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While most of the 2020 slate of theatrical debuts has been postponed to later in the year, if not into 2021 outright, movies like director Rod Lurie’s military drama The Outpost are making the best of the current situation. The film debuted in drive-in theaters last weekend, as well as on all major VOD platforms, exemplifying how new releases are dealing with this brave new world of theatrical exhibition. Unfortunately, that kind of makes it hard to tell exactly how well The Outpost did in terms of the more traditional measures of success. But if you ask Lurie his feelings on the matter, he’d tell you another benchmark is more important to him.
In a guest column for Deadline, Rod Lurie dissected the matter of just how to measure The Outpost’s actual imprint on the theatrical market. The conclusions he went on to draw about the performance of the movie, starring The Fate of the Furious’ Scott Eastwood, The Dead Don’t Die’s Caleb Landry Jones, and Pirates of the Caribbean star Orlando Bloom were very interesting indicators of the current market. Lurie’s initial thoughts were the following:
So, how do we judge if our film had a successful opening weekend? Well, The Outpost was the No. 1 downloaded film on iTunes – the only platform that reveals such things. My understanding is the film is the top-performing film in the history of our distributor, Screen Media, in that regard. I am also very grateful for the reviews that we’ve received. We have an ever shifting but rather high score on Rotten Tomatoes. Another way to gauge, I suppose…
Certified fresh at 90%, with an iTunes topping debut and a distributor’s record added to its credit, it sounds like The Outpost is indeed a success. Based on a true story, which was chronicled in the book of the same name by CNN journalist Jake Tapper, the film chronicles 2009’s harrowing Battle of Kamdesh; a skirmish that saw 53 U.S. soldiers facing off against an army of insurgents that severely outnumbered their own ranks, at the location that’s now come to be known as Combat Outpost Keating.
Because of the subject matter, as well as his own personal background as a graduate of United States Military Academy West Point, Rod Lurie doesn’t see the standard business metrics that The Outpost would hope to hit in the world of traditional exhibition as his endgame. Rather, he hopes to have done right by a very important group of people close to the subject matter:
But… really, if I am being honest, my primary attention and anxieties for this past weekend were directed at how the military community would receive the film, in particular veterans of the Afghanistan War and, even more microscopically, the soldiers and families of the men who served at Combat Outpost Keating where the film is set. That would be the metric of success for this particular film.
In its original incarnation, The Outpost would have been a big studio film with Sam Raimi attached to direct as initially intended. Instead, the story of Combat Outpost Keating and it’s the brave warfighters who swore to protect it, became an independent hit at a time when the world could use a story of iinspiration. So long as the men and women who served or knew those that served in this instance of combat feel their story was told with reverence and honor, Rod Lurie will feel that it was worth it. You can judge for yourself, as The Outpost is currently available in select theatrical venues, as well as through major VOD retailers for rental or purchase.