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Pushing the Definition of Limited Releases

May 11th, 2007

There's another massive list of limited releases this week, including several that are in more than a couple of dozen theaters. However, this could be a serious problem as the market can only handle two movies opening that wide and maybe a few smaller releases. With this many films trying to squeeze into a tight weekend, at least half will fail to meet expectations.

Allegro - Reviews
Described as either inventive or pretentious, the latest from Christoffer Boe has left critics pretty evenly split. Its box office prospects are also split. The film is stylistic and cerebral, which should appeal to the art house crowd, but it doesn't seem to have the strong word-of-mouth that these kinds of films need to survive. Allegro opened on Wednesday at the Pioneer Theater in New York City.

Blind Dating - Reviews
Not your typical limited release. This movie is not art house fair, but one aimed squarely at mainstream audiences. However, going the select cities route is not the best way to find such an audience. As a cross-culture romantic comedy, there's a lot here that works (including the chemistry between the two leads). However, instead of relying on that chemistry to carry the movie, they stuck in a lot of crass humor. It's not up to the level of the American Pie films (which co-star Eddie Kaye Thomas was a part of), but it distracts enough to ruin the experience for most people. Blind Dating opens tonight in 70 theaters in select cities in Arizona, Florida, Texas and Utah.

Brand Upon the Brain! - Reviews
Written and directed by Guy Maddin and starring Sullivan Brown as Guy Maddin. This film could be autobiographical... but I hope not. Although that would explain a lot. Guy Maddin is a Canadian director who has previously brought us The Saddest Music in the World, Cowards Bend the Knees, and other strangely compelling works. This film is even stranger than most of his, as it is a silent film. In fact, during its week-long engagement at the Village East Cinema, it will be accompanied by an 11-piece orchestra. The reviews are among the best this week, and this is certainly a unique movie experience, so if you can, check it out this week.

Casting About - Reviews
A documentary about the casting process culled from over 300 hours of audition tapes. On the one hand, if you are interested in the behind-the-scenes of the movie making process, this could be a fascinating look at a little seen step. On the other hand, if you if think it would be tedious to see actress after actress trying out for the same roles over and over again, then this film will not change your mind. A great documentary should appeal to people who think they won't be interested in the subject matter, but those one fails to do that. Casting About opens tonight at the Cinema Village in New York City.

Day Night Day Night - Reviews
This movie follows a woman as she prepares to become a suicide bomber in Times Square. The main strength of the movie is the sense of desperation the audience feels while searching for answers (which makes it difficult to talk about the movie without ruining it), but this is also its biggest weakness. Without knowing why events transpire, it becomes harder to care about them. Day Night Day Night opened on Wednesday at the IFC Center in New York City.

Duck - Reviews
The first film written and directed by Nicole Bettauer (who also has two other directing credits). The film stars Philip Baker Hall as Arthur, a retired history professor who feels he has outlived his usefulness. He contemplates suicide but is interrupted when an orphaned duckling decides he's his mother and starts following him around. Hall is excellent in the film and much of it works. While watching it, however, many moviegoers will be reminded of similar films and that detracts from the overall effectiveness. Duck opens tonight in six theaters, half in the New York / New Jersey area and the other half in the Hollywood / Los Angeles area.

The Hip Hop Project - Reviews
A documentary about the healing power of Hip Hop. It focuses on Kazi and his efforts to help fellow troubled teens express themselves through music and better their lives. On the one hand, the film is cheesy at times and has trouble really selling the story. On the other hand, it is a powerful and inspiring story. However, opening in 42 theaters might be too much for the film to survive, even with the likes of Bruce Willis, Russell Simmons, and Queen Latifah backing it up.

Home of the Brave - Reviews
This film finally makes it to theaters after an Oscar-qualifying run late last year. However, as expected, it is not opening wide and only manages a select cities debut. Add in terrible reviews and almost no marketing push and I just can't see this film making much of an impact at the box office.

I Don't Want to Sleep Alone - Reviews
Minimalist film by writter / director Ming-liang Tsai, whose previous work includes Goodbye, Dragon Inn. Like that film, this one is slow moving, but strangely hypnotic. Also like that film, it will impress critics and art house crowds, but will have no hope at mainstream success. I Don't Want to Sleep Alone opened on Wednesday at the IFC Center in New York City.

Life in a... Metro - Reviews
The latest Bollywood, but this one was shot in the United Kingdom. For a while now the producers of these films have tried to have a breakout hit with mainstream markets in the U.K. and here, but so far that hasn't worked out. I think Bride & Prejudice came the closest, and that was still more of a cult hit. This film won't be the one film that changes the situation for a number of reasons, a lack of a big marketing push being one of them. Life in a... Metro opens tonight in 35 theaters, but that might be a wide as it goes.

Looking for an Icon - Reviews
A documentary about the World Press Photo Foundation, which is an organization that goes through all the news photographs looking for the one that most represents the year. This film was made to celebrate the 50th anniversary of this award, but while it is a worthy topic, the documentary clocks in at under an hour and that's just not enough time to focus on the group as a whole or the four photographs featured. An hour for each photograph might not be enough. Looking for an Icon opened on Wednesday at the Film Forum in New York City.

Provoked: A True Story - Reviews
The latest film starring Aishwarya Rai, who I feel is destined for mainstream success here but has yet to have that breakout hit. This movie is not likely to be the role that puts her over the top. Her performance is excellent in the movie. However, what should have been a powerful story was turned into melodrama somewhere along the way. The end result is not terrible, but it's not that much better than a typical movie-of-the-week treatment either. Provoked: A True Story opens in 11 theaters tonight, mostly in the Los Angeles area.

The Salon - Reviews
The Salon finally makes it's way to theaters after a two-year delay, but with a theater count of 200, it is unlikely to have a successful run. Like I mentioned at the beginning of the month, this film has a lot of obstacles to overcome and all signs indicate it won't clear them. First of all, the reviews are terrible, among the worst for the week. And secondly, it is opening in 200 theaters, which is way too many for a limited release. Best case scenario has the film pulling in $1 million over the weekend. However, it could also fail to reach that milestone during its entire run.

ShowBusiness: The Road to Broadway - Reviews
A documentary that follows four Broadway plays from the 2003-2004 season that eventually become major players at that year's Tony Awards. For what it is, the film works amazingly well; those who regularly check out Broadway productions will need little prodding to check out this movie as it is one of the best behind-the-scenes looks you will get. However, it might be a little too much for neophytes to handle all at once. Show Business opens tonight at the Sunshine Cinema in New York City, but while it should do well in that city, it will have trouble if it expands outside of select markets.


Filed under: Limited Releases, Provoked: A True Story, Brand Upon the Brain!, Show Business, Life in a... Metro, The Salon, Blind Dating, The Hip Hop Project, Home of the Brave, Day Night Day Night, Hei yan quan, Allegro, Casting About, Looking for an Icon, Duck