By Paula Bernstein | Indiewire February 28, 2014 at 1:19PM
There's been a lot of talk recently about the glut of indie films being distributed and the increased competition for screens and audiences. But through an innovative release strategy via Philadelphia-based digital distributor Specticast, the new documentary "As the Palaces Burn," about heavy metal band Lamb of God, will screen in over 400 theaters around the world (find out where the film is screening here).
The idea is to turn the documentary about about Lamb of God and the band's front singer Randy Blythe's manslaughter trial in the Czech Republic into a special event. The film itself follows the bizarre odyssey of Lamb of God's world tour-turned-courtroom drama with exclusive courtroom footage and candid interviews from the trial and its aftermath.
Although the doc received rave reviews out of IDFA (including from our own Eric Kohn), it didn't land any traditional distribution offers. But "As The Palaces Burn" director Don Argott was sure the audience was out there (the band has nearly four million Facebook fans, to start).
"A film like this, because there's a build-in audience with the Lamb of God fan base, it screams for a theatrical release," Argott told Indiewire. "We had reached out to a number of contacts that we had made throughout the years and gave them an advance look to see if they'd be interested in distributing it. Across the board, everybody liked the film, but heavy metal and the subject matter scares a lot of distributors because they don't know how to market it."
While searching for nontraditional distributors, they connected with SpectiCast, the Philadelphia based company that has had success with the "alternative content" screening model.
The privately held company markets and distributes 2D and 3D programs, including concert films from artists including The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin, programs from cultural arts organizations such as The Paris Opera Ballet and The Philadelphia Orchestra and specialty film programs including "SpooktiCast" horror genre program, the Women's Edge Film Series and more.
"As The Palaces Burn" is more of a narrative documentary than a concert film, but SpectiCast is confident that the film will work with the same model.
"In the past, we've done more concert videos or captured live performances than documentaries," Mark Rupp, president and COO, SpectiCast told Indiewire. "But we felt that this band in particular has a very large and loyal fan base that we knew would want to see this film with other fans, so rather than try to take it out like a traditional documentary or regular feature program, we said let's eventize this thing and market it and promote it the same way we would an opera, a ballet or even a Rolling Stones concert. Even though there's not a lot of live performances in it, the story was very compelling."
SpectiCast only requires exhibitors to screen the film one night, although some have booked it longer. The film will screen with a recently recorded, 30-minute Q&A conducted by VH1 Classics’ Eddie Trunk, that includes the entire band as well as Argott. The Q&A will be shown at all theatrical and concert venue screenings.
The company is already working on distributing another documentary, "Super Duper Alice Cooper," a documentary which screened at the Tribeca Film Festival, for which it has worldwide theatrical rights (excluding Canada and Japan).
"It's a very nontraditional distribution model for a documentary film. We think this is how a lot of documentaries or indie films should be taken out - trying to eventize them by having the personalities involved in the film participate," said Rupp, who said he expects this model to catch on.
"Taking films that otherwise would get no theatrical distribution, we're willing to take a risk on some of them and promote them as one-night event cinema or alternative content programs," he said.
Argott also believes this model could work for other films -- especially ones with a built-in fan base. " I don't think this model will work for every film, but it will work for the right film...The whole idea of the limited screenings gives it an immediacy - it's like when a band plays for one night or two nights. Either you're going to see them or you're not going to see them," he said.
Watch the official trailer to "As The Palaces Burn" here: