METALLICA frontman James Hetfield has admitted that the band could not understand why its 2013 concert film, "Metallica Through The Never", failed to connect with a wider audience.
"Metallica Through The Never" took in just $3.4 million at the U.S. box office in four weeks of release after costing more than $20 million to make, with the band putting up all the money for the project.
The band filmed the bulk of the movie at two concerts in Vancouver in the summer of 2012, using a $5 million stage show specially constructed for the production.
Speaking to the official METALLICA fan-club magazine So What!, Hetfield said: "It's very bittersweet, the whole movie bit. We put a lot of money, time and effort into it, and how awesome we thought it was, and how 'wow, this is pretty unique' we felt about it, at the end of the day, was its downfall. It was not so much a concert film, not so much an action drama, it was somewhere in the middle; it just fell right down the crevasse. It disappeared. And it was sad to see that."
He continued: "The way life is now in the entertainment field, especially movies, two years of work came all the way up to a Friday night. 'Okay, the movie's released!' By Friday night, you know pretty much what the full picture is and how the movie is actually gonna do at the box office. But management said — and I agree with this; it makes total sense — that Hollywood is about perception. Hollywood is about rumors spreading and things like that, so if someone tweets, 'Hey, the movie's great,' if that spreads, then it helps. A lot of people don't go to movies because of reviews, I guess… I don't understand that so much."
Hetfield acknowledged that "Metallica Through The Never" did in fact get mostly good reviews, but went on to explain: "I will say to my wife, 'Hey, let's go see this. It looks really good!' And she'd say, 'Well, it got bad reviews. We're not going.' It's like... I don't care. It looks good to me. Let me go find out if I like it or not. A review's just another opinion. But anyway, I guess across the board it lasted in the theaters, what, two weeks? I'd tell people, 'Hey, we've got this movie out," and they'd say, 'Cool, I can't do it this week. Maybe I'll go next week.' Well, it's not gonna be around next week."
The METALLICA frontman revealed that the band experienced a lot "frustration" over the fact that they "couldn't get more people to see" the movie. He said: "It's, like, wait a minute. We go to these screenings and all the people are there and were they there to see the movie? Yeah. Would they be there if we weren't gonna show up? I don't know. It's not our forte. As simple as that. We make good music, we like touring, we like performing. And it didn't translate into the theater as well."
A video documenting the making of "Through The Never" showed Peter Mensch, one of METALLICA's managers at Q Prime, discussing with the band ways to save $2 million in order to get the film's budget down to $30 million.
Marc Reiter, who works for Q Prime, told So What! that the movie was the biggest single expense in the band's history, more than the combined budgets of all their records to date. Q Prime also invested an undisclosed amount in the film.
Regarding METALLICA's decision to to fund the making of "Through The Never" without using outside investors, Hetfield told So What!: "Well, there's no hard line on that decision. You know, 'Gosh, we're really creative. We're artists!' And someone's money becomes an opinion, and we all kind of know that when someone else is investing, they have the space vocally to come in and say, 'Hey, I think this could do this,' or, 'You can try this.' And all our careers, we've been either guarded or we've just plainly pushed people away who tell us what to do as artists, whether it's record companies or whatever, along the way. But there are also times where you do think, 'Let's do this really professionally. Let's see what else is out there and get a producer to help develop our music another way, or start using art designers instead of, 'Here's my concept for the album cover.' People who can contribute with their gift."
He continued: "I don't know if a producer putting his money into it would have brought something else that we might have needed. But I know that we made the right decision to not let anybody fuck with it. And we're paying the price for that. So be it."
In order for "Metallica Through The Never" to be profitable, it has to make at least double its production and marketing budget back at the box office, since theater owners take up to half of the money from tickets. So the movie would have to earn at least $40 million to break even.
Hetfield told So What! that he was initially angry over the fact that "Through The Never" turned out to be a commercial disappointment, with METALLICA absorbing most of the loss. "There was a time when I was just pissed," he admitted. "Like, 'What the fuck?' That was stupid. I wanted to just point fingers everywhere. The distributor people. 'They didn't say what they were gonna do.' Or just pointing at Hollywood in general. 'They're a bunch of grigging shysters, man. They sold us on something that they knew was bullshit.' Blaming the director, the producer, the casting… And blaming the management. 'You all fucked up, man.' We really took a giant risk on this. Maybe we should've thought a little more about it. Building that stage — there was a lot of money put into that thing. But at the end of the day, it's on us. It's our fault! We agreed to it, and there you go. So we've learned a lesson."
He added: "Things happen for a reason, and you might not see the silver lining right now, but down the line, who knows? Maybe the movie will make a mark in history somehow, or maybe we've basically learned: don't do it again."