The Secret of Kells is a fantastic film and easily one of the best made in recent times. It’s highly original, dripping with beautiful animation and stands up to countless rewatching. On the surface, it appears to be the perfect animate feature, so why has it been so hard for it to find the same kind of commercial success that say, Frozen can (outside of the obvious reason of throwing hundreds of millions at it)? I call it the Kells Conundrum and it’s a concept we’re going to discuss today.
It’s no secret among those who know me that I am a huge fan of The Secret of Kells, and not just because it’s Irish! I’ve already made my thoughts known in my review, which I wrote for Asifa-East’s Exposure Sheet way back in July 2009. What I’m posting about today is that the film is still making the rounds in US cinemas, in fact it is returning to New York’s IFC Center on August 14th, over a year after it premiered there.
What makes this incredible, year-long run even more extraordinary has been the unprecedented marketing campign, that is to say, the lack of one. The film was released in Europe in spring of 2009 and received the usual advertisement. However, such a campaign would have been prohibitively expensive in the US. The market is too big and crowded by the ususal suspects in California.
There was some talk about bringing the film to the States and things really got going when distributor GKids (the fine folks behind the New York international Children’s Film festival) entered the film for Academy Award consideration. The news that it was shortlisted for nomination gave the film a huge boost, suddenly people wanted to find out how a film they’d never heard of before was conisdered for an Oscar.
Thanks to its qualifying run in Burbank and of course, the Academy Awards themselves, the film was assured national showings of some sort. What has sepereated Kells from other independent films has been the potency of people’s word of moouth. OK, sure you have superfans like myself telling everyone to go see it, but in addition to that, I am pretty sure that every single animator/illustrator in the country has gone to see it and told all their friends to go see it to.
This type of promotion has been the key to the film success statewide. Well, that and the fact that it really is an amazing film. People listen to their friends and family more than anyone on TV or in the newspaper and The Secret of Kells is proof of that.
The film was released on DVD last year in Ireland (and sales received a very welcome boost with the Oscar nomination) and will be released on Blu-Ray and DVD in the US later this year and will undoubtedly make its way into a high percentage of those who saw it at the cinema.
The Secret of Kells is proof that you do not need to spend massive amounts of money to have a successful film. Sure the money doesn’t flow through the box office as quickly as it does for a blockbuster, but it does flow for longer, far longer and the fact that The Secret of Kells is still being talked about 2 years after it was completed is proof that it is better to be a slow burner than a bright flash.