It’s one thing for a studio to drop a potential stinker in theaters with minimal fanfare. But to release a film from a well-known director with no marketing campaign? Unheard of. Yet that’s what Fox did Sept. 1 with Mike Judge’s comedy Idiocracy, ding-dong-ditching the movie in just seven cities — not including weensy markets like New York City — after keeping it on the shelf for more than a year. (It’s grossed a pathetic $313,505 to date.) Paramount gave Tom Cruise a champagne-and-bonbons send-off by comparison.
Fox’s handling of Idiocracy — a satire about a cryogenically frozen average Joe (Luke Wilson) who wakes up in an apocalyptically dumbed-down future — is particularly baffling when you consider the studio’s longstanding relationship with Judge, who co-created the Fox TV stalwart King of the Hill. Neither the studio nor the director would comment, but Judge fans have been spewing outrage on the Internet, and a few film critics have come out in the movie’s defense. Of course, Judge, who also created Beavis and Butt-head, will survive the debacle. ”I’ve got enough that I don’t have to do a movie just for the money,” he told EW last year. In fact, perversely, it may even help him. His last film, 1999’s Office Space, tanked on its initial release but became a much-loved and extremely profitable cult hit on DVD, with sales of more than 6 million copies. So who knows? Maybe dumping the movie is all part of Fox’s fiendish marketing plan. But for now, thousands of devoted fans just wish they could check it out.