Cine-Fax Presents Rock Product: Second Run Exhibitor’s Guide (1985)

Note: Cine-Fax, Inc. of Newark, NJ, a tip-sheet publisher, was raided by Federal agents in 1984 as a front for bootleg videotape distributors. Charges were dropped after two prosecution witnesses, apparently comprising the bizarre post-structural­ist cult that had taken over the preparation of Cine-Fax newsletters, disappeared. Following the discovery of the body of the Cine-Fax president in the trunk of a 1958 Plymouth, the company was forced into bankruptcy and all assets were sold at auction, including the following undistributed memo, which is here reproduced exactly as found, save for a few informational footnotes.Greil Marcus, film editor


Like the song says, rock product [1] is “here to stay.” Unlike standard youth market product, the rock feature almost always has a strong soundtrack tie-in, which means promo from distributor and record company–and less co-op ad dollars from you!

Problem: Rock product is now made for the home video market. This is primary bottom line. Except for Purple Rain monsters ($70 mil B.O. so far) theatrical run is promo for cassette sales/rentals. Most of this material will be available on cassette at $2.50 a night or less even before you get it. The key to success is low prices and combination. Mix markets. Make the right double bill and never book over seven days. Home video is not the end of your market. PG tickets [2] still have to get away from their R tickets [3] and R tickets still have to get away from their PGs. At the same time rating smears [4] are equally good bets.

Warning: Distributors will dump art house POP [5] footage in with commercial features. All of it is R. (Language, hard violence, nudity, little actual sex.) Choice: stress teen-theme on a mixed PG/R bill and draw the PG ticket into the Rif local monitoring is weak (our surveys show the sneak PG ticket can make up 5O% of the R house). [6] Stress sex/violence with a double R bill if monitoring is strong. Doubles and even super-doubles are the key to low prices and combination. Use your “imagination”! (Or use ours, that’s what you’re paying us for!)

On the “Issue”: Especially re B-dance features BOP [7] will play to white tickets but black tickets will not. Solution: extra lighting. Keep lines moving. Do not allow black tickets to congregate in view of parents dropping off white tickets. Remember–this is the Eighties!
Anthony F. Immorata, President Cine-Fax, Inc.

DATA & SUGGESTED BILLS: Data by our staff with comments from newspa­per and magazine reviews unless otherwise noted. All bills not available at all times. Years covered: 1983-84, plus supplements when appropriate.

Re queries: Except for The Wiz there is no Michael Jackson product available and none slated.

PURPLE RAIN & LIQUID SKY

Purple Rain (R: 1984, dir. Albert Magnoli) was megahit with loud audience response but no in-theater violence. Based on “live” musical numbers, soundtrack LP megahit. Starring real-life rockstar Prince as the Kid, misunderstood bandleader who cannot love. Finds fulfillment with beautiful Apollonia (hard-R interracial sex) and also self after white-wife-beating black father attempts suicide (family violence, language). Mild BOP (multiracial Prince black for marketing purposes, but like Kid’s family both band and audience racially and sexually mixed). Not “Citizen Kane of rock movies” but “rewrite of Jailhouse Rock (and several hundred other show biz melodramas).” Critics claimed dialogue often laughable, acting abysmal (save for black bandleader Morris Day as Kid’s rival), continuity nonexistent. Punch comes from “fierce intensity, glee and invention” of live performances by Kid and band plus “brutal hard edge” of family strife scenes. Despite charges of “mindless sexism” film is “far too strong to have been made as an exploitation picture; it must have been made out of love, or fear.”

LiquidSky1
Liquid Sky (R: 1983, dir. Slava Tsukerman) showed strong midnite movie legs plus art-house and campus interest. Porno overtones but no hard-R sex (language, interspecies violence). No soundtrack LP. Anne Carlisle (later featured in Playboy) doubles as female and male lead in fantasy about UFOs and heroin (“liquid sky”) in punk Manhattan: aliens traveling on pie plate feed off substance produced in human body during heroin “rush” and/or orgasm, therefore gravitate to punk slums where both heroin and sex supposedly abundant. Aliens establish base on ledge near female Carlisle’s apartment, shared with lesbian heroin dealer. Female Carlisle becomes “feeder” with power to annihilate anyone she brings to orgasm (including lesbian heroin dealer in graphic depiction of lesbian “fuck”; film reaches high point when Carlisle as female performs fellatio on himself). Though crudely made, film “captures in moments of real self-loathing and unintentional self-parody” the “death-wish buried beneath (or, in this case, hovering above) the new punk subculture” and is “structured like a game in which the director wins by making each scene more perverse than the last.”

