Radius-TWC co-president Tom Quinn told me Wednesday night’s Los Angeles Film Festival opener Snowpiercer is going to have a unique rollout when it launches against formidable competition, Transformers: Age Of Extinction, on June 27. Although that sounds like a suicide mission for another action-oriented picture, Quinn, speaking at the after-party, calls his film from Korean director Bong Joon-ho an “intelligent tentpole” made for a thinking audience who likes its thrills delivered with smarts. He says they will open in 10 markets and follow up the next week on about 150 screens. That’s chump change for the opening Paramount plans for Transformers, but Quinn and co-president Jason Janego were pumped by the LA Fest response and hope to gain attention with a series of premieres, including train trips (for a film that’s set on the ultimate train trip) to Seattle, San Francisco and Austin, plus four separate premieres across New York state. “And when this film, which only could have been made by Bong Joon-ho, opens on the 27th, the only place you will be able to see it in America is on a theater screen,” he said, emphasizing that the company — an offshoot of The Weinstein Company, which opens most of its films day-and-date with VOD — will not be making it instantly available for home viewing. “We are plotting a surprising and different way of opening this film,” he said while not committing to any specific date as to when it actually will be available on VOD.
I would guess the VOD date won’t lag too far behind, but Quinn clearly wants to get the word out first that this is a big-screen experience. You might recall that Radius released its Oscar-winning documentary Twenty Feet From Stardom theatrically first and that worked out, as it became the top docu at the 2013 box office before hitting home screens.
After seeing the film, which also played the Berlin Film Festival, and which Harvey Weinstein pre-bought and later turned over to his Radius team (Quinn had worked with the director on The Host and Mother), I can say if ever there was a big-screen must-see, it’s this riveting story of the last humans alive after Earth is completely frozen-over and humanity wiped out — except for a few riding aboard a train that never stops and has every conceivable level of class, from its tail section to its super engine, as it continuously circles what’s left of the world. Although it is dark, grimy and claustrophobic, the director clearly knows how to make a classic train picture and his superb cast includes a hilarious Tilda Swinton, chewing the scenery like no one’s business, and Ed Harris in an extended cameo as the Master of this particular world. Both turned up for what was billed as the pic’s U.S. premiere.