Marketing isn't Everything
As of the first of the year, the film has only grossed $150,000, partly due to a very limited release (only 8 screens initially) and partly due to the lack of crowds at the cinemas where it was released. Pre-screening reviews were good, but that was before the film was finished. When it made it to the cinema, the reviews were poor at best - some of them were bloody cruel, but then it is a bloody film. Fans seem to love it, though - or at least the online reviews suggest this.
There has been a lot of comparison with The Rocky Horror Picture Show which also did poorly in its initial release. But today, that film has garnered $139,876,417, mostly due to a cult fan base that will go to see it whenever it's in town. The most recent releases of Repo seem to be trying to generate this same sort of cult following, using a traveling show to tour the country.
What have they done? Well, if you look at Google News for anything to do with the film, you'll find there is something in the press nearly every day since the first of the year. The amount of stead press coverage is unbelievable. Local papers will cover the event when the touring show comes to town and as a result national magazines continue to run articles about the film. Most of this kind of advertising is free - the best kind.
Now the film is coming out on DVD. The hope is the hype will generate a flurry of DVD sales. During the road shows they were even so bold as to ask people to not download the film from the internet as they really need to see a profit from the DVD sales. Yes, film piracy hurts the industry, but this sort of bold admission leads me to believe they are getting desperate. Their fans are the kinds of people who are internet savvy and likely will download copies of the film, even more so now that the film makers look frantic for funds.
Repo is still a long ways away from breaking even - and an even farther distance from being anywhere close to the cult hit of Rocky Horror. Kudos to the marketing crew for Repo. They have done an outstanding job. It's just not enough to save the film.