On Saturday night my lovely wife and I headed out into the chilly New England weather to brave the line of fans anxiously awaiting their chance to finally see Repo! The Genetic Opera on the big screen. As anyone who reads this site on a regular basis knows, this was not just some night at the multiplex because Lionsgate didn’t deem Repo! worthy of a real theatrical release. What we did get, however, was something much, much cooler.
Director Darren Bousman and co-writer/star Terrance Zdunich have been taking the film out to repertory theaters across the country for the last few weeks on the Repo! Road Tour, and the Saturday night Boston stop was the second night of the second leg of the tour. The crowd was out in droves, full costumes, and already singing entire songs from a film that, by all rights and purposes, none of them had even seen yet. ”This is every night, every stop, every single showing on the road trip,” Bousman told me when they were able to take a minute away from the fans. ”A lot of these people have been driving from town to town to see the films, too.”
It is strange to see people dressed as characters from a film that’s barely been seen, but that’s only a testament to how strong the fanbase for Repo! already is. ”We’ve got people coming out dressed as characters from the Repo men and the Blind Mags to strange, background characters like the Genetic Opera band from the end of the film,” Zdunich commented. ”Those are like the Cantina creatures from Star Wars, and it’s already happening with us. It’s very cool!”
The actual screening went extremely well. Zdunich and Bousman both made it clear when they introduced the film that the one thing they did not want was silence, and the crowd happily obliged. They were singing, cheering, throwing out AP (audience participation) lines (which didn’t work as well since most people had never seen it…). It was honestly like seeing The Rocky Horror Picture Show with its usual midnight audience, the major difference being Repo! is actually a good movie. Sorry, Rocky Horror fans.
The exuberance of the fanbase makes it even more curious as to why Lionsgate didn’t get behind the film and give it a proper release. ”The fact is we have no advertising, no promotion; unless you know what theater is playing Repo, you can’t find it.” Bousman lamented, ”We’ve been in Chicago for four different performances, almost sold every one of them out, yet we still get e-mails from fans asking when we’re coming to Chicago. There’s not a single ad, not a single way of knowing when and where this is playing unless you read it on our site, your site, or hear about it through word of mouth. Yet, you’ve got lines of people standing in the cold, wrapped around the building, dressed as characters from the film, and we’re seen by Lionsgate as a failure.”
The question had to be asked, then: Is this kind of turnout and this level of home-grown excitement showing Lionsgate that they may have been wrong? Sadly, the answer is no. ”Lionsgate has not been to a single screening of Repo in public,” Bousman revealed. ”They didn’t do the premiere, they didn’t do Fantasia, they didn’t do Fantastic Fest, they’ve not done a single night of the Road Tour, and I think that’s why they still maintain that the film is a failure.”
“Neither of us sees Lionsgate as the enemy; they just don’t understand what they have,” Zdunich clarifies. ”If they had been to any of the recording sessions or had seen any of these events, they would probably have made an effort to be a bigger part of it.”
Whether or not that is the case, the sad fact is that they haven’t been a part of Repo! other than footing the bill for it, but at least Bousman and Zdunich believe enough in the movie to get it out on the road and bring it to the fans they knew were waiting for it.
The Q&A that followed was a long one (both men had a few drinks while the film was playing) and included special guest appearances (courtesy of Bousman’s phone) by Skinny Puppy’s Ogre, who plays Pavi Largo, and Alexa Vega, who plays Shilo Wallace, which the crowd just couldn’t get enough of. They talked about the film’s inspirations, Repo’s humble beginnings as a stage musical, and what comes next.
”We think that even when the DVD comes out, the theatrical experience isn’t going to be over,” Zdunich said. ”We hope that, like Rocky Horror, people are going to want to have their night out with their fellow weirdoes for their own version of the opera where you can be weird and sing along.” In all honesty I wouldn’t be surprised if Repo! took the place of Rocky Horror in a few years time as the midnight movie sing-along spectacular, but only time will tell.
Indeed, future installments of the Repo! legacy (both a prequel and sequel are ready to go) will depend on how well the film does when it’s out on DVD on January 20th. ”We’ve already proven that we’re a tremendous success because of shows like this,” Bousman enthused. ”Outside of our blog no one hears about it, though, so that’s why it’s important people talk about the film as much as they can, spread the word of mouth.”
Zdunich concurs, ”Even if you hate the film, we just want people to talk about it, let others know it exists and that it’s significant. This is the kind of movie that you know in the first five minutes whether you love it or hate it. Even if you were that person who couldn’t stand it five minutes in, it’s still noteworthy to watch the whole thing and see where it goes.”
Where it’s going right now is down in history as the little big film that could, and hopefully once this leg and the next leg of the tour are done (yes, they’re planning a third already), we’ll hear about Lionsgate finally understanding the potential Repo! The Genetic Opera has and helping Bousman, Zdunich and the entire Repo! family bring us more from this insane new world!
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