September 1991: The Moneytree is originally released with great critical reviews, but in that difficult period of prohibition, no distributor stepped forward to support the film. It was a different time - there was no 'medical marijuana,' no legal cannabis, no doctor’s scripts, no dispensaries. Reagan was President and 'three strikes you're out' was our government’s drug policy. But that hostile environment did not stop us from bringing the film to the people.
There was no such thing as 'social media', no Facebook (Mark Zuckerberg was seven), no Twitter, no Instagram. We did our promotion old-school: carrying the film from city to city and town to town, passing out fliers at concerts, and banging on the doors of every radio and television station that would let us in the door. And we did well. We even had offers from independent theater chains for a national release - because finally, we proved there was a market. The people had spoken. We were ahead of our time.
April 1992: We opened in Los Angeles - just as the city exploded in flames in reaction to the police acquittal in the Rodney King beating. Our theater in LA had to close because of the riots and so our promotion efforts had been in vain. Los Angeles is a very expensive media market and we simply didn’t have the money to re-advertise and promote all over again. We were unable to recover, and so The Moneytree had to go into video release.
But once again, we found fear and hesitation on the part of the establishment. Despite our impressive box office grosses, no video distributor would take on The Moneytree. In desperation, I went to my local video store and offered The Moneytree to the owner… but, well I’ll just let him tell you the story:
One month later, a video distributor approached us and bought five hundred V.H.S. copies of The Moneytree - cash on the barrel. We thought, great, here we go! Within two weeks they requested another five hundred copies. Unfortunately, we never received payment. After multiple attempts to reach the distributor, their number was disconnected. We later found out that the owner of the company had been arrested for money laundering and embezzlement.
At that point I was burned out. I’d had enough. Disillusioned, I made the decision to shelve The Moneytree until I had the resources to re-release the film. You can help me to recover from my Hollywood version of PTSD!