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Limited Releases are Slumming It

November 14th, 2008

There's an even dozen limited releases on this week's list, but only two of them are earning overwhelming positive reviews. And only one of those, Slumdog Millionaire, has a real shot at significant expansion.

Antarctica - Reviews
This movie is being billed as the first gay romantic comedy from Israel. It's aiming at a pretty small niche market there. This might explain the small number of reviews over on Rotten Tomatoes, and while both of its reviews are positive, it still has an uphill battle to find an audience. (Update: More reviews are in, and they are decidedly mixed.) Antarctica opens tonight at the Regent Showcase Theater in Hollywood.

The Beautiful Truth - Reviews
A documentary about the alleged cancer cure discovered by Dr. Max Gerson in the 1920s. I say alleged, because no scientific evidence has ever been presented. Arguments that the cure for cancer are being suppressed by pharmaceutical companies falls apart when you don't bother to present evidence to support your claim in the first place. (This is one of the perils of making a message movie; having an ineffective argument.) The Beautiful Truth opens tonight at the Quad Cinema in New York City.

A Christmas Tale - Reviews
One of the best reviewed-releases of the week, this French film opened in third place in its native market and earned nearly $5 million there. It would be impressive if it could earn half of that here, even with those outstanding reviews. First of all, it is a foreign language film, which limits its ability to expand wide. Secondly, the track record for limited releases so far this year has been very poor. We'll see if this one can be the exception. A Christmas Tale opens tonight in seven theaters, mostly in the Los Angeles area, but also in New York City.

Dostana - No Reviews
The first of two Indian films on this week's list. Both are opening to no reviews and have little to no shot at earning mainstream success. But both could become hits with their target audience, assuming they don't split the audience too badly. Dostana opens tonight in 74 theaters, making it the widest limited release of the week.

The Dukes - Reviews
A heist movie about two doo-wop singers whose careers have passed them by. In need of money, they decide to get together a crew to steal gold from a dental lab. Reviews are mixed, which is a death sentence for a limited release, but perhaps it will find an audience on the home market. The Dukes opens tonight in four theaters in New York state, including two in New York City. (At least according to its official site.)

Eden - Reviews
Brenda and Billy are approaching their 10th wedding anniversary, but instead of being a time of happiness and romance, their relationship is starting to crumble. It's a busy week for limited releases with a dozen such films on this week's list, which makes this film's reviews even more troublesome. Usually it takes a Tomatometer score of much higher than 60% positive for a limited release to survive, and the competition only hurts the film. Perhaps it will surprise, but I wouldn't wager money on that. Eden opens tonight at the Sunshine Cinema in New York City before expanding into Los Angeles and Boston next week.

Faded Memories - Reviews
Written, directed, and starring Anne-Sophie Dutoit. This is her third film, although it's just her first feature-length production, and she has yet to turn 18. This is an interesting hook, but on the other hand, I've only found one review online, and it's negative. Faded Memories opens tonight at the Laemmles Sunset 5 in Los Angeles.

Familiar Strangers - Reviews
A story of a dysfunctional family that gets together over Thanksgiving. So far there is only one review on Rotten Tomatoes, but it is positive. However, it is not opening in the normal places for a limited release. Instead it is debuting in two theaters in Virginia, which is where it was filmed. It will be interesting to see if this strategy pays off or not.

Fuel - Reviews
A documentary about the current energy crisis and some alternate ways of alleviating the problem. There have been a number of recent environmental movies, but this one tries to be less doomsday and more inspirational in its message. We'll see if that has an effect on the box office. Fuel opens tonight at the Regal Foxtower 10 Cinema in downtown Portland, Oregon.

How About You - Reviews
Adapted from a short story by Maeve Binchy, this film has an impressive cast, but so far the reviews are not quite up to the level needed to thrive in limited release. Granted, it's hard to complain about 71% positive reviews, and we haven't seen many limited releases earn Oscar-worthy reviews so far, so this film could benefit from the weaker than usual competition. How About You opens tonight in New York City at the Paris Theatre.

Slumdog Millionaire - Reviews
Out of all of the limited releases opening this week, Danny Boyle's latest has the most buzz surrounding it. It also has the reviews to back up the advanced buzz, which is better than nearly all of the previous limited releases that were in the same situation, most of which disappointed critically. Finally, the film has already opened in theaters, and has proven to be a box office draw. I would expect an opening weekend per theater average of $15,000, perhaps a little more, perhaps a little less. That should be enough to convince more theater owners to give it a chance, and with 90% positive reviews, a little bit of Awards Season buzz could help it expand even further. Slumdog Millionaire opened on Wednesday in 10 theaters, mostly in the Los Angeles area, but also in New York City, Chicago, and elsewhere.

Vaaranam Aayiram - No Reviews
The final limited release of the week, this is also the second Indian film. Like the previous one, this one has no reviews and no shot at success outside of its niche market. However, it is playing in 20 specialty theaters starting tonight, and could do well there.

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Filed under: Limited Releases, Slumdog Millionaire, Dostana, Un conte de Noël, Antarctica