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As he weathers his own personal storm over Rust, Alec Baldwin’s disaster film Supercell hit video-on-demand and opened in a smattering of independent cinemas with little fanfare over the March 17-19 weekend. A star like Baldwin can be a distributor’s biggest asset in the cash-strapped indie world where marketing money quickly evaporates. In this case, however, Baldwin has not done any press for the film (he did post about it on Instagram).
The Twister-esque film is noteworthy in that it marks a prior collaboration between Baldwin and several producers that later went on to make Rust, where Baldwin accidentally discharged a prop gun that ultimately killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, igniting widespread conversations around set safety and indie film business practices. Baldwin faces an involuntary manslaughter charge due to his involvement in the fatal shooting. (Baldwin has pleaded not guilty.)
Supercell is being released in the U.S. by Saban Films, which acquired domestic rights to the movie before the death of Hutchins in October 2021. Saban has developed a tried-and-true business model that focus on digital rentals and sales, versus a traditional theatrical release. For the most part, the distributor relies on smaller indie houses willing to play a title that’s being made available simultaneously in the homes.
Supercell, for example, opened in only 20 theaters, according to a source with access to Comscore data. That included the Laemmle Glendale in the greater Los Angeles area and the Cinema Village 3 in Manhattan. The film earned $6,840 over the March 17-19 frame, according to Comscore. The number doesn’t surprise box office analysts, considering its low-profile run on the big screen.
Conversely, Supercell quickly shot up to No. 7 on iTunes’ movie rental chart. Saban, like other indie distributors and the major Hollywood studios, doesn’t disclose VOD earnings, but Supercell’s ranking on iTunes is notable.
Directed and co-written by Herbert James Winterstern in his feature debut, Supercell follows teenager William (Daniel Diemer), who runs away from home as he grows increasingly interested in the weather phenomena that claimed the life of his father, a famous storm chaser. William joins up with his father’s old friend Roy (Skeet Ulrich) and greedy tour company owner Zane (Baldwin) in his quest to learn more about his dad, as a nasty storm bears down on them. In one of her final performances before dying in a car crash in August, Anne Heche plays William’s mother, a scientist whose husband’s death drove her to abandon the profession.
In January, Baldwin was formally charged as an actor and a producer on Rust after the shooting, and although Baldwin’s charges have since been downgraded, he faces a maximum of 18 months in prison. The Rust filmmakers have said they are moving forward with finishing the film, planning to start production in Montana this spring with Baldwin as well as a combination of new and old crewmembers. Hutchins’ widow, Matthew Hutchins, is on board as an executive producer.
While Baldwin has been quiet during Supercell’s release, when the project was made available to buyers at the Cannes market in June 2021, he spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about his joy in attempting to pull off a picture that looks bigger than its budget might suggest. “I haven’t been running across a field trying to chase the sun for a shot in quite a while,” he said. “They don’t have money for a lot of effects, this not a Spielberg production. They have to find ways to simulate it and render it at a low cost, and they did that. We’d say ‘action’ and get out of this van and, oh my God, they were blowing this stuff on us like you couldn’t believe it.”
Aside from Baldwin, there’s substantial crossover between the two films. Actor Anjul Nigam (Grey’s Anatomy), a producer on both who’s since launched a shingle called Persona Entertainment in partnership with Baldwin to pursue further projects together, has a role in Supercell. Producers and executive producers who went on to be involved with Rust include Ryan Winterstern (brother of Supercell’s director), Nathan Klingher, Allen Cheney and Ryan Donnell Smith. Line producer Gabrielle Pickle and unit production manager Ryan Dennett-Smith also went on to work in the same capacities on Rust.
Amid the release of Supercell, several of its producers, who following the Rust tragedy came under scrutiny for their business practices, reemerged on social media. Cheney and Donnell Smith — whose earlier indie film together The Tiger Rising upset crewmembers, vendors and unions over late payments — turned their briefly privatized Instagram feeds public again, including travels posts featuring private planes. Emily Salveson (also an executive producer on Tiger, Supercell and Rust, as well as Smith’s business partner in a disputed film financing firm) likewise returned to Instagram. “Jetset or set of a jet?” she captioned a photograph of herself seated smiling in a cabin alongside Smith. Cheney, Donnell Smith and Salveson declined to comment. Following THR’s queries, Cheney and Salveson’s Instagram accounts were turned private again.
Rotten Tomatoes showcases a split verdict for Supercell. Its professional critics’ Tomatometer currently measures a 50 percent splat, based on 12 reviews. (The Los Angeles Times, noting its “genuinely awe-inspiring storm effects” and “rousing, old-fashioned score,” decreed that Supercell “feels like a cheaper but in some ways more heartfelt version of a ’90s blockbuster.”) Meanwhile, its Audience Score is 93 percent. The dozens of perfect five-star ratings appear to have been generated by accounts whose user profiles hadn’t previously submitted any other appraisals to the site. Rotten Tomatoes wouldn’t speak to Supercell’s Audience Score and reps for the film declined to comment.
Pamela McClintock contributed reporting.
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