GIVE MY REGARDS TO BROAD STREET & REPO MAN

Pairing your only hope when Broad Street (PG: 1984, dir. Peter Webb) is dumped on you: first-run was Canine City. Flick offers Paul McCartney (Beatles) in “fantasy of all the different ways one could be Paul McCartney–if one were lucky enough to be Paul McCartney, or if one had sold one’s soul to the devil for a grilled cheese sandwich.” Soundtrack LP went to the Pet Hospital.

Repo Man (R: 1984, dir. Alex Cox) scored as art-house sleeper boosted by extravagant press (ex: “Most astonishing feature film debut since…”). Soundtrack LP “classic punk compilation highlighted by Suicidal Tendencies’ ‘Institutionalized.'” Premise: “Everything Broad Street is, is dead, and if it isn’t, it ought to be killed.” Plot: Lumpen-existentialists meet lobotomized nuclear physicist with a UFO in his trunk in a Los Angeles reduced to warehouses and convenience stores as young punk (Emilio Estevez) and his burnt-out mentor (Harry Dean Stanton) act out the ultimate postmodern drama: repossessing cars. (Language, hard violence.) “The movie gives you the feeling that you’ve gone past alienation into the land of detachment” (Pauline Kael). I.e., after this, tickets may even sit through Broad Street. But keep concession stands staffed.

STOP MAKING SENSE & GET CRAZY
Lou-Reed-GET-CRAZY

Stop Making Sense (PG: 1984, dir. Jonathan Demme) is Manhattan new-wave band Talking Heads in concert; no interviews, no backstage business. For low budget production, hit big and stayed course. Soundtrack LP rated best of their steady-selling albums. Band has rep as “intellectual, conceptual, avant-garde” and product gained 100 percent reviews as “quite simply, the finest rock concert film ever made.” However Cine­Fax staff reports “merely better-than-average concert flick dependent on quality of musical numbers (often superb) like all other concert flicks. Bandleader David Byrne uses up repertoire of turkey-neck tics and everyman gestures early so when he appears late in concert in ‘The Big Suit’ (ordinary suit re sleeve/trouser lengths but puffed out to triple size otherwise) he looks silly, not strange. The idea, see, is (maybe) that he took a Carrollian makes-you-larger pill but somehow it affected only his clothes, not the ‘inner man.’ This would be a critique of the audience’s empowerment of ‘appearances’ as against ‘reality,’ if it worked, which it doesn’t: All Byrne can do with his costume is wear it. Now, when the technique of the oversized costume was introduced by the Futurists before the Great War [8] and then realized by Picasso, Satie, Diaghileff, and Cocteau in their 1917 production of Parade, the notion was that the costume wore the performer, thus foregrounding his or her anonymity or inauthenticity as a mere construct of bourgeois hegemony, where ‘All that is solid melts into air’ (Marx), as backgrounded by the domination of the fluid or patently artificial costume over the ‘solid flesh’ or spuriously `natural’ corpus. Byrne does less than nothing with the possibilities of this still-coded intervention of entertainment against itself, but bassist Tina Weymouth has pretty legs.”

Get Crazy (R: 1984, dir. Alan Arkush) relates to previous feature only through title (see Purple Rain/Liquid Sky), but marquee may pull “crazies attracted to idea of ‘stop making sense’ but who find primary title too abstract” (Cine-Fax staff). “Loosely based on the glory days of the Fillmore ballrooms” (mid-late ’60s) product was superflop on first release but features cult hero/punk godfather Lou Reed as Auden, “loosely based on Bob Dylan.” Role may sustain repeat sucker tickets.

