Could ‘Super Sucker’ usurp Super Bowl Sunday?

Not everyone is a football freak glued to his TV set on Super Bowl Sunday, reasoned independent filmmaker Jeff Daniels and his managing partner, Bob Brown, of Purple Rose Films. So why not capitalize on Midwesterners who would rather get out of the house and take in a good movie. Like their “Super Sucker” comedy, for instance.

Fred Barlow (Jeff Daniels) and his determined sales crew of misfits. photo courtesy Purple Rose Films

True to the unorthodox plan he revealed to an audience of empathetic November’s IFP Conference-goers, on Jan. 24 his Michigan-made comedy will be?blitzed onto 125 Midwestern movie screens in and around the metro areas of Chicago, Milwaukee, Detroit, Cleveland and Minneapolis/St. Paul. It plays in 17 Chicago-area locations (see list below).

(Faith in Daniels and Brown’s decision to break on Super Bowl Sunday is confirmed by an InsightExpress survey of 500 people. A third of the respondents said they couldn’t care less about the Super Bowl or its commercials. Instead, they planned to go to the movies or rent a video, or dine out.)

As it is with all releases regardless of whether they’re studio or indie films, the first opening weekend is “crucial in determining, more than anything, the success of our film,” says Brown. The producers are counting on strong word-of-mouth to sell theatre tickets. Healthy gross receipts might swing a distributor to signing them.?

Director Jeff Daniels

Written, directed and starring Daniels, “Super Sucker” was filmed in Jackson, Michigan with a cast and crew 95% from the Michigan area. Two thousand Jackson residents turned out for the climatic closing scenes.?

The story is about door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman Fred Barlow (Daniels) pitted against his arch rival, the red-jacketed Winslow Schnaebelt (Harve Presnell) in a “winner take all” contest. When Barlow discovers the real value of the “Homemaker’s Little Helper” drapery attachment, he changes his life and the home cleaning industry forever.

It got an R rating because of the farcical sex. While there are lots of moans and groans, nary a foul word is uttered.

Being stuck in distribution hell has Daniels justifiably puzzled, frustrated and annoyed. Distributors, who have helped the dozens of Daniels movies make millions, are unwilling to take on the zany comedy which is, admittedly, devoid of big names, other than those of Daniels, and possibly the fine character actor, co-star Harve Presnell.

“The distributors called “Sucker” a ‘tweener’, a mainstream comedy on an indie budget,” Daniels said. “People told us it was funny as hell, but they didn’t go for it it. We were asked, ‘Why don’t you get someone like Adam Sandler (as the lead).

Still, unwilling to take rejection, Daniels and Brown decided self-distribution was possibly the best route at this point. And where else but release throughout the Midwest. And why not on Super Bowl Sunday, the holiest of all pro football days?

Last year, after winning Best Feature at the Comedy Arts Fest in Aspen and playing to SRO houses,Sucker received “some interest from distributors,” said Bob Brown, but no sale.

Purple Rose Films made their earlier “Escanaba in da Moonlight” comedy for $1.8 million and it grossed $2.3 million during a blitz in three states (Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota), Brown said. Super Sucker,with a $4 million budget, opens in five states (Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Missouri).

What could greatly increase those grosses, they figure, is a grassroots campaign that involves filmmakers as committed as Daniels and Brown to making films close to home. Purple Rose Films is turning to volunteers in each of the theatre areas to help get the word out, through promotional materials and Emails. “Please support independent filmmaking in the Midwest.? We need you opening weekend!” says distribution director Nicole Sylvester.

“There’s no pay involved,” she states, “but it is a great opportunity to network with a company committed to Midwest filmmaking.” Volunteers to get some goodies for their help, such as T-shirts, big pins and the like, and passes to the screening.

Maybe Daniels, the serious writer/director/actor who wants to make funny movies from his home in the heart of Michigan, is just the man to open the distribution door for other indie filmmakers.?

Screening after screening confirms it, this is a funny film that moviegoers want to see,” he added.?At the 2002 US Comedy Arts Festival “Super Sucker”, the sophomore effort of Purple Rose Films partners Jeff Daniels and Bob Brown was the talk of the festival. Winning the audience award for Best Feature, Super Sucker played to sold out audiences throughout the festival.

His “Escanaba” comedy was made for $1.8 million and grossed $2.3 million in three states (Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota), Brown said.

If you’d like to volunteer and be part of indie film history, contact Nicole Sylvester, distribution director, at, or phone 248/476-8486. See

Daniels will be in Chicago Jan. 21 for a special industry preview and Q and A session at 7 p.m. at AMC River East theater. For a free ticket go to and print out the flyer.

“SUPER SUCKER” OPENS JAN. 24 at: AMC River East, Loew’s Webster, AMC Ford City, Loew’s Crestwood, Crystal Lake Showplace, Marcus Gurnee Mills and Orland Park, Lincolnshire 20, Merriville’s AMC Southlake Mall, Mt. Prospect AMC Randhurst 16, AMC’s South Barrington, Center 30 in Warrenville, Cinemark 17 in Woodridge, Regal Round Lake, Loew’s Woodfield, Streamwood and Country Club Hills.