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Unlimited Number of Limited Releases Compete for Limited Audiences

October 21st, 2011

This week more than a dozen limited releases are being released, which is far too many. This level of competition means even films with great reviews, high name recognition among the cast, and strong advance buzz could struggle to find an audience. There are a number of films that have at least two of those three key ingredients, including Martha Marcy May Marlene and Oranges and Sunshine. Hopefully these two, and a few others, will find a receptive audience in limited release.

Balls to the Walls - No Reviews
Ben wants to marry Rachel, but Rachel wants a really expensive wedding. However, Ben's soon-to-be father-in-law, Jack, gambled all of his money away. Now Ben has to earn the $50,000 it will take to put on Rachel's dream wedding, by stripping. So far there are no reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, while the film is opening in ten theaters, mostly in Michigan, which is not the normal route for a limited release. I don't have high expectations for this film's box office chances.

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey - Reviews
A documentary about Kevin Clash, who is the man behind Elmo. The film's reviews are among the best of the week and are strong enough to suggest it will find an audience in limited release, but the subject matter does make it a bit of a wildcard. It might have more popular appeal than other documentary subject matter has, or it might be seen as not serious enough for art house crowds. Being Elmo opens tonight at the at the IFC Center in New York City.

Cargo - Reviews
A drama about human trafficking. It's a powerful subject, but the reviews are barely at the overall positive level and way below the level normally associated with success in limited release. It also doesn't have a lot of reviews, which suggests it will slip between the cracks during a busy week. Cargo opens tonight at the Quad Cinema in New York City.

The Catechism Cataclysm - Reviews
Steve Little plays Father Billy, a priest forced to go on a sabbatical after telling his worshipers inappropriate parables. He decides to find the person he idolized when he was in high school, Robbie, whose life has also gone off track. So far the reviews are mixed, and with so much competition, it will likely struggle at the box office. The Catechism Cataclysm opened on Wednesday at the IFC Center in New York City.

Elevate - Reviews
A documentary about four teens who come to the United States from Senegal on a basketball scholarships. The film's reviews are good, but not great, and the competition is intense. Not only are there more than a dozen limited releases coming out this week, there are several documentaries as well. Elevate opens tonight at the AMC Empire 25 in New York City.

Le Havre - Reviews
A young refugee boy and an older man form a friendship in this French film. So far the film is earning perfect reviews, and with 31 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, it is safe to say the film is a hit with critics. On the other hand, it is a foreign language film, so expanding wide will be very difficult. Le Havre opens tonight in six theaters, mostly in the Los Angeles area, but also in New York City.

Klitschko - Reviews
A documentary about Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko, two brothers from the former Soviet Union who have both become championship boxers. The film's reviews are excellent and it could do well in limited release, if there's a large enough crossover audience between boxing fans and documentary enthusiasts. Klitschko opens tonight in seven theaters, split between New York City and the Los Angeles area.

Margin Call - Reviews
This film has an impressive cast, reviews that are overwhelmingly positive, and a timely storyline. It takes place during the early days of the banking collapse and deals with a low-level analyst who discovers the bank he works for is on the verge of collapse and the higher ups who try to conceal that information until they can dump the bad assets. It has a lot going for it, but Margin Call is opening in 56 theaters, which is way too many for a limited release.

Martha Marcy May Marlene - Reviews
One of the few films on this week's list earning overwhelmingly positive reviews, although its Tomatometer Score has slipped below the award-worthy level. Elizabeth Olsen is earning a lot of praise for her performance as a young woman who has escaped a cult and is not trying to reconnect with her family. She might not be the early favorite to win an Oscar, but she could pick up more than a few nominations. Martha Marcy May Marlene opens tonight in four theaters, split evenly between New York City and Los Angeles. Next week it expands to major cities nationwide, as well as Toronto and Vancouver.

Norman - Reviews
Dan Byrd stars as the titular Norman, a high school student dealing with the recent death of his mother when he learns his father is dying of stomach cancer. Then when rumors spread around school that he is the one dying of cancer, he doesn't try to correct them. The film's reviews are overall positive, but not overwhelmingly so. Plus it is opening in more theaters than most limited releases can handle. Add in the competition, and I'm not bullish with regards to this film's chances. Norman opens tonight in nine theaters in the AMC theater chain.

Oranges and Sunshine - Reviews
Emily Watson stars as Margaret Humphreys, a social worker who discovered that the British government was shipping poor children overseas because it was cheaper to care for them in places like Australia than it was to keep them in the U.K. The film is earning good reviews and there had been strong buzz associated with it, but the Tomatometer Score is below the 80% positive level usually associated with success in limited release, and the competition is intense. Oranges and Sunshine opens tonight in three theaters, two in New York City and the other in Los Angeles.

Paul Goodman Changed My Life - Reviews
One of several documentaries on this week's list. This biopic looks at the live of Paul Goodman, who gained fame after writing "Growing Up Absurd: Problems of Youth in the Organized System". The film's reviews are perfect so far, although with just eight reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, there's room to change. It is also the type of film that could do very well in limited release, even if its chances of expanding wide are more limited. Paul Goodman Changed My Life opened on Wednesday at the Film Forum in New York City.

Retreat - Reviews
Cillian Murphy and Thandie Newtown star as a couple on vacation on a remote island. However, they rest and relaxation is interrupted when Jamie Bell arrives on the island. He's bloody and talking about an apocalyptic virus that has overrun Europe. The reviews are fantastic, and the film has a cast with better name recognition than most limited releases, but it is not the right genre for limited release, and its opening theater count is a little high. Hopefully the positives will outweigh the negatives. Retreat opens tonight in ten theaters.

The Reunion - Reviews
Yet another film made by WWE Films, which has not exactly had a lot of success at the box office, especially when they've released films in limited release. Given the film's reviews, this one will also struggle, but fans of John Cena will probably support it more once it reaches the home market. The Reunion opens tonight in ten theaters, but that's likely as wide as it will go.

Revenge of the Electric Car - Reviews
Not many documentaries have sequels, but this film is a follow-up to Who Killed the Electric Car?. That earlier film earned better reviews than this film is earning, but it also earned more than $1 million at the box office, which could help this film's box office chances, at least at the beginning. Expanding might be more difficult. Revenge of the Electric Car opened last week in Canada and this week in New York City and Los Angeles.

Snowmen - Reviews
A young boy dealing with a terminal illness wants to do something big before he dies, so he decides to break the world record for building the most snowmen. The film's reviews are good, but not great, and it is aimed at an audience that generally doesn't support limited releases. Snowmen opens in 16 theaters tonight, but none in the usually big markets, while it will likely have to wait until it comes out on DVD to find a larger audience.

The Untitled Work Of Paul Shepard - Reviews
Kris Holden-Ried stars as the titular Paul Shepard. When he learns his ex-girlfriend is releasing a book of poetry about love, he decides he's found the perfect subject matter for his next documentary. But when he learns it isn't a book about love, but a book about how bad he was as a boyfriend, he decides maybe it's time to figure out if all of his exes feel the same way. The Untitled Work Of Paul Shepard opens tonight at the Carlton Cinema in Toronto, Canada.


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Filed under: Limited Releases, Snowmen, Retreat, Margin Call, Revenge of the Electric Car, Martha Marcy May Marlene, The Catechism Cataclysm, The Reunion, Paul Goodman Changed My Life, Balls to the Wall, Oranges and Sunshine, Klitschko, Norman, Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey, Cargo, Le Havre, Elevate