The Indie Week That Was
By Michael Lynderey
May 21, 2009
Playing to your base
Management wasn't the only recent movie launched right into a fair if un-wide number of theaters - there was Rudo Y Cursi, a Spanish-language film from Mexico, which opened in 70 locations on May 8th. Critics mostly gave it positive nods, with 70% at RottenTomatoes. The story follows a pair of brothers who succeed in professional soccer - a sport popular in Mexico and the topic of the odd recent imports Goal! and Goal! 2. Rudo Y Cursi marks the reunion of Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna, the two Mexican stars of the deserved art house hit Y Tu Mama Tambien. That film brought the two international recognition, although their work since has been stuck within the hit-and miss range.
Rudo Y Cursi opened up mostly in cities with large Spanish-speaking populations - Miami (67% Spanish-speaking, as of 2000), Los Angeles (42%), San Jose (23%), and Denver (21%), among others; indeed, the film's regional release was geared directly at the Hispanic American market, capitalizing on the film's nationality and star power within that demographic. Targeting a film at the Hispanic audience can work to varying degrees - 2002's Real Women Have Curves finished with a fair $5.8 million in limited release, but did you know that the audience that gave Fast & Furious its $70 million opening was 46% Hispanic?? Rudo Y Cursi, however, came in with decidedly mixed results. In its 70-theater opening, the movie generated a $3,021 per-screen average, not really a sign of approval for further expansion. However, expand the film they did - by May 15th, it was playing at 219 screens, dipping its average down to $2,028 for a total gross of around $738,706, and murky waters ahead.
The indie masters vs. the summer blockbusters
Though May has long been known for opening the summer blockbuster season, most recent Mays haven't hesitated to provide at least a fair share of under-the-radar films. This year didn't start out any differently, with a few intriguing films launching their limited runs on the weekends otherwise thoroughly dominated by Wolverine and Star Trek.
The Merry Gentleman was one of the unfortunate entrants into the fray. At a glance, this comes off like one of those neat little character-based dramas that work so well because of the writing and performances. It's about a love triangle of sorts between a detective, a witness to a murder, and the hitman who pulled the trigger. It also marks Michael Keaton's directorial debut; his starring role here (as the hitman) represents a continuation of Keaton's foray into smaller films, after his role opposite Robert Downey, Jr. in the much-praised but little seen Game 6 (2005). Kelly Macdonald plays the witness, and seems to be raising her profile, at least in some circles, after playing the unlucky wife in No Country for Old Men (2007) and the odd doctor in Choke (2008). The Merry Gentleman had fair critical acclamation, scoring 65% on the Tomatometer, but delivered only a rough $3,000 per-theater average in its opening 24 slots, subsequently dipping to around $2,000 upon expansion to 33 screens the next week. On weekend three, the theater count didn't change, but the box office did, dropping by 66%. While Keaton should be given a lot of credit for his work on this, it looks like his name wasn't enough to raise the film's profile beyond a fleeting art house release.