“Marc Graser,Variety: Bodybuilding documentary “Generation Iron” was expected to have a short life in theaters before being released to streaming service Hulu, where much of its audience was expected to be found.
But the film, narrated by Mickey Rourke, has become a hit for director Vlad Yudin and his production shingle, which released the documentary on Sept. 20. Pic is produced with fitness magazine publisher American Media Inc.
Jerome Gary, who produced the 1977 docu “Pumping Iron,” which helped launch the careers of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno, exec produced “Generation Iron.”
New documentary has earned nearly $850,000 in the U.S., and it’s expected to pass the $1 million mark overseas. The film’s currently playing in theaters around the U.K., with screenings in Russia and other countries to follow. Overseas rights to the film have been sold to KSM Film, in Germany; Madman Entertainment, for Australia and New Zealand; and Brazil’s Probiotica.
At its peak, “Generation Iron” played in 85 theaters in the U.S., with the Vladar Co. booking the screens on its own.
For audiences in most markets hoping to watch the movie, that’s not a lot of options.
In fact, fans online have been clamoring for the film to hit homevideo, with demands for a DVD flooding the film’s Facebook page.
A deal with Hulu had been announced in September for “Generation Iron” to stream on the service starting Dec. 17. But that came and went — despite Hulu promoting the film with a trailer — after the popularity of the pic encouraged producers to continue showing it on the bigscreen.
“We had a strong opening for a documentary film,” Yudin told Variety. “Then the second week went up and the third week we kept opening in more theaters. We knew it would be playing for more than three or four weeks, so the (Hulu) date kept getting pushed. When the film was going to play theatrically through December, we knew we couldn’t rush it onto VOD.
“We knew the core audience would support us, but demand grew significantly,” Yudin added. “It’s an independent film that no one expected to do much of anything. People who didn’t know anything about bodybuilding gravitated toward it.”
A more traditional homevideo push is now planned through Anchor Bay and Starz Digital Media, which will distribute the film on DVD and all digital platforms. A specific release date has not yet been set.
Before that, however, the Vladar Co. will release a limited edition director’s cut of the film with 30 minutes of additional footage on April 4. The company will start pre-selling the disc on Feb. 4 through its GenerationIronOfficial.com website.
The Hulu release will still happen eventually.
“They’re still a streaming partner,” Yudin said. “They helped promote the film.”
“Generation Iron” follows the world’s top seven bodybuilders as they fight to bring home the coveted Mr. Olympia title. Film features current title holder Phil Heath, along with Kai Greene, Branch Warren, Dennis Wolf, Ben Pakulski, Hidetada Yamagishi and Roelly Winklaar.
Yudin shot the film in July, following athletes as they train and travel from Brooklyn to Venice, Calif., to compete in what’s considered the Super Bowl of bodybuilding.
Yudin directed and co-produced the film with Edwin Mejia, his partner at the Vladar Co. David Pecker, chairman and CEO of American Media Inc., is also an executive producer of “Generation Iron” with Gary. AMI publishes the Men’s Fitness, Muscle & Fitness and Shape magazines.
Mejia was instrumental in landing the homevideo and foreign distribution deals.
“There hasn’t been a film dedicated to an in-depth and honest look at the sport of bodybuilding since ‘Pumping Iron,’ and a lot of things have changed since the ’70s,” Yudin said.
The Vladar Co. is now in an interesting position: It has a film the bodybuilding community is clamoring to see, but it will be months before it hits homevideo platforms.
“We know a lot of you are still waiting on the DVD – please RELAX and enjoy the holidays,” the film’s producers said on the Facebook page in December.
Since then, the company has started turning “Generation Iron” into a lifestyle brand, launching a website that sells hoodies, sweatpants, beanies, bags and other workout gear with the “Generation Iron” logo.
“We now have a film that has an audience and has a life,” Yudin said.
Yudin hopes fans understand the delay in getting the film to homevideo.
“This type of film doesn’t happen every year,” he said. “We wanted to exploit the theatrical release as much as we could. In the long run, people who’ve been waiting for this will be much happier.”