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The Disappearance of Limited Releases

August 6th, 2010

There are a lot of films on this week's column, but ironically, it feels like there are not that many true limited releases. Of the eight films below, more than half are opening in a dozen or more theaters. Two of them are opening in more than 200 theaters, which is generally far too many for a limited release. Even more troubling, only half are earning overall positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, which could be devastating at the box office.

Cairo Time - Reviews
A woman (played by Patricia Clarkson), travels to Cairo to meet her husband, Tom McCamus, but when he is unable to meet her, he sends another man, Alexander Siddig, to give her a tour of the city. However, while the pair visit the beautiful sites, they have an emotional connection. The reviews for this film are great, for a wide release, but perhaps a little soft for a limited release. On the other hand, Patricia Clarkson is not exactly a stranger when it comes to success in limited release and she could have enough cred with the art house crowd to help the film thrive. Cairo Time opens tonight in five theaters, three in the Los Angeles area and two in New York City.

The Disappearance of Alice Creed - Reviews
Gemma Arterton plays the titular Alice Creed, the daughter of a millionaire who is kidnapped by Vic and Danny, but their plans don't go as smoothly as they hoped and their victim isn't as passive as they hoped. I'm of two minds on this film. Firstly, its reviews are quite good and the presence of Gemma Arterton has piqued my interest. However, its reviews are not quite at the 80% level, and this is the wrong genre for limited release. It is also opening in a dozen theaters in cities across the nation (Los Angeles, New York City, Dallas, Atlanta, Huston, etc.), which is a tough distribution pattern to pull off. I don't think it will thrive, but I think it will be a bigger hit on the home market.

Flipped - Reviews
Earlier last week, there was some confusion over whether or not this film would open in limited release or wide release. Unfortunately, it is opening in "select cities", which is the worst compromise between the two. Also, it is opening with reviews that are just below 50% positive, which would not be too bad for a wide release, but could be a killer blow for a limited release. Furthermore, it will have to try to survive in limited release for three weeks before its scheduled expansion wide. I just don't see that happening.

Lebanon - Reviews
A film about the first Lebonese war, which happened nearly 30 years ago. However, it is about issues that are relevant to every war, as it is about four young men who have never been in war and are unprepared for it, but are asked to go on a mission that seems ill-defined, at best. It is earning some of the best reviews of the week, but it is just a hair below the 80% positive level I normally associate with success on the limited release front. Hopefully it's close enough. Lebanon opens tonight at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema in New York City.

Middle Men - Buy from Amazon
The widest limited release of the week, this film is opening in more than 250 theaters ahead of its scheduled wide expansion in two weeks. However, with reviews that are merely mixed, I'm not sure if it will do well enough to last that long. It does have a good cast with some box office drawing power, as well as a topic that could help at the box office. But I think it is more likely it won't find an audience until it reaches the home market.

The Oxford Murders - Buy from Amazon
This film stars Elijah Wood, John Hurt, and others, but its cast could be its only selling point, as the reviews are terrible. Not only does it only have a 17% Tomatometer Score, it only has six reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, which suggests it is slipping below the radar of many critics. Neither of these results bodes well for its future. Finally, the film is opening at the Living Room Theaters in Portland, Oregon, which is not exactly the normal place for a limited release debut.

Twelve - Reviews
One of the widest releases of the week, opening in more than 200 theaters, this film is also burdened by the worst reviews. Right now over on Rotten Tomatoes, it has just one positive review out of 23 posted. Also, Hannover House is a fledgling distributor, so it is hard to judge how well they will be able to handle a release like this. Recent years have not been kind to the industry with established players like MGM, Weinstein, Miramax, as well as newcomers like Yari Film Group struggling to survive. (Or failing to survive in the case of Yari.) So this will be a tough test for the distributor.

The Wildest Dream - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about George Mallory, who wanted to be the first person to climb Mount Everest, on his final attempt at scaling the mountain. The film uses actual letters sent by Mallory to his wife, photos from the expedition, as well as a reenactment by Conrad Anker, who found Mallory's body in 1999. The reviews have been excellent, but have fallen just short of the 80% level. Also, I'm not sure there are enough mountaineering enthusiasts out there to help the film thrive. The Wildest Dream opens tonight in a dozen theaters in cities nationwide.


Filed under: Limited Releases, Flipped, Middle Men, The Oxford Murders, Twelve, The Wildest Dream, Lebanon, The Disappearance of Alice Creed, Cairo Time