LOS ANGELES: Following a trend of independent movie marketing successes from My Big Fat Greek Wedding to Passion of The Christ, an unusual documentary-drama hybrid is finding success with a New Age niche marketing campaign.
The film, What tHe #$*! Do wE (k)now!? (called What the Bleep by fans), is a mix of New Age spirituality, molecular biology, and quantum physics, combined with the story of an angry deaf photographer played by Marlee Matlin. The unlikely story has garnered significant box-office success based only on a grassroots effort by the three filmmakers.
"We took the film to a certain target market that we knew would do well," explained Bleep director Mark Vicente.
The film opened in Yelm, Washington, in February, a tiny town where the three filmmakers attend a spiritual school run by J.Z. Knight, a woman who claims to channel an ancient warrior spirit called Ramtha. The film quickly moved to theaters in New Age enclaves from Oregon to Arizona.
The filmmakers filled theaters by holding "seeding screenings" in advance of its debut in each city with community influentials such as staff at New Age bookstores, as well as holding events such as Q&A sessions.
The movie has had such solid box-office acceptance in each of its stops that some theaters have run it for up to 17 weeks. Distributor Samuel Goldwyn/ Roadside Attractions has picked it up for a wider release on 150 East Coast screens this fall.
"The filmmakers have done a really outstanding job in the grassroots arena," said Samuel Goldwyn Films president Myer Gottlieb. He added that his company intends to continue the existing campaign, and also aim for a broader appeal.
"We're going to blend the grassroots and traditional marketing approach, not ignoring the niche audience, but also reaching out to the more traditional audience," he said.