The Indie Month That Was: Part I

By Michael Lynderey

May 14, 2009

This is probably how swine flu spreads. I can't be too careful.

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So it wasn't a surprise that the distributor, newbie Senator Entertainment, sent this one out to only 482 theaters. What was more sore to behold was the weekend gross - approximately $300,000, for a per-theater average of $622. That's too bad for a movie that looked at least kind of cool.

C Me Dance was another film to launch right into this kind of regional release. This one was an attempt by Freestyle Releasing to enter into the oft-lucrative Christian film market. I am not sure exactly what this one was about - but it involved, if I understand it correctly, the battle - either spiritual or physical - between a novice dancer and the Devil. Well, why not? Released in 151 theaters in mostly Southern states, it opened with $28,700 for a per-theater average of $190. This is not good box office. One of the keys to making a Christian-oriented film successful is strong grassroots marketing to your base - and although I'm not totally sure, it didn't seem like this one had it. It also didn't help that Freestyle really doesn't have any experience with this sort of thing - too often, they dump films that no one has any real reason to see onto hundreds of screens, and the result is predictable - see titles like Nobel Son, the now-notorious CGI flop Delgo, and the Halloween-timed but nearly-anonymous Sarah Landon and the Paranormal Hour.

One niche release that did do well was American Violet. Based on an incendiary case in 2000 Texas involving a wrongful arrest, the film raked up 72% on RottenTomatoes and praise for the lead performance by near-newcomer Nicole Beharie. Whatever this movie's target audience was, it worked better than this kind of release usually does, pulling in $243,162 from 61 screens, for an acceptable average of $3,986 per theater. It's not great, but for a little movie like this, it's a sign that something went right. The second-week drop, on the other hand, was worthy of one of this year's frontloaded extravaganzas - 72.6%, effectively killing any chance of a wider expansion (if any was intended in the first place, that is).


Big actors in small films

When analyzing, researching, investigating and probing every pore of the release schedule, I always look for those movies that star one or a few name actors, but are opening in a very limited release. They're not that rare.

We start with The Mysteries of Pittsburgh. This was an interesting one. Good title. Based on a cult 1988 novel by Michael Chabon, it's the second adaptation of one of Chabon's books to reach the screen (Wonder Boys was the first). It's a coming-of-age story set in the 1980s (that decade again) and it stars some good character actors, like Nick Nolte and Peter Sarsgaard. Sienna Miller plays a sexpot, and a comment Miller made to Rolling Stone, referring to the city as "Stsburgh", was even a little controversial back in 2006. Jon Foster (Ben Foster's brother) is the lead, and with his role in both this and the Informers he seems to cement his status as a star of '80s period pieces. Anyway - RottenTomatoes came in at 14%, the film's pedigree didn't help it much, and the buzz was soft at best - so the film, opening in 20 theaters, pulled in only an $1,879 per-screen-average; it dropped down to 11 theaters the next week and that was about it for this one. Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, if given a major studio treatment, ought to do better. But for now, Chabon's cinematic world isn't at its peak.

Continued:       1       2       3



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