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Will Limited Releases Go on an Incredible Journey?

June 24th, 2011

This week's list of limited releases is dominated by no less than six documentaries, including two opening in twenty or more theaters each. Conan O'Brien: Can't Stop has the most buzz going into the weekend, but I think in the end the non-documentary A Better Life has the best shot at success.

A Better Life - Reviews
One of the few limited releases on this week's list that has a shot at earning some measure of mainstream success. Director Chris Weitz has a proven box office track record, although mainly with big budget films like The Twilight Saga: New Moon and Mr. & Mrs. Smith. But he also guided About a Boy, which was a smaller character-driven film, and that film became a midlevel hit. I don't expect this film to do that well, but with strong reviews, perhaps it can expand enough to reach a few milestones in limited release. A Better Life opens tonight in four theaters, split between New York City and the Los Angeles area.

Conan O'Brien: Can't Stop - Reviews
Conan O'Brien went from the biggest news in Late Night Talk Shows to out of a job in record time. (This is not surprising, as the final year before taking over for Jay Leno, he was only beating Craig Ferguson by less than 10%.) Between being fired by NBC and disappearing on TBS, he went on a comedy tour, with a film crew in tow. The film's reviews are good, but not great, and it is opening in 25 theaters, which is a lot for a limited release. I would say he could use his show to promote the movie, but that might not actually help matters. (On a side note, I don't watch any late night TV shows, so I don't have a favorite I'm rooting for, so don't accuse me of being biased. I'm just looking at the numbers, and they are not good. The last week we have numbers for, he had just 500,000 viewers in the prime demo and 800,000 viewers overall.) Conan O'Brien: Can't Stop opens tonight in 25 theaters in major cities nationwide.

Double Dhamaal - No Reviews
The widest limited release of the week comes from Bollywood, and as such it should come as no surprise there are so few reviews online. It is a sequel to Dhamaal, which wasn't a major hit here, but perhaps this film can build on that. It is opening in more theaters, 54 to be exact, but its chances are still shaky.

General Orders No. 9 - Reviews
This film is about, well, I'm not entirely sure. I think it is about writer / director Robert Persons's nostalgia for the rural locations of Georgia and how the urban areas are overtaking them, but that's based on a less than illuminating trailer and synopsis on the movie's official site. The reviews are mixed and I'm unsure the people of New York City, the largest city in the United States, is the best target audience for this film. General Orders No. 9 opens tonight at the Rerun Gastropub Theater in New York City.

The Man Who Fell to Earth - Reviews
The anniversary re-release of the Science Fiction film from 1976, which starred David Bowie as an alien who comes to Earth to look for a way to save his home world. The film was never a box office success, but has built a cult following since then and might prove a limited success during its re-release. The Man Who Fell to Earth opens tonight at the Film Forum in New York City.

PASSIONE: A Musical Adventure - Reviews
John Turturro wrote and directed this documentary about the music of Naples, Italy. The reviews are great with many critics commenting that the name is indeed apt and the passion is infectious. PASSIONE: A Musical Adventure opened on Wednesday at the Film Forum in New York City.

Pianomania - Reviews
A documentary about Stephan Knüpfer, a professional piano tuner. Piano tuner doesn't really sound like a profession that would make for an intriguing film, but the film's Tomatometer Score is currently sitting at 100% positive with many critics saying the subject, and the many pianists he deals with, are compelling company. I'm still unsure how well it will perform with audiences, and its chances of expanding beyond the art house circuit are close to zero. Pianomania opens tonight at the Kendall Square Cinema in Boston and the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago.

Raw Faith - Reviews
An intimate documentary about Marilyn Sewell, the minister of the First Unitarian Church of Portland. The film covers two years of her life, in which she considers leaving the ministry, as well as other major changes. There are few reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, but so far all four of them are positive. Raw Faith opens tonight in two theaters, including the Quad Cinema in New York City.

Turtle: The Incredible Journey - Reviews
A nature documentary that follows a loggerhead turtle as it travels from where it was born on a beach in Florida, to the North Atlantic, to Africa, and finally back home again. The reviews are good, but not great, and there have been a lot of nature documentaries to have come out since earth became an unexpected worldwide hit a few years ago. Turtle: The Incredible Journey opens tonight in 20 theaters in major cities nationwide, but I'm unsure if that will prove to be too many to thrive.


Filed under: Limited Releases, Pianomania, A Better Life, Conan O'Brien Can't Stop, Raw Faith, Turtle: The Incredible Journey, General Orders No. 9, PASSIONE: A Musical Adventure, Double Dhamaal, The Man Who Fell to Earth