More than 500 people packed Tower City Cinemas last October to get a preview of Edward Douglas' film, The Dead Matter. The event was a thank-you to everyone involved with making the vampire and zombie flick. The movie's stars flew in, and guests mingled at an exclusive party afterward.
Douglas hoped to have a DVD distributor for his film lined up soon after the party. Having built a successful business writing and recording creepy Halloween music as half of Midnight Syndicate, he expected an established fan base would help. What Douglas got was a lesson in how much the industry had changed.
"When we were pulling together all the financing and putting together all the pieces of the puzzle in early 2007, distributors were doing well," he recalls. "The rental chains were still strong."
Instead of finding distributors ready to pay large cash advances, Douglas says he found an industry struggling to deal with the economy, video piracy and the decline of video rental stores. Douglas ultimately decided to do what he's been doing with his music for years and distribute the film himself.
He struck a deal with the Hot Topic chain, which already sells Midnight Syndicate CDs, to serve as a national retailer for the film. On July 30, a three-disc edition of The Dead Matter that includes the film, its soundtrack and Midnight Syndicate's greatest hits went on sale for $19.99 at the teen-oriented retailer's more than 600 stores throughout the United States.
"I was talking to one distributor and he told me, 'I've been in the business 20 years, and I've never seen an independent film get into a chain like you just did,' " Douglas says. "He told us we were breaking new ground. So that makes me feel good."
(Midnight Syndicate Films)