The Indie Month That Was: Part I
By Michael Lynderey
May 14, 2009
Next, there was Lymelife. This one's got a good indie cast - Alec Baldwin, Jill Hennessy, Cynthia Nixon, Timothy Hutton and not one but two Culkin brothers (you might not know this, but the 2000s have seen Culkins of all shapes and sizes starring in indie movies, some of them very good). Also on hand is Emma Roberts, whose Hotel for Dogs got caught in the incredible January movie rush and grossed $72 million, giving her her biggest hit to date by miles. The genre? It's a suburban dysfunction ("sub-dys" for short) movie, following a handful of '70s-era Long Islanders in their turmoil. The sub-dys movies haven't done well at the box office lately (see for example Will Ferrell's Winter Passing), but it seems like there are always one or two out every year anyway. This one had a fair critical approval at 60%, but the $6,940 it pulled in on average from its opening in four theaters was a fairly damning sign. Lymelife grew to 13, 25, and finally 35 locations, seeing its per-theater average deflate down to its current state of $1,486. I don't think it will see 40 screens. What was the problem here? No major draw in the cast, no particular hook in the premise, and reviews that, while good, were not out-of-this-world positive. Indeed, I would stand by the theory that the sub-dys genre is so played out by now, that only one that receives spectacular reviews is going to break out into wider notice.
An even lower-profile release was Gigantic, which starred Paul Dano and Zooey Deschanel, indie stalwarts the both of them. Dano is coming off a noted role in There Will Be Blood and Deschanel's just had a hit-and-miss year in the big leagues (with the Happening and Yes Man). Put together into a comedy-drama that ended up with only 37% on RottenTomatoes, they barely had a chance. After opening in one theater, where it grossed $10,294, this one expanded to 11 and saw its average gross fall down into the $1,000s.
And finally, there was Is Anybody There? This one stars Michael Caine and thus enters into one of those Gran Torino-type scenarios - an actor in his late 70s headlining a film in which his character is a cranky retiree reminiscing about his glory days. It's got a fair 67% on RottenTomatoes as a stamp of approval. But aside from Caine, the film doesn't have much of a strong hook - and could only manage a $7,702 average from its opening in six theaters. The distributor, Stony Island Entertainment, seemed intent on expanding this wider - 54 theaters on April 24th and 122 on May 1st - but both runs brought in per-theater averages of just over $2,000. Still, these numbers gave the film a higher profile than Pittsburgh, Lymelife or Gigantic got, and since it has the best reviews of the bunch, maybe it deserves it.
Check back tomorrow for part two of the column, which examines the rest of April's indie titles.