BEAT STREET, BREAKIN’, BODY ROCK, BREAKIN’ 2 ELECTRIC BOOGALOO & WILD STYLE

wild_style
“The rap music/subway graffiti/break-dancing discourses moved from the most marginal peneosocioeconomicomythopoeic enclaves in record time, resulting in the reificated vitiation of all three forms even before they could be successfully marketed as commodities” (R. Borchezaux, Annales des Semiomodes, 1983, trans. Cine-Fax staff). In English that means B-dancing product is now sexy as herpes how-to flicks, but distributors are going to make you eat these pictures for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Chances of five-way rental may be poor but a “dance” marathon is your only hope. Lead with first two titles which did heavy crossover with decent soundtrack support. Beat Street (PG: 1984, dir. Stan Lathan), Breakin’ (PG: 1984, dir. Joel Silberg), Body Rock (PG 13: 1984, dir. Marcelo Epstein) and Breakin’ 2 (PG: 1984, dir. Joel Silberg) are “happy feet” material with dance numbers varying from “brilliantly choreographed” to “out of body experiences.” All feature black/Puerto Rican/Chicano dancers, rappers, artists, etc. (Breakin’ & 2 include Shabba-doo, Beat Street performance by legendary Afrika Bambaataa) but BOP is weak as plots focus not on creatures-from-beneath-the-melting­-pot but on valiant efforts of white people to learn to boogie, all attempts successful as deprived originators fall back and cheer because they see white people as ticket to mainstream bucks. Wild Style (R: 1982, dir. Charlie Ahearn) is gritty low budget art film about graffiti not b-dance(soundtrack LP “best field recording of 1983”) with artist Lee Quinones and DJ Grandmaster Flash. Theme: cooptation of people’s art by downtown art scene. “Poorly thought-out and roughly filmed,” it “shocks the viewer esthetically only with its carefully rationed shots of overwhelmingly decorated elevated subway trains passing through the South Bronx bombscape.” Distributors will not include Wild Style in package but you should because “as all the break-dance movies hip hop their way from would-be Enterprise Zones to the White House, this is the only anchor to reality”—it could be your Repo Man to the B-fad’s Broad Street.

THE BIG CHILL & FOOTLOOSE

Megahits with hit soundtrack LPs. In case you’ve been on Venus vacation Big Chill (R: 1983, dir. Lawrence Kasdan) is group of late-30s “sixties people” reuniting over funeral of suicide friend to “ponder the meaning of life (so far)” and also “fuck those they never got to fuck when they were into fucking,” though nudity is mild, sex SFTV [9] and language “denatured.” Group includes “unconvincing” woman lawyer, “incomprehensible” woman doctor, emasculated Vietnam vet now dealing drugs (William Hurt in “his finest performance”), “convincing but boring” bored housewife, TV star, entrepreneur, gossip magazine writer (Jeff Goldblum, “first-class as always”), former idealist who killed self (not present), and latter’s goodhearted nihilist teenage girlfriend. Film praised as “marvel of ensemble acting” and “first movie to truly answer the question, ‘Where have all the flowers gone?’,” attacked in fringe journals as “recuperative argument that the struggles of the ’60s were nothing more than the personal parading as the political” and as “perfect definition of all-American hegemony: so-called one-time radicals celebrating their ‘survival’ by rooting for bourgeois Michigan (their alma mater) to beat working-class Michigan State.” Bottom line: “Yuppies plus guilt,” an unbeatable formula. Rock angle: Guilty Yuppies love oldies (especially Motown), therefore haven’t “sold out.”

Footloose (PG: 1984, dir. Herbert Ross) has no tie to Chill except massive B.O. three ways: theatrical/LP/video. In case you’ve been doing Mars business this is high-schoolers “fighting for the right to shake it on down” in off-map Midwest town where dancing is banned. Crisis comes when pseudo—new waver (Kevin Bacon) arrives and leads protest against defenders of community morals. When dance is held at finale “bizarre tale unfolds: Out of nowhere, boy after boy takes to the floor and performs the most astonishingly intricate moves, as if beneath the repressive surface of the hamlet lay an ancient Gnostic cult of Terpsichoria, or anyway ’40s camp musical comedy. In other words, totally unbelievable. And the music sucks.” But double bill will allow “Big Chill generation” tickets to bring “Footloose generation” tickets to same house—even though Chill pretends such R tickets have no PGs and Footloose pretends PG tickets’ Rs are not rock tickets.

