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Limited Releases Hoping to Avoid any Lemons

April 17th, 2009

Late April is a bad time of the year to open a wide release, and the same is true for limited releases. That said, there are a couple of films on this week's list that are earning strong reviews, and perhaps one or two will be able to earn enough to expand at least somewhat.

American Violet - Reviews
A drama about the effects of the "war on drugs" gone mad. The police forces are given resources based on the number of drug-related convictions they have, which gives them incentive to arrest as many people as they can, regardless of whether they are guilty or not, and then get them to plead out and get probation. But when a single-mother is arrested, and decides to fight back, those in charge decide to destroy her rather than risk this rather lucrative system. It's a powerful story, and one that is based on the law, but while its reviews are good, I don't know if they are good enough to thrive in limited release. Also a factor, the movie is opening in more than 60 theaters in select cities nationwide, and I don't like that strategy, as it tends to backfire quite frequently. We will know by Monday if the film will find the audience it deserves to.

Every Little Step - Reviews
A documentary about the long-running musical, A Chorus Line. The film is earning great reviews, and there's a large crossover audience between art house cinemas and Broadway, so this film could do quite well during its limited release run. Every Little Step opens tonight in two theaters, one in New York City and the other in Los Angeles.

The Golden Boys - Reviews
On of the widest limited releases of the week, the film is sadly earning weak reviews. And that's weak for a wide release, at just 36% positive. That's tragic for a limited release. Additionally, it's a Romantic Comedy, which is not a genre that usually does well in limited release. Add in a theater count of 20, mostly in Florida, and I don't have a lot of hope for this film's chances.

Is Anybody There? - Reviews
Michael Caine and Bill Milner (from Son of Rambow) star in this movie. The former is a former stage magician living in a retirement home, while the latter is the 10-year old son of the couple who run the retirement home. Having grown up in a retirement home has meant he has seen a lot of death, but he strikes up an odd friendship with Clarence. Reviews are mixed, which is usually fatal for limited releases, but the cast could help it during its opening weekend. Is There Anybody There? opens tonight in six theaters, split between New York City and the Los Angeles area.

Lemon Tree - Reviews
An Israeli film that deals with the Palestinian conflict on a more personal level. In the movie, a Palestinian widow has to deal with the Israeli Minister of Defense who recently moved next door, only to demand she cut down her lemon trees as they pose a security threat to him. One of the best-reviewed films of the week, we'll soon see if those strong reviews can transform into box office success. Lemon Tree opens tonight in two theaters in New York City, the IFC Center and the Lincoln Plaza Cinema.

Sleep Dealer - Reviews
A sci-fi thriller set in a dystopian near-future where corporations have taken over the United States and sealed the borders. The film follows a young man from Mexico who accidentally intercepts a corporate security transmission on his homemade radio, which has devastating consequences when that causes him to be labeled an Aqua-Terrorist. It's an interesting premise, but the reviews are just not there to suggest it will survive in limited release. Perhaps when it gets to the home market? Sleep Dealer opens tonight in nearly 20 theaters, mostly in the Los Angeles area.

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Filed under: Limited Releases