Demonstrations more fizzle than Force
Group claims it hurt 'Superhero'As planned, "Star Wars" fans attempted to hold protests in support of Kyle Newman's unreleased "Fanboys" movie at Friday's screenings of the Weinstein Co.'s "Superhero Movie" on both coasts, but whether any substantial protest occurred is a subject of debate.
A "Star Wars" fan group known as the 501st called for fellow fans to show up at the AMC Theatres in New York and Los Angeles.
The 501st claims 14 members showed up in New York and, when confronted by two security guards, chose to go inside and pay to see "21" instead. But an AMC spokesperson said there was no protest, and a source close to the film cited a YouTube video posted Friday night showing one protester saying no one else was there. The video has since been removed by the user.
The group also claimed that more than 20 showed up at AMC's theaters in Century City and faced even more security guards who asked them to leave the mall, which was considered private property. An AMC rep said the protest was limited to one person in a Darth Vader costume on the street outside the theater. A source close to the film said eight protesters did appear, and were taken out for pizza by one of the filmmakers.
"We've been working on this movie for many years, and if someone is going to take time out of their personal life and support our film, whatever that support might be, at the very least what we can do is say thank you and buy them a couple of slices of pizza for caring abut this project as much as we do," "Fanboys" producer Matthew Perniciaro said.
"They seemed to take the term 'phantom menace' to a whole different level. I guess they weren't that organized. Apparently getting 'Star Wars' fans to give up their Friday night isn't as easy as it looks," one source said.
Organizers learned quickly that it's all about location, location, location. For Los Angeles, the group chose a mall in Century City rather than a public area. Malls are private property, and protesters can be turned away, though it's unclear how many visibly identifiable people in "Star Wars" costumes or geekwear were turned away.
"Guards were everywhere," said one protester, who declined to be named. "At one point, I counted nine, no joke. They hired a whole force, and whenever someone showed up looking around for the protest, they were surrounded by guards and told to leave instantly or be arrested. I guess you can't really hold a protest on private property." An AMC rep denied there was any showdown.
The 501st claimed victory by pointing to "Superhero Movie's" dismal performance at the boxoffice, though given the widespread publicity among the Star Wars online community and media reports, the attendance was far less than expected by even the highest estimates. Despite the fact that the Weinstein Co. received more than 300,000 e-mails from fans, a Weinstein Co. source said there were only around 3,000 e-mails addressed to 150 Weinstein employees.
"We're really not too concerned with how many people did or didn't show up at the protests," the group said. " 'Star Wars' fans showed their support for 'Fanboys' by not showing up at theaters all over the country. Our primary goal was to make sure that 'Superhero Movie' tanked on its opening weekend."
There's no way to know how the protest may have affected the movie, which opened on 2,960 screens and took in $9.5 million despite several predictions of a $14 million-$19 million bow.
"Fanboys," about four diehard "Star Wars" fans who break into George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch in order to see "The Phantom Menace" on the eve of its release, wrapped production two years ago and has been stuck in limbo as a tug-of-war between Harvey Weinstein and the filmmakers waged over competing versions of the movie. The movie, written by Ernie Cline and Adam Goldberg, stars Jay Baruchel, Kristin Bell, Dan Fogler, Sam Huntington, Christopher Marquette and Seth Rogen.
Fan group 501st organized the protests in order to spur the studio to release Newman's version theatrically.
A Weinstein spokesman declined comment.
Borys Kit reported from Los Angeles; Gregg Goldstein reported from New York.