SIXTEEN CANDLES & SEVENTEEN

Sixteen Candles (PG: 1984, dir. John Hughes) died on release because PG tickets deconstructed title as wimpoid. Seventeen (NR: off. unrel., circ. 1984 [10] dir. Joel DeMott and Jeff Kreines) made as PBS documentary but banned for hard language. Bill solves two problems at once. Starring Molly Ringwald as sweet 16 who “rescues the filmic American teenage girl from countless runaway hookers and dead babysitters” after parents forget her birthday, Candles is “comedy so sharp and winning it can turn hate into bliss.” Reviews cited “fabulous marriage of shaggy dog jokes and slapstick” plus “outrageous plot turns and dialogue.” No soundtrack LP; big home video action. Shot in Muncie, Indiana, Seventeen features Lynn Massie as self, 17wf, with black boyfriend (interracial first base) plus family and friends in school, at home, at parties, etc. Good BOP. “Scabrous portrait of teachers at a working-class high school killing time and their students along with it,” 16 mm. material reaches “peak of emotional violence” when friend of Massie goes into alcoholic catatonia over death of own best friend, followed by Massie and previously catatonic friend’s radio dedication of Bob Seger’s “Against the Wind” in memory of decedent, scene praised as “one of the most acute renderings ever put on film of how rock & roll is actually used by its listeners.” Strong taboo punch of Seventeen may pull Candles skeptics while Candles glow should calm tickets offended by Seventeen.

STREETS OF FIRE & CHRISTINE

Streets of Fire (PG: 1984, dir. Walter Hill) is self-described “rock ‘n’ roll fable where the Leader of the Pack steals the Queen of the Hop (Diane Lane) and Soldier Boy (Michael Pare) comes home to do something about it.” Set “in some timeless rock & roll mythscape—perhaps the ’90s, in a town populated solely by four decades of rockers, all of whom helplessly act out the rituals of the ’50s,” with “blazingly self-destructive performance by Lane.” “Brings the brutal eye of action director Hill (The Warriors, 48 Hrs.) to bear on rock concert footage with an impact so strong it leaves the transition between the implicit violence of the music and the real violence the music calls forth seeming like a chord change.” Product closed overnight with unanimous hate mail [11]  (soundtrack LP went lead) but video release prompted positive reappraisals in prestige pubs (Artforum, etc.) leading to growing cult status.

Christine (R: 1983, dir. John Carpenter) is Stephen King shocker about high school outcast transformed into madman by diabolical Christine (’58 Plymouth). Though film is set in present car radio plays only ’50s rock which here “takes on an undertone far more threatening than any of the sex ‘n’ violence characteristics attributed to it by racists and bluenoses in its own time.” (Soundtrack LP “dynamite if conventional.”) Each “Kris­tine Klassic” keys moment of carnage as car takes jealous revenge against anyone who comes between her/it and owner/slave. Film thus “resolves the conventional status of the automobile as an extension of (or metaphor for) the sexuality of the driver into a perverse fantasy in which the vehicle becomes the repository of the driver’s sexual energy thereby affirming that masturbation not only drives out contingent heterosexual or even homosexual impulses but in the end leads to the death of the masturbator, usually by suicide” (Cine-Fax staff). Reviews cited “deft direction of thin material, with the plot never pushed for meaning but only exploited for thrills.” Ambiguity of Christine will counter parodistic good guys—bad guys tenor of Streets of Fire while insistence on “roots of rock in classic revenge dramas” in both will provide common secret language necessary to word of mouth.

BABY, IT’S YOU & BREATHLESS

Reviews agreed: both features about how “good girls fall for dim-witted hunks who drive fast.” Baby, It’s You (R: 1983, dir. John Sayles) is bittersweet art-house winner starring Rosanna Arquette as good middle-class Jewish girl Jill Rosen and Vincent Spano as lowlife Italian Sheik, “star-crossed high school couple who break up when she won’t put out.” Drama highlights hot cult item Sayles’ “unmatched feel for the smallest details of quotidian realism, plus subtle humor and finely chosen music” (Springsteen with period early ’60s oldies; no soundtrack LP) combined with “surest eye in American movies for the contradictions of a class society which pretends it has no classes.” Film intensifies when Jill goes collegiate and Sheik attempts New Sinatra career in Miami Beach miming evergreens in front of jukebox in third-rate nightclub, resulting in “heartbreakingly vivid” soft-R sex when good girl finally goes bad during Miami visit. NO VIDEO due to contract disputes over soundtrack music enhances strong following from first release.

