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The Myth of the Limited Release

July 25th, 2008

Nearly a dozen limited releases this week, although two of those are Canadian, so they don't count. (Joke.) The film with the best shot at mainstream success is Brideshead Revisted, but given this year's track record, I am hesitant to predict what its chances are to buck the trend.

American Teen - Reviews
Part documentary. Part Reality TV. The film follows four kids in their final year of high school breaking them into four archetypes: The Jock, The Artist, The Geek, The Popular Girl. It would have been very interesting to see these four in their day-to-day life, but the filmmakers decided their real lives needed a little more reality. The movie should draw in more than a few audience members, but it won't have the lasting impact it could have had at it been more real. American Teen opens tonight in five theaters, mostly in the Los Angeles area.

Boy A - Reviews
A film based on the award-winning novel that is about a young man getting out of prison after spending all of his adult life, and most of his childhood in prison for murder. This film's reviews here are just below the 80% I usually associate with films that have a chance to thrive in limited release, however, it won awards in its native Britain, which could help draw in crowds here. That said, it will still have an uphill climb. Boy A opened on Wednesday in two theaters: Film Forum in New York City and the Nuart Theatre in Los Angeles.

Brideshead Revisted - Reviews
Based on the novel by Evelyn Waugh, which is regarded as one of the best novels in the English language. The widest limited release of the week, it is also earning some of the best reviews. That said, 30 theaters might be too wide while 78% positive is perhaps not strong enough to survive. On the other hand, there is enough buzz here to expect the movie will do at least moderately well, however, perhaps it would have been better if the film had a more conservative release schedule. (It is important to note that it is impossible to prove this either way. It's not like you can re-release the movie with a smaller opening theater count and compare the two results. Even if the film struggles, I won't be proven right. However, hopefully I will be proven wrong and the movie will be a success.) Brideshead Revisted opens tonight in 33 theaters nationwide.

Bustin' Down the Door - Reviews
A documentary about surfing and the radical changes that the sport underwent in the 1970s. Like many such films that are based on a sport, this one's appeal outside of enthusiasts and while it might appeal to fans of surfing, I am doubtful there will be enough to make the film a financial success during its limited release. Bustin' Down the Door opens tonight in five theaters, mostly in the Los Angeles area.

Canary - Reviews
Based on the true story of the terrorist attack in Japan that was carried out by the Aum Shinrikyo cult. Perhaps based on real life events is overstating matters, as the movie merely uses that set up to tell a story of lost identity and the struggle to find a family. So far the reviews have not been strong here, certainly not strong enough that I would be willing to bet it can thrive in limited release, but there's enough here that it is worth checking out, even if it is just a rental later on. Canary opens tonight at the ImaginAsian in New York City before moving to the ImaginAsian in Los Angeles in two weeks time.

CSNY: Déjà Vu - Reviews
For those who see CSNY and think of C.S.I.: New York, CSNY stands for Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, who were a supergroup starting in the late 60s and who were one of the major faces of the anti-war movement. This documentary was directed by Neil Young, and focuses as much on the politics as it does the music, and there's plenty of both. That said, the mix of music and politics is not helping the film as many critics are complaining about one of the other and the appeal may be limited outside of those who are already fans of the group. CSNY: Déjà Vu opens tonight in 20 theaters nationwide.

Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer - Reviews
The first of two Canadian movies coming out this week. This one is a horror comedy, which is as difficult to market as dark comedies are. The film stars Trevor Matthews as the titular character, but it is the presence of Robert Englund that will be the main drawing force for this movie. It's not the only drawing force, and most fans of the genre should enjoy the movie. (In fact, one critic even called it the best horror comedy since Shaun of the Dead.) On the other hand, its box office chances are weak. Not only are horror comedies tough to market at the best of times, this is a limited release, and a Canadian film opening in its native land, so there is a tragic lack of publicity. Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer opens tonight in four theaters in Canada, one in Toronto, one in Ottawa, one in Montreal, and one in Vancouver.

Just Buried - Reviews
A Canadian movie starring Jay Baruchel as a man who inherits a failing funeral parlor, which gets its first customer in a long time... after he accidentally runs over a hitchhiker. And thus he discovers a way to save his business. Yes, it's a dark comedy, which are notoriously difficult to sell to moviegoers and critics alike. It is also a Canadian movie opening in Canada, which means there has been no effort to sell it. Just Buried opens tonight in theaters across Canada, but for most people, they won't get a chance to see it till it hits the home market.

Man on Wire - Reviews
A documentary about Philippe Petit, who walked a tightrope suspended between the two World Trade Center towers on August 7th, 1974. The film earned both the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize for World Cinema - Documentary and this years Sundance Film Festival, but its 100% positive reviews are still impressive, even compared to that. This film is also on a very unique individual and it has a better than average shot at escaping the limited release, or at least earning some mainstream success compared to most documentaries, even if most people will discover the movie on the home market. Man on Wire opens tonight in two theaters, both in New York City, with a scheduled expansion in two weeks.

No Regret - Reviews
A South Korean film about a gay prostitute and his client, who find love, even if just briefly. This is a movie that has been on the verge of getting a theatrical release for a long time, and those awaiting the film's release will finally be able to see it. That said, what little reviews there are are mixed with some critics calling it hokey, and others comparing it to Brokeback Mountain. No Regret opens tonight in two theaters: Cinema Village in New York City and Laemmle Sunset 5 in Los Angeles.

The Order of Myths - Reviews
A documentary about the oldest Mardi Gras celebration in the United States, which dates back to 1703. ... And to this day is still racially segregated. The film is getting fantastic reviews and it is certainly an interesting topic, but it is still a niche market product, even if the current presidential race brought the topic to the foreground during the Democratic primaries. (The main stream media has the attention span of a gnat and a story that is front-page news one minute is forgotten the next. Unless it has to do with a celebrity dying.) The Order of Myths opens tonight at the IFC Center in New York City.


Filed under: Limited Releases, Brideshead Revisited, Man on Wire, American Teen, Boy A, Bustin' Down the Door, CSNY: Déjà Vu, The Order of Myths, Huhwihaji anha, Kanaria