It's about America's dark [expletive] heart." I'm sure a wonderful media circus will unfold, since it's almost impossible to make a cold-eyed assessment of a bloody horror film screened before an audience guaranteed to be crazed Smith zealots. Variety's story, which reads like a Smith press release, also notes that Smith's producers and sales agents already have allowed distributors to make sight-unseen pre-screening pitches to help his team gauge potential interest in the film.

I'm not saying Smith is deluded, but in one of his podcasts, he speculated that if the film played as well a "Godfather" or "Godfather 2," he was hoping for a $6-million to $8-million sale. Yeah, right. Call me a cynic, but I'm betting that in the end, we won't see anything resembling an actual finalized deal happening in public in front of a noisy gaggle of Smith fans. It will happen, if it happens at all, like all film deals happen, in a boring private haggling session in someone's condo, far from the madding crowd.

-- Patrick Goldstein

Photo: Kevin Smith at the premiere of his 2010 film "Cop Out" in New York. Credit: Peter Kramer / Associated Press