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Another Week, Another Oscar Showdown

December 7th, 2007

It's a great time of year for fans of limited releases as it feels like every week there's a least a couple award-worthy films coming out. This week the one-two punch comes from Atonement and Juno. There are also a few other films that are worthy of attention, but sadly there are a lot of misses on this week's list as well.

The Amateurs - Reviews
A small town gets together to make a porno. That's certainly an interesting premise, and the ensemble cast is amazing, however, the end result is not. The best reviews are only calling it entertaining in a low-expectations kind of way. Not good news for a film trying to go the limited release route, but it should do better on DVD when it comes out in February.

Atonement - Reviews
Keira Knightley re-teams with director Joe Wright in Atonement after they worked together in the award-winning Pride & Prejudice. So far this film is earning identical reviews, and it could be heading towards the same results with the Oscars nominations, but it's too soon to tell if it will win any. As for its box office chances, while the film is opening in more than 30 theaters tonight, it should still crack $10,000 on the per theater chart, and with a little luck, $1 million in total.

Billy the Kid - Reviews
A documentary about a troubled kid from Maine. The film has earned excellent reviews and won a number of awards at several film festivals. However, the scope might be a little too narrow for a wider release. It could do well during its 5-day weekend at the IFC Center, but I don't know how far it will expand.

Dirty Laundry - Reviews
An openly gay black man living in New York City has a writer who is forced to re-unite with the family he thought he left behind when his son shows up. A message movie with something to tell, however, almost all reports have it failing to tell that message in an effective way. Dirty Laundry opens tonight in two theaters, including the the Clearview's Chelsea in New York City.

Dus Kahaniyaan - No Reviews
Some of the biggest Bollywood directors work together to create this anthology film.

Grace is Gone - Reviews
A film that is stuck between worlds. It is earning reviews that would be good for a wide release and its lead certainly has box office drawing power. However, while there is at least some detectable award-season buzz, it is not earning strong enough reviews for that, or even to survive the tight limited release market. It should pull in reasonable numbers during its opening weekend, but I'm not sold on its long-term chances. It might have been better to open the film wide, but other recent films that have dealt with the Iraq war have not performed well, but most didn't earn strong reviews either. Grace is Gone opens tonight in four theaters, half in New York City and half in Los Angeles.

Juno - Reviews
The second potential award-season player coming out this weekend is Juno, which actually started its box office run on Wednesday. Like last week's The Savages, Juno got off to an early start, but it's start was even stronger with $55,000 in just 7 theaters for a single-day per theater average of $7,883, while earning just over $56,000 on day two. It's per theater average for these two days is nearly double the strength of The Savages at that point in its run. Combined with marginally better reviews, this film could earn $500,000 over the weekend, in just seven theaters. Even if it earned just half of that, it would be a great start and would almost guarantee a much wider release.

Looking for Cheyenne - Reviews
French film with a lesbian theme, which is not a theme that gets explored a lot in movies, certainly not as much as gay themes do. However, it is also a foreign language film, which means it is a niche market of a niche market film. It could do well on the art house circuit, but its prospects for expansion are limited. Looking for Cheyenne opens tonight in two theaters, including the Regent Showcase Theater in Hollywood.

Noëlle - Reviews
Another message movie on this week's list that will likely please it's target audience, but will have no outside appeal. It is also the widest release of the week at more than 200 theaters, which could be a mistake. It is a good time of the year to release a religious Christmas movie, but its box office chances are limited as its crossover appeal.

Revolver - Reviews
Has Guy Ritchie lost his touch? After making the superb Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and the equally brilliant Snatch, he fell on hard times with Swept Away. Sadly, Revolver has more in common with the last film than the first two, at least in terms of quality. The movie features cons, gambling, gangs, and all of the other aspects we've come to expect from a Guy Ritchie movie. Perhaps that's why it is not being greeted as warmly. Even so, I'm a fan of his style and will likely check it out on the home market. Revolver opens tonight in 18 theaters in major cities nationwide.

Strength and Honor - Reviews
This boxing movie is one of the widest releases of the week, but given the films poor review(s) and lack of buzz, opening in more than 100 theaters seems like a mistake. Select cities rarely works