Breathless (R: 1983, dir. Jim McBride) DOA [12] thanks to “just another bareass Richard Gere movie” notices but later print (all California) saw this “assbackwards remake of Godard’s Breathless” (here, cop-killing hustler is American, vixen French, not vv [13]) as “the best bareass Richard Gere movie ever made.” Premise not original A bout de souffle (literally, “out of breath”—Cine-Fax staff), but “Breathless” as in Jerry Lee Lewis’ 1958 Top 10 hit to which Gere character refers throughout. (No soundtrack LP but crawl [14] version of title song by X scored as punk single.) Stud’s “goal in life is to live what Lewis sang” and he “captures the deepest demands of the music as surely, as easily, as he runs his hands over the warm, brown, pulsing, perfectly shaped breasts of the unbelieva­bly lubricious Valerie Kaprisky,” the heroine. Singled out was scene where to settle quarrel Gere strips off clothes and singing Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds” breaks down door of bathroom where Kaprisky is taking shower; hard-R reconciliation follows. Finale—death scene scored to Lewis’ “Breathless”—rated “proof that when Gere is given the chance not to give a damn he can do it better than anyone else on the screen.”

THIS IS SPINAL TAP & EDDIE AND THE  CRUISERS

Spinal Tap (R: 1984, dir. Rob Reiner) is popular “rockumentary” about fictional UK heavy metal band on final tour of U.S. Critics CITJ [15] over sight-gags and one-liners that “translated better from the script to reviews than from the script to the screen” (though director claimed everything “invented as we went along—I mean, this stuff is shit, and if there’s one thing everyone knows how to do, it’s how to take a shit”). Eddie (PG: 1983, dir. Martin Davidson) is bomb fiction drama-within-a-documentary-­in-the-making (Citizen Kane bit) about artistic struggles of pre-Beatles New Jersey band plus throwaway mystery plot. “Smoldering” performance by Helen Schneider as Cruiser; did-he-die hook (Jim Morrison bit) re charismatic Eddie (Michael Pare) whose car plunges off bridge after money-talks/bullshit-walks producer rejects before-its-time “concept” LP. Pairing may draw “potentially huge audience, as yet unknown to itself, which can attain catharsis only by attaching itself to the matrix of the central esthetic issue of our time, the dissolution of all boundaries between appearance and reality, an attachment which leads to the true goal of contemporary spectatorship: annihilation” (Wahrheit Schonheit Giitig, 1983, Rock Sessions #13 [Special Frankfurt School numbed—trans. Cine-Fax staff). Point here is that given fake rockumentary/fake documentary premises, eponymous “heavy metal” combo in Spinal Tap saw soundtrack LP graze charts as album by putative actual band, thus forcing non-musician actors who played own instruments in film (Nashville bit) to tour as “Spinal Tap,” while in Eddie real-life nowhere group Beaver Brown Band did soundtrack for miming Pare et al. and through HBO/MTV exposure saw Eddie LP go platinum, thus forcing BBB to Eddie ­and-the-Cruisers it. Genre buffs still claim Spinal Tap is “third-rate excuse for heavy metal—I mean, it’s nowhere near as horrible as Judas Priest or even Quiet Riot, I mean, the singer doesn’t even know how to lean on the guitarist’s shoulders,” and eggheads score “third-rate Springsteen imitations of the Beaver Brown Band (now known, pretentiously, as John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band—gimme a break), which not only trivialize authentic New Jersey rock but defraud the early-’60s American music they’re supposed to be playing—I mean, for his ‘concept’ album, ‘Eddie’ invents ‘psychedelic music’—in 1963!”, but tickets don’t care—or, rather, care backwards, or (to paraphrase Marx), upside down, or (for all we know), inside out.

