Stanley Kubrick believed that “filmmaking is an exercise in problem solving.” He meant that to include the distribution and marketing of his films as well as their production, and he devoted more time and effort to managing the release of his films than any other director. In my view, it’s one of the reasons he made only 13 films in 46 years. He relished the problem-solving.
I spent two years overseeing the marketing of Kubrick’s 1968 masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey, devising its successful 70-mm. relaunch strategy, before joining him in England to handle the release of A Clockwork Orange. Our collaboration began shortly after Clockwork wrapped and lasted through its December 1971 premiere, its official U.S. release date of February 2, 1972, and throughout its extended rollout. With Stanley’s rare combination of meticulousness and creativity, we achieved what we set out to accomplish — but the most influential result of our collaboration was unexpected.
The distribution of A Clockwork Orange was profoundly influenced by the unique marketing history of its predecessor. 2001 was MGM’s most expensive film to date. The fate of the company, which was in the midst of a proxy battle, depended on its success. It was greeted with derisive, negative reviews by the mainstream press and public — unprepared for its radical, non-linear style — until alternative audiences embraced it as a cinematic breakthrough.
Three and a half years later, the “X”-rated A Clockwork Orange opened to rave reviews in the United States, in a perfectly choreographed advertising-publicity-exhibition campaign that broke house records in every major city. Unlike the first, misconceived 2001 campaign, nothing was left to chance, including the crucial selection of cinemas, which were usually decided by a studio’s sales executives.