Horror as a viable genre at the Australian box office, it would appear, is dead. Oh sure, Paranormal Activity 4 will make some great cash and any high profile franchise release will see at least some coin in the coffers based on brand name alone, but original titles appear to dropping left, right and centre down this end of the globe and it has officially reached its nadir with the news that Drew Goddard's The Cabin in the Woods will be bypassing cinemas and head direct-to-DVD (I think first officially noted by @popcornjunkies on Twitter and confirmed on the Roadshow Tumblr). There has always been far more horror titles premiering on home entertainment than in cinemas anyway, the same could be said for film in general, but 2012 appears to have met a curious resistance to the genre that just highlights this country's rather ho-hum relationship with horror fare.
This year has been very quiet for scary pictures, especially since the dryer months at the start of the year are a perfect playground for these films to appear as if out of nowhere and scare up a few million at the box office thanks to patrons eager for a fright. Earlier this year though not even an American opening weekend haul of over $30mil could get the ball rolling for that film's local release. I saw that rather turgid religious horror flick essentially all by myself and the film opened to little more than $700,000 (which would equate to a $7m opening in the USA). Ti West's The Innkeepers will find itself on one screen across the entire country when it's released exclusively the Cinema Nova in Melbourne on 31 May, Ben Wheatley's Kill List went direct-to-DVD earlier this year, and now Cabin in the Woods is going that way too. A specific release date hasn't been announced, but it certainly won't be until after the film's US DVD release. Not that that will help any since people are going to illegally download it anyway. The distributor, Roadshow, did the same thing with GrindHouse several years ago and that resulted in Death Proof disappointing at the box office and Planet Terror never seeing the light of a movie cinema apart from the one local movie house (oh hai The Astor Theatre in St Kilda) that screens the original unedited edition. Last year the vampire flick Stake Land and Spanish home invasion thriller Kidnapped also received one-screen released despite potential for wider appeal. Meanwhile, I think it's already been confirmed that Piranha 3DD will be going Direct-to-DVD after disappointing receipts from the original. I can only hope there's a 3D Blu-ray released.
Gold Coast Film Festival screenings of Cabin will get to see it in a cinema, which is a damned shame. When fundie lobbyists with "wholesome" "family friendly" agendas aren't trying to get horror films banned we have distributors apparently doing their best to sabotage them. What fun it is.
Maybe Roadshow will hold off on the DVD release until it's been able to screen at Sydney and Melbourne film festivals later in the year? It's certainly a possibility worth considering. Maybe the distributor just has too much on their plate to juggle the release of a film that most people acknowledge won't have terrible wide mass appeal. Maybe, maybe, maybe. I'm sure the US blu-ray (and, hey, even the novelisation!) will have to suffice for any desperate potential paying customers.