Frozen Ground: The Distribution Game

I missed this detail in my earlier posts, but the Anchorage Daily News has a great story explaining why The Frozen Ground movie has not enjoyed a wide theatrical release. Dunham quotes Ron Holmstrom, who played Hansen’s lawyer and is an Anchorage-based board member of the Seattle Local of the Screen Actors Guild. Holmstrom explains why the movie did not premiere in Anchorage, where much of it was filmed.

“The reason that Anchorage is being skipped… has to do with a fight among theater chains, producers and distributors that involves, among other things, the video on demand (VOD, home pay-per-view) release of ‘Frozen Ground’ on the same day that it opens in American theaters.”

It wasn’t just Anchorage that was affected. Few cities saw “The Frozen Ground” reach theaters.

Holmstrom adds: “I spoke with both Lionsgate, the theatrical distributor, and Grindstone, the VOD distributor. They assured me that because of the VOD release, the big cinema chains refused to do a wide release.”

This is, of course, a business decision. The principals behind “The Frozen Ground” are Emmett/Furla Productions (they drove the film from its inception). Emmett/Furla are in tight with Lionsgate and Grindstone Entertainment Group, after signing a 10 film deal in 2012. From the PR piece announcing the deal:

The Grindstone collaboration with Emmett/Furla and Cheetah Vision has generated a string of successful features starring notable A list actors, including: the thriller SET UP, starring Bruce Willis, Ryan Phillippe and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson; the crime drama FREELANCERS, starring Robert DeNiro and Forrest Whitaker; the high octane FIRE WITH FIRE, starring Willis, Josh Duhamel, Rosario Dawson and Vincent D’Onofrio; and the serial killer thriller THE FROZEN GROUND, starring Nicolas Cage and John Cusack. The next film slated for release from Grindstone’s partnership with Emmett/Furla is the crime thriller EMPIRE STATE, starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, THE HUNGER GAMES’ Liam Hemsworth and Emma Roberts.

So if you happen to live in New York, Dallas, Phildelphia or… Wasilla, Alaska (pop. 8,456)… You were lucky… Otherwise, it’s VOD (If you have Redbox in your area, you might be able to get it there, too).

Recommendation: If you like Nicholas Cage, see the movie. If you followed the Hansen case, see the movie. And then, when you feel the need for more soda and popcorn, read “Butcher, Baker.” If you want to support a great institution in the process, order it from the Alaska State Trooper Museum.

Saw “Frozen Ground” the movie: Three 1/2 Stars

I just saw “The Frozen Ground,” the movie inspired by Butcher, Baker. It’s available through October as an On Demand movie (check your local listings).

Aside from the usual complaints about what happens when movies try to condense the narrative that’s only possible in books, I have several observations:

  • Scene I missed the most: In the actual investigation, Holcombe (AST Sgt. Glenn Flothe) learns of Robert Hansen’s sordid past while standing next to AST Major Walter Gilmour as they’re peeing at the urinals.
  • AST Sgt. Holcombe’s (Cage) wife in Frozen Ground is largely unsympathetic. The real wife here, Cherry Flothe, interacted with Cindy Paulson on a regular (and always supportive) basis — usually by phone, when Glenn was unavailable. Cherry was an unswerving believer in Glenn, even when others had doubts. In this case, the real thing is much, much better than the fictional thing.
  • Nicholas Cage turns in a strained but credible performance as Glenn Flothe (Holcombe). My “Butcher, Baker” co-author, the inimitable Walter Gilmour, once joked that the first instinct was to put all the asshole cops on the dancer murders. They only succeeded when they put a nice cop (Flothe) on the case.
  • My biggest (positive) surprise was Vanessa Hudgens as Cindy Paulson. She deftly manages to communicate the edgy vulnerability of the real person. Kudos — if Hudgens fails, the movie fails, because the credibility of everything else depends on that performance.
  • The aerial shots of the Chugach Mountains, the Knik River and Anchorage were stunning at times. More than anything, the Hansen murders call up a sense of people and place — and the place is inseparable from how Hansen’s crimes were committed and how he got away with them for so long.
  • Strangest moment #1: Holcombe (Cage) describes Robert Hansen as a stutterer. Yet Hansen (Cusack) barely stutters. Probably a good acting decision. But still a WTF moment.
  • Strangest moment #2: Hansen’s entire interaction with the (white) pimp/enforcer. People, people, people… Robert Hansen was (justifiably) terrified that every human interaction was a route to the unraveling of his elaborate cover. He went to GREAT lengths to make sure no one ever saw him with any of the young women. And then went to great lengths to scare, secure and isolate them. To think that he would blithely order a “hit” on Cindy Paulson is magical thinking on the part of the filmmakers (yes, it adds drama; I would argue it’s gratuitous, that it just gives the actors some action sequences, but… Nevermind).
  • And, yes, there were jailhouse rumors about a hit on Cindy. Or more accurately, talk about how Hansen wanted her to just go away (as in pay her to leave town). Those are two different things. I say: consider the source. Yeah. The jailhouse.

Recommendation: If you like Nicholas Cage, see the movie. If you followed the Hansen case, see the movie. And then, when you feel the need for more soda and popcorn, read “Butcher, Baker.” If you want to support a great institution in the process, order it from the Alaska State Trooper Museum.

Stills From “The Frozen Ground”

IMDb is featuring still photos taken from the Butcher, Baker inspired movie, “The Frozen Ground.” Here’s the link to the IMDb slideshow. Some creepy stuff, for sure. My spine be tingling.

Nicolas Cage as Alaska State Trooper Detective
Nicolas Cage in The Frozen Ground 2012 Voltage Pictures

John Cusack as serial killer Robert Hansen
John Cusack in The Frozen Ground 2012 Voltage Pictures

Here & There

Today’s blog is a grab-bag of stories, culled from a range of sources. We’ve still got crime on our mind.

First up, Frozen Ground film news fresh from Alaska.

  • We have a couple of shots of Nicolas Cage in Anchorage. In this slideshow, Cage is seen on the Frozen Ground set. And what would a Nicolas Cage story be without some smack from gossip site TMZ? Their spy camera captures him purchasing a $2,000 ivory-handled knife.
  • The Anchorage Daily News reports that Alaska filming on “Frozen Ground” could wrap by Friday, November 18 — a one-month shooting schedule.
  • The Alaska backlash against film subsidies, meanwhile, is starting to heat up. More on this issue in another post.

We also have an update on the Mike McQueary story, in what amounts to another round of media counter-attack. I’m guessing anyone who follows the news is already aware of these revelations.

What’s worth comment here is that the basis for much of the reporting is a 23-page grand jury presentment. A summary document. It leaves out details. That gives the folks involved a brief-window to manage the news by releasing self-serving details of their own. My money is still on Sara Ganim, the intrepid reporter who first broke this story.