BUFFY creator Joss Whedon has the biggest film in the country right now, but not even the mega-success of his The Avengers, which has taken almost $40 million locally in two weeks, was enough to get his 2009 horror flick The Cabin in the Woods into cinemas.
The Cabin in the Woods - Trailer
Five friends go to a remote cabin in the woods. Bad things happen.
But that has changed thanks to a social media campaign that has pressured distributor Roadshow into giving the $30 million film a theatrical release at last - albeit a limited one.
The Cabin in the Woods was originally slated for a wide release in February 2010, before the collapse of Hollywood studio MGM sent it into limbo. Last month, it finally made its debut in American cinemas. It has also been released theatrically in the UK and across much of Europe.
It has taken an unspectacular $US53 million ($A52.6 million) to date, which perhaps is why Village Roadshow ditched the local July release date and decided on a straight-to-DVD release instead. Until, that is, Australian fans began bombarding the company's Facebook page with pleas to change the strategy … or else. From late April, hundreds of devoted Whedon fans began posting. ''For the love of Joss release it theatrically or TELL US WHY!'' one fan wrote.
"Don't release Cabin in the Woods. Suffer the wrath of a VERY LOYAL fanbase, who will boycott your company and buy the DVD from the UK (or else, just pirate it). It’s up to you, Roadshow! Make the right choice!" wrote another.
Robert Woods, a 26-year-old film editor from Perth, was moved enough to start a petition on change.org and to create a video for YouTube using the film's trailer and highlighting the fact the film stars Australian actor Chris Hemsworth - a star on the rise thanks to Thor and The Avengers - and Kiwi actress Anna Hutchison.
"A movie perfectly marketable to an Australian and New Zealand audience," Woods says in a faux American voiceover.
"So, why aren't Roadshow releasing it theatrically here? That’s just one of the mysteries behind The Cabin in the Woods."
On May 3, Roadshow bowed to the pressure and announced it would release the film in a single cinema in Melbourne (the Nova) and Sydney (the Chauvel). The film will also screen at the Astor in St Kilda, Melbourne, on July 6.
"Your response has been overwhelming," the company said in a statement. "Thank you for being so passionate about The Cabin In The Woods."
Yesterday, the distributor confirmed that Adelaide and Brisbane would see the film too, and Perth was expected to be confirmed within days. It will release nationally on June 14.
Woods said he was ecstatic that this small manifestation of people power had had its desired impact.
"It's the most political thing I've ever done in my life," he said. "I want the first time I watch the film to be with a big crowd, going through the experience with me."
A delighted Kristian Connelly, general manager of Cinema Nova, offered an insight into why Roadshow had baulked it releasing it cinematically.
"In Australia the horror market is not what it is in the United States," he said.
"There's a lot of hunger for horror in the African-American and Latino audiences in the US and that doesn't exist here."
Generally, he said, horror films do about a third of the business in Australia that other genre films do. And given Cabin's modest take in the US, that simply wasn't enough to justify a wide roll-out.
"But if it were to absolutely obliterate all preconceived notions and Roadshow came calling to do a wide release we'd be willing to negotiate," he said.
"We just want what's best for the film."