In the movie world of major studio Goliaths like "Jurassic Park," there are few Davids. New Line Cinema's "Menace II Society," a low-budget independent film about life and survival for young African-Americans set in Watts, is one of those small movies that has been slowly but surely selling tickets.
Directed by 21-year-old twin brothers Allen and Albert Hughes, the $3-million film has grossed $21 million to date. Even over this past highly competitive Fourth of July holiday weekend, it took in $1.6 million. In fact, despite the competition, "Menace" has been on the list of Top 10 grossing films each of its six weeks in release. "It's uncompromising but it has hope, and it's caused word of mouth," said New Line's executive vice president of distribution Al Shapiro.
New Line president of theatrical marketing Chris Pula said the company spent $2 million to advertise and market the film, which is minuscule by large studio standards. He said the "target audience has been African-American teens, both male and female. The second target has been older African-Americans and white MTV viewers."
Pula said "Menace" was booked into art houses as well as urban and suburban theaters that normally play action movies. "With the movie following so many other similar films such as 'Juice' and 'New Jack City,' we had to differentiate ourselves from that pack."