It was completed in late November, and was expected to be a loss; the pacing was abysmal, and with no real story to speak of, the actors were left to mumble through dialogue below even TV-movie standards for syrupy awfulness. There are some surprisingly impressive moments in cinematography–the long tracking shots in particular–but they come across as unsuitably ominous for such a simple family picture (some have speculated them to be the result of poor editing, rather than a deliberate attempt to emulate Stanley Kubrick). Although designed as a light holiday comedy, it was destined for failure from the beginning.
However, Atari was poised to release their home version of Pac-Man for the holiday buying season, and Hue-Giacomo sensed he could salvage the film with a tie-in. The new grand prize for the local soapbox race? The fictional Amarigatachi video game system, represented in the film by an Atari 2600, painted gold. The time period was inexplicably updated to present day, and reshoots were ordered, to director Ethan Mesial’s incessant protests. Mesial asked that his credit be removed, and Hue-Giacomo’s live-in girlfriend Natalie Mesh, a 21-year old waitress from Orinda, California, was instantly named the new director.
It is very obvious that the scenes involving the Amarigatachi system were added after the fact (reaction shots are elongated or even repeated while off-camera characters mention the game in looped dialogue, extras disappear in an additional scene when the game is presented, etc.). But the chaotic continuity errors are only part of the film’s bizarre world in which no cars or clothing were manufactured past 1965, and yet video games are the hottest thing going. (Although at least one of the original film’s anachronisms eventually became a boon: Brandis had worn a Casio C-801 calculator watch throughout the entire filming.)
The new cut of the film was temporarily shelved following the poor test response. Meanwhile, Atari’s Pac-Man port was a huge seller, yet a critical flop. Soon after, industry insiders predicted the end of the video game fad. It wasn’t until July of the following year that Tron became known as the first “video game movie.” So when Videogame: The Movie was finally widely released in June of 1984, it was ignored by the world (Star Trek III, Ghostbusters, Gremlins and The Karate Kid also premiered that month). Holden Hue-Giacomo died at his Hollywood home after taking Quaaludes and falling asleep in a hot tub, and all three of the film’s stars would eventually go on to commit suicide. The memory of the world’s first video game movie was forgotten.