Most DIY distributors would love to be in Edward Bates' position: He's a first-time distributor who's handling a film with an enormous, passionate and plugged-in fanbase. He has theaters selling out before the film even opens.
There's one problem: Audiences are so eager to see Kevin Kerslake's "Electric Daisy Carnival Experience," a documentary about the culture of electronic dance music, that theaters are scared to screen it.
"I thought I'd put together an artful release for a small documentary," said Bates.
That was before last Wednesday, when one of the film's subjects, DJ Kaskade, inadvertently turned the film's Hollywood Blvd. premiere into a full-fledged debacle. His well-meaning but ill-advised Tweet (“ME+BIG SPEAKERS+MUSIC=BLOCK PARTY!!!”) turned into a frenzy of fans. The cops showed up; kids jumped on police cars; cops responded with riot gear.
The next day, Regal and AMC theaters put on their own riot gear by pulling their planned Aug. 4 releases.
Bates persevered. ("We have to get our investors their money back.") And on August 1, he put out a press release announcing that the film would be released Aug. 4 in 250 theaters in 95 markets.
A few hours after that release hit inboxes Monday afternoon, nearly 80 percent of those screens were gone.
"We lost Cinemark," Bates said. The Dallas-based theater chain pulled out after a number of local media reports pointed out that two people died in June at the Electric Daisy Carnival rave in Dallas' Fair Park.
At this writing, Bates estimates that he's down to 55-60 theaters. "We went from 50 theaters in California to three," he said. "I've had better weeks."
He still has plenty of reason for optimism: The dropout theaters sacrificed significant advance sales.
"We have a lot of demand for our movie," said Bates, who plans to work the phones all week in hopes of adding outlets. "This is a really strong group of kids. It could work out to our benefit."
For now, his strategy is a platform release in the form of event screenings followed by the college and midnight circuits.
Bates, a longtime independent producers, says if he could distribute "Electric Daisy" again, he'd try to get enough money to have some kind of staff. "I did it all by myself," he said.
"I'm exhausted," he said. "It's exciting." A pause. "I don't know if I'm going to do it again."
Here's the trailer: