‘Stalking Santa’ coming to DVD … and skipping theaters

Remember “Stalking Santa,” the fun mockumentary about a guy trying to prove the existence of Santa Claus? Sure you do! I posted a review several months back, and alerted you to some screenings in the Provo area.

Now I have good news and bad news. The good news is that the film is being released on DVD this Tuesday, so you can buy it or rent it and watch it in the comfort of your own home. The bad news is that this is occurring without the movie ever being released to theaters.

What annoys me is that this is the work of Excel Entertainment, which bought the film earlier this year, full of promises to give it a nice theatrical release and plenty of promotion. The producers had other options. They went with Excel because Excel — despite only having previous experience with Utah-centric Mormon films — pledged to handle it effectively.

And now they’re dumping it straight to DVD. “Stalking Santa” isn’t mentioned anywhere on Excel’s website. It’s not for sale at Amazon. (It is for rent at Netflix, though.) As far as I can tell, the only place you can buy it is at Deseret Book stores or at DeseretBook.com — where it’s incorrectly categorized as an “LDS DVD,” no doubt because it came from Excel, and Deseret Book is used to everything Excel does being LDS-themed.

In other words, it’s being marketed (and halfheartedly at that) only to Mormons, even though it has nothing to do with Mormonism and would appeal to a general audience. Indeed, it HAS appealed to general audiences, when it has played at film festivals over the last year. Excel’s bumbling has slashed the movie’s potential.

Why didn’t Excel release it in theaters? An insider told me it was due to the regrettable circumstances of the season. The marketplace is very crowded this time of year, and it’s hard to get theater chains to give up screens for something small like this.

That’s a good point — but it was also 100 percent foreseeable. They could have known that (and should have known that) months ago, when they acquired the film. The holiday season didn’t exactly sneak up on us this year. It was on the calendar.

Anyway, they are doing three free promotional screenings in theaters, one in Salt Lake City on Monday, one in Los Angeles on Tuesday, and one in New York City on Thursday. The details are at the film’s website. I do believe cast members will be on hand at all the screenings.

(By the way, I can see from the picture on the film’s website that I’m quoted on the DVD cover, but I can’t quite make out who it says I write for. It should say “Eric D. Snider, eFilmCritic.com,” but the text looks a few letters longer than that. Can anyone else make it out?)