I am not a collector.
Not really. I certainly have my share of items here in the house that celebrate or commemorate my lifelong passion for film, but I don’t spend much money on shirts or toys or posters right now, because if I did, my wife would kill me with a rock while I was sleeping. We’ve got school to pay for, a new car to buy, and a million other obligations, not even taking our mortgage into account. Yet if I had spare cash just laying around, I guarantee a good percentage of it would end up in the pockets of Justin Ishmael and the rest of the guys behind Mondo.
I remember the Mondo Tees that was part of the original Drafthouse, and it’s hard to believe that the business it is today grew out of those humble beginnings, but I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, Mondo is another of the charmed businesses in the orbit of Tim League, and a big part of why he’s been so successful is because he goes above and beyond to make each exhibition experience special. That philosophy seems to be a big part of the creation process behind the posters that are now the main cultural output of Mondo, posters created by artists like Tyler Stout and Oly Moss. Now that Mondo is licensing titles, they’re able to create amazing art for these films we collectively love, posters that should have been used in theaters, but that would have never been approved by studios.
What I love most is that these posters manage to sum up why we love a film in very simple fashion, and tonight, there’s an event going on where they’ll premiere an incredibly limited-run poster. It was announced as a secret screening, and it’s only once the lights go down that the audience will discover they’re seeing the anime classic “Akira.”
Justin Ishamel got on the phone with me earlier this week to discuss how the Mondo Mystery Movie evolved, and this all seems to have come together quickly. “Tim and I were in Japan a few weeks before the tsunami thing happened, and we were walking around, getting inspiration from everything, and I knew I wanted to do something more with Mondo. Then screenings came up. But what else do you do? You’ve got action covered by Henry, and Zack and Lars do Terror Tuesday and Weird Wednesday, so what else is there?”
It’s a fair point. The Alamo has done so many amazing types of screenings, like the Rolling Roadshow, that it’s hard to come up with a fresh angle. “But then Tyler Stout… he rarely does appearances or interviews, and he said he wanted to come down to the Alamo for his birthday, which is on April 14, and we told him that he could pick anything he wants and we would make it work. So he surprised us when he picked ‘Akira.’ And we weren’t going to do it as a secret at first. It was going to be more like what we did with ‘Kill Bill’ at the New Beverly. And as I was writing it up for the site, I realized this could be the thing I’ve been looking for. We can do a series. We can be as crazy as we want with this mystery movie thing. And based on that, we can hopefully sell these movies out for the Alamo, even something that might not normally sell out, because you’ve got the ability to buy this rare poster only when you’re at the actual theater.”
It’s a testament to how much their audience trusts them that the screening, with no announced title, is now the fastest sell-out in Alamo history. It sold out in seconds. Literally. Seconds. And tonight, when the audience learns that they’re seeing “Akira” and they see this jaw-dropping poster that Tyler Stout put together for the screening, which will be available only to the people in that theater, I have a feeling they’re going to be happy they were part of that nearly-instant sell-out.
When they did their “Star Wars” posters, one of the first ideas that Justin had for the series was doing a “Revenge Of The Jedi” variant, and that cuts to the heart of another part of the appeal of the work they’re doing right now: exclusivity. They produce very limited runs of these posters, and when they’re gone, they’re gone. In the case of “Akira” tonight, there aren’t even as many posters are there are people in that theater. So if you end up with one, rest assured, it’s a genuine collector’s item.
“I’m a collector. Everyone that’s involved with Mondo is a nerd in some aspect. Mitch and Rob are music guys, I’m more of a toy guy, and we’re all poster collectors. We talk on the phone every day, and we’re constantly hunting for rare things. We understand what it’s like to find a super-rare Yugoslavian ‘Deadly Friend’ poster. I know what it feels like to have something no one else has. People ask us why we don’t do unlimited runs, and it’s so they matter.”
This is not a one-time-only thing for Mondo, and it won’t just be limited to Austin. Without being specific, Justin indicated that they are already discussing where and how they’ll be doing future screenings.
One thing is for sure: few companies out there are more truly by nerds and for nerds, and in the best possible way. Mondo is out there making things that I never would have imagined would exist, and I am jealous of everyone sitting in that theater tonight with Tyler Stout. Future screenings could be new movies, old movies, TV shows… anything. And that sort of surprise is something we rarely get to experience in our modern media age, making Mondo’s work with the Alamo on this one even more special.
Here’s your first look at Tyler Stout’s extremely limited-run “Akira” poster…
… and our thanks go out to Stout, Justin, and the entire Alamo and Mondo teams for taking the time to talk about this and for the way they constantly push the envelope of awesome.
If you want to, you can download a larger version of the poster here.
Much more to come this week, including a special sneak peek at “Transformers: Dark Of The Moon” tomorrow. Whatever you thought of the second film in that series, my piece tomorrow may convince you that something crazy’s coming to theaters this July, because what I saw this morning made a believer out of me.