May 19, 2024

Media Decoder: It Came Out of the Viral Media Swamp

Bubble Factory Poster for the film “Creature,” coming in September.

LOS ANGELES — It seems fair to ask why Sidney J. Sheinberg, 76 years old and long retired as president of MCA Inc., the erstwhile parent of Universal Pictures, spent much of last May tromping through the swamps of Louisiana with the crew of a little monster movie called “.”

“If you put me under sodium pentothal, I’d have to conclude I was doing it to be sure I could still do it,” said Mr. Sheinberg, who spoke last week by telephone from Washington, where he was out of the mud and doing public advocacy work with the group Human Rights Watch, of which he is a vice chairman.

But Mr. Sheinberg isn’t done with the monster. Having proved he could still produce a horror movie — he was the executive who thought “,” from a young
Steven Spielberg, was a good idea — Mr. Sheinberg has decided to go one better by distributing it himself through the Bubble Factory, a production company he started 16 years ago with his sons, Jon and Bill.

Do-it-yourself wasn’t Mr. Sheinberg’s first thought for the film, which is directed by Fred Andrews and stars, among others, Sid Haig, a horror veteran whose credits include “,” “Kill Bill: Vol. 2,” and “.”

Mr. Sheinberg said he had tried to negotiate distribution by a studio, which he declined to identify, but had been rebuffed. An executive told him the schedule was full, he said, and besides, there was no place for films that were likely to take in less than $50 million. “He couldn’t work for me, I’ll tell you that,” Mr. Sheinberg said.

Rather than take an offer from a smaller company, Mr. Sheinberg and his sons decided to show the big guys how to handle a small film by releasing “Creature” themselves. Working directly with theater chains like Regal, AMC and Cinemark, they expect to put the film on as many as 2,000 screens in September. Jon Sheinberg, who has learned from past projects how to orchestrate guerrilla marketing through ticketing services like and horror sites like, said he is confident that “Creature” can be opened without conventional print and television ads, on a combined production and marketing investment that his father put at less than $10 million.

As for the monster, Sidney Sheinberg declined to say much, except that he will have more shock value than cultural importance. “To market this too seriously,” he said, “would be an act of stupidity I hope I’m not capable of.”

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