STRANGER THAN PARADISE & SUBURBIA

Stranger (R: 1984, dir. Jim Jarmusch) is art-house sleeper with best press of year (“brilliant,” “brilliant,” “brilliant,” etc.) and Nat’l Society of Film Crits’ top pic award. In “hip, cumulatively uproarious” feature with “tongue-in-cheek look of an exhumed 1915 two-reeler” cute Hungarian teenager Eva arrives in NYC clutching cassette of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ 1956 R&B hit, “I Put a Spell on You” (no soundtrack LP) for visit with slum-dwelling American cousin Willy. Girl moves on to live with aunt in Cleveland; when Willy and friend Eddie (“guys who wear faces out of a Fassbinder wet dream”) arrive trio leaves for Miami where adventures ensue (language, no sex). Postpunk wasteland tour of “an America where America is missing” shows that “just as alienation was a horrifying discovery to one generation, a cliché to the next, and a terrific way of having a good time one generation on, not having any inner identity is just now turning from a potential cause for suicide into a really great way to live” (Tom Carson, 1983, No Future Funnies #9) though sole dissenting reviewer noted “no one ever got fat on a diet of unrelieved irony—and the only relief here is Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, plus Eva’s impatience with her companions, Americans so concerned with cool they can’t even understand what Hawkins is talking about, which is to say that they don’t understand that copping attitudes is no substitute for a confrontation with history, which is itself only another way of saying that ‘ignorance of one’s culture is not considered cool.'”

Suburbia (R: 1983, dir. Penelope Spheeris) offers L.A. kids with monster parents (divorce, interracial remarriage, alcoholism, homosexuality, incest, violence, neglect) turning to punk “squat” in abandoned ranch-style subdivision to make “new family.” Activities include television, theft, vandalism, “shocking the bourgeoisie,” “slam-dancing” at punk rock clubs, fights with rednecks and nonpunk youths, campfire seminars about toxic waste and Agent Orange, and haircuts (one of which “transforms actress Jennifer Clay from a Valley Girl indistinguishable from her type into a punk with personality and autonomy breathing from every pore,” though “when she dies the movie goes with her”). No-soundtrack film reaches high point in opening sequence, set in punk club, when skinhead approaches girl dressed in glitzy party outfit. “I’d like to fuck your brains out,” he says, “but you don’t look like you got any.” She shoves him, he rips her dress off, walks away, leaves her to crowd, according to punk reviewers proving skinhead’s “thrash contempt for hypocracy” [16] since girl’s hysterical reaction proves she was “just a po­suer.” [17] Auteur critics argued “utter collapse of director Spheeris’ eye’ since her L.A. punk documentary The Decline… of Western Civilization (which in 1982 gained avant-garde rep similar to Jarmusch’s Stranger) indicates “true author of this piece de la merde resistante” (“great piece of shit,” or, “shit that resists its own shittiness”—trans. Cine-Fax staff) is producer Roger Corman “who once said, ‘All art is political,’ and who has proved it with films simultaneously exploiting and melodramatically infusing with ambiguity every subculture from the motorcycle gangs of the ’50s to the punks of the present. The unspeakably mute non-acting; the dulled, endless shots; the shameless sentimentality; the marvelously over-familiar stock characters, no more and no less alive than Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup can (not, of course, the Campbell’s Soup can lui-meme)—all this work needs to completely reveal itself is Peter Fonda playing the understanding cop, which would have been a Captain Midnight decoder ring to Corman’s reconstruction of punk’s sociological deconstruction.” Or, “what goes around, comes around.”

[1] “Films”
[2] “Children”
[3] “Parents”
[4] “Family nights”
[5] “Punk-oriented product”
[6] Since almost all theaters are now multiples, “double bill” as used here means not two movies for one ticket, but two movies playing in different cinemas with the same street entrance.
[7] “Black-oriented product”
[8] “World War I”
[9] “Suitable for television”
[10] “No rating: officially unreleased but circulating 1984”
[11] “Bad reviews”
[12] “Dead on arrival”
[13] “Vice versa”
[14] “Closing credits”
[15] “Creamed in their jeans”
[16] Sic
[17] Ibid.

The First Rock & Roll Confidential Report, edited by Dave Marsh, 1985


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