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AFM dealmakers said growing controversy over comments Quentin Tarantino made about police brutality actually could help The Hateful Eight at the box office, at least outside the U.S.
International distributors, many of whom were part of the bidding war for Hateful Eight — the hottest title at last year’s market — said they didn’t expect any box-office blowback after police unions across the U.S. called for a boycott of the Western.
Tarantino has come under fire after speaking at an Oct. 24 rally in New York City against police violence, where he said, “When I see murders, I do not stand by. I have to call a murder a murder, and I have to call the murderers the murderers.”
That short statement triggered a series of angry responses from police organizations, who accused the director of being a “cop hater.”
But as Hateful Eight rolls out worldwide starting next month, international film executives dismissed the idea that the row could hurt the movie’s prospects.
“Tarantino is only saying what the majority of Europe is thinking. If anything, it will increase awareness of The Hateful Eight,” said Sean O’Kelly, CEO of London-based Carnaby International Sales & Distribution. “The support for Tarantino could drive sales up for the film in the U.K., in my opinion.”
Hamish Moseley, head of distribution at British indie Altitude, said he thought calls for a police boycott of Hateful Eight actually would “have the opposite effect in the U.K.” And reporting on the controversy could work as free publicity for the film.
“God knows it’s competitive at the moment, with so many films out. This puts him back in the headlines,” said Moseley. The cop controversy has been covered widely in the international media. Much of the coverage has been favorable toward Tarantino and critical toward the police.
“We would never use such a serious issue for marketing purposes, but this controversy can only help Tarantino’s image, in Europe particularly,” said one European distributor.
The Weinstein Co. — which is releasing The Hateful Eight domestically on Dec. 25, has stood by Tarantino. “The Weinstein Co. has a long-standing relationship and friendship with Quentin and has a tremendous amount of respect for him as a filmmaker,” a company representative told THR on Nov. 2.
At this point, even in the U.S., most box-office analysts don’t think Hateful Eight’s returns will be hurt by the Tarantino dustup. “He is no stranger to controversy. At the end of the day, this publicity only has people talking about the film more. I don’t think it will negatively impact the box office,” said Phil Contrino of BoxOffice.com.
Added Jeff Bock of Exhibitor Relations: “Audiences can separate the auteur from the activist, since most people who buy a ticket to a Tarantino film show up to hear what his characters say, not what he says. This is just white noise.”
Stephan Giger of Ascot Elite, which won the bidding war to acquire the rights to Hateful Eight for Switzerland, agreed, noting that while the controversy might have legs in the U.S., outside the country, it is unlikely to remain in the headlines for long.
“The release is more than a month away,” he said. “I think by then, the news cycle will have moved on.”
Pamela McClintock contributed to this report.
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