You just can’t keep a good viral marketing campaign down.
The release of “The Electric Daisy Carnival Experience,” briefly scrapped after a premiere-night flash mob on Hollywood Boulevard caused most of the 500-plus theaters that had booked the film as a one-off event to pull out last month, is on track to platform in 80 locations across the U.S. through September, opening in 25 theaters mainly in the West on Sept. 15-16. Over the succeeding two weeks, another 55 theaters are skedded to screen the pic about the titular Los Angeles born-and-bred rave dance festival, which will then play at large-scale clubs, taking things to their logical, neo-Club 54-style roots.
Though the aggregate numbers don’t look as impressive, the new, targeted release includes locations in Los Angeles and San Francisco, Seattle, Texas, Florida, Washington, D.C., and key urban areas around the U.S., and with repeat bookings, may play to as many of the film’s core fans as the original scheme, according to the pic’s promoters. An event screening is being planned in New York later in the month.
Any way you look at it, there’s a lot of hustle in this dance.
In 2000, Pasquale Rotella of Insomniac, which founded Electric Daisy Carnival, and Kevin Kerslake, founder of the film’s co-producer, Manifest, agreed it would be a good idea to document the festival, which was growing each year on the back of the burgeoning worldwide electronic music craze. The project coalesced in 2010 around that year’s event at the Los Angeles Coliseum. By January 2011, Kerslake had put together a rough cut, and Lions – gate had signed on for international TV rights, with Ultra Records backing DVD.
But the producers also wanted to explore a theatrical release. And money was tight.
Kerslake turned to exec producer Ed Bates, who was already working with Manifest on the distribution of Douglas Freel’s docu “Fix,” a bizarre look behind the scenes of the world tour of metalhead band Ministry (which is booking theaters for a late-September release). Bates took a look at the juice around EDC — an email list of more than 100,000, with millions of fans worldwide connected by social media to the most popular DJ’s of electronic music — and saw the makings of a low-cost marketing plan.
“Here is a massive movement where we can apply all the things we’ve learned over the past few years (on ‘Fix’),” Bates remembers thinking. “You need an engaged audience that on a viral level is very active.”
The original plan leveraged social media, including Insomniac’s Electric Daisy Facebook page and artists’ websites, as well as ticket giveaways via satellite radio, and cross-promotions with strategic partners like record companies Ultra and Astralwerks and events like the Identity Fest — all of it adding up to an email list for the pic’s promoters that reached into the millions, with a similar number of unique Internet impressions for the film’s trailers.
By May, a distribution deal was struck with event programmer NCM Fathom for a 530-screen release, and the next month, Manifest closed a deal for $200,000 in finishing funds.
A July 27 Hollywood premiere intended to serve Manifest’s strategy to have the film and event feed off each other was to be the cherry on top. Cameras were filming the preem in front of the Chinese Theater, with the idea that the footage would be grafted onto the beginning of the existing film to further the feel of a living, breathing happening, and to place the film’s auds, by extension, on the red carpet.
DJ Kaskade, one of the featured spinners in the film, had flown in from across the Pond, where he was celebrating his wedding anniversary with his wife, Naomi. Slated to entertain an intimate crowd at the nearby Supper Club as well as the people who had gathered outside the Chinese, Kaskade was still in a party mood when he tweeted his 90,000 followers: “Me+Big Speakers+Music=Block Party!!!”
As a sign of the double-edged nature of viral campaigns and the instant interactivity afforded by social media, a few thousand of Kaskade’s closest friends showed up, blocking Hollywood Boulevard to traffic. The LAPD soon arrived, and deemed the whole swelling, dancing, planking scene a riot.
While police made only three arrests, the notoriety, coupled with the Ecstacy overdose of a teenager at the 2010 Electric Daisy Carnival at the Coliseum, has put the festival under the kind of microscope that Woodstock, for instance (which suffered two deaths), averted by not becoming a yearly event. That was enough for theater chains Regal, AMC and Cinemark, all part of the NCM Fathom release plan, to cancel their involvement and force Manifest to develop plan B.
“There’s still a lot of demand for this movie, and the demographics are incredible,” Bates maintains. “Seventy-five percent of the audience is under 25, and the rest is under 30.”
Factor in the massively wide releases and short play windows for many Hollywood films, and Kaskade himself might tweet: “Empty Midweek Theaters+Young Demographics+Rave Movie=No Brainer!!!”
Still, there is damage control to consider. Radio stations had given out more than 5,000 tickets to the earlier screenings. Make-goods are being worked out in line with the new release scheme. And while Fathom has pulled back, the new sked may bump up against screens in some cities that originally had programmed the pic through the company. In other words, compromise and a degree of uncertainty are still on the dance card.
So, of course, is continuing to go viral.
Bates notes that in advance of the September release, Manifest has partnered with top electronic music blog thissongissick.com, ensuring the pic’s trailer is promoted on a site that gets 350,000 unique views per day.
And at the beginning of October, Omniverse will launch a 500-theater foreign release plan, and Lionsgate Intl. TV will begin sales, which include plans for two more pics.
As for the viability — and safety — of the film in a large venue? “Electric Daisy” screened Aug. 19 at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles as part of a Live Nation event, sold 500 tickets at $15 a pop in three days, and played to a boisterous yelling, clapping — and dancing — crowd.
“And they want the film back,” Bates says.