"It really comes down to those studios that are willing to sub-license content," says MacMillan. "There are a lot of titles that you can find from independent producers, but on the whole, you have to work with the major studios. Shout Factory has worked with all the studios, but some just don't want to sub-license titles out of their library. We know that if it's a Warner Bros. or a New Line film, there's no way that we're getting it, because they won't sub-license content because they have their web sites and platforms they want to continue to feed. So then you find the studios that will be willing to work with you and sub-license content, and from there you make your list and present it to the studio and cross your fingers. You just make your list up and hope and pray that you come away with some winners."
And that's before Shout Factory's own higher-ups have to approve each proposed release, leaving the most important part of the decision-making process up to far less devoted and learned folks who've probably never even heard of films like The Nest (1988) or The Video Dead (1987)—both of which are coming from Scream Factory in 2013. "Sometimes you're pitching a title to the group and they're staring at you like you're speaking a foreign language," says MacMillan. "They're not movies that people know unless you're a big horror fan or you're somebody who was a hardcore VHS rental person in the '80s. Some are more challenging, but you just have to prove that there is a following. That's why you see a bunch of bigger titles and then some smaller titles, like The Nest. We want to try some of those titles and see if they connect, but fiscally sometimes it's difficult to get them approved and released."
As a huge fan of the genre himself, it's not easy for MacMillan to ignore beloved movies with small yet loyal fan-bases. "There are a lot of fans who say, Why aren't you releasing this?' or, 'Why aren't you releasing that?,'" he says. "A lot of the smaller films are tough to release because it's such a small audience that is fans of it. We put out titles all the time and expect that there are going to be audiences for them, but they just don't click. So the smaller films are much harder to not only get internally approved, but they just don't make much financial sense. If you're going to sell 200 copies and the fans are expecting a brand high-definition transfer and tons of extras, then if you sell 200 units of that release, you're going to be in the hole and you won't stay in business very long."
With They Live, however, MacMillan and Nelson feel an immense sense of pride. "They Live seems like it's going to be a very successful release for us," says Nelson. "But aside from myself, Cliff, and a sprinkling of Shout Factory co-workers who know the film but aren't on that higher internal level, it wasn't the most recognized movie we've ever presented. It's been getting a lot of buzz, and we're having some really strong pre-orders. So that one feels like a victory. It took a lot to get it approved internally, but the response so far has justified our efforts in pushing for it. There are lots of films that Cliff has brought in and I've gotten excited for, but he'll bring them up in acquisitions meetings and by the end of the meeting, we're looking at each other and saying, 'OK, well, we didn't win that one.'"
So far, the genre community has been vocally and monetarily appreciative of MacMillan's and Nelson's fan-motivated efforts. Scream Factory's core demographic consists of males from ages 25 through 44, which covers the range of adults who spent their childhoods either sneakily finding ways to watch movies like The Nest and The Funhouse or spending hours inside the local VHS rental shops staring at the box covers and wishing they could circumvent age restrictions and partake.
"I run our Facebook page where we're making a lot of our announcements, and, naturally, I go back to when I was 10 years old in the early '80s," says Nelson. "That's when these films were coming out, and I was just fascinated by the VHS covers, or, in some cases, the video disc covers. I'm not even talking laser-discs, I'm talking the early record kind that you'd put into the machine. From a marketing perspective, I try to tap into that, to say, 'Hey, we're in retro land here.'"
Although, even younger consumers whose idea of "throwback horror" is, say, The Ring are being addressed. Adds, Nelson, "Somebody who's into horror films and goes online a lot, even if they're not in that nostalgic sweet-spot target area, they're able to see the good reviews and the buzz and people talking about it. When I was younger, I was looking up movies like Psycho, House of Wax, and The Blob, things that were 'older' than the movies of that time, so there's definitely an audience that likes to go retro and see how these movies were done before."
Scream Factory's slate of films set for 2013 re-releases promises to both please seasoned experts and school curious newcomers. Amongst the already announced lineup's inclusions are the impossible to find but critically adored faux documentary-styled slasher flick The Town that Dreaded Sundown (1976); a never-before-released-on-DVD slice-and-dice pic starring a former Playboy Playmate (X-Ray, 1982, with Barbi Benton); a then-unknown Viggo Mortensen's haunted jail shocker Prison (1988); and the sexy, Hammer Films-backed parade of gorgeous British lady bloodsuckers The Vampire Lovers.
And Scream Factory is just getting warmed up. "There's a lot to be said for nostalgia," says Nelson. "The movies we're putting out, focusing on the '70s and '80s, were, at the time, really shocking and forbidden for people during their childhoods. These movies came out at the time when you couldn't get into a rated-R movie and it was a big deal to sneak a VHS into your house, so we're definitely tapping into that. When we do these releases, we try to be very respectful, but at the same time we know that we can't please everybody. We're trying our best, and it seems that 95% of the hardcore horror fans are responding really well. Whatever the horror genre taps into for them, I'm glad that we're striking that chord."
Written by Matt Barone (@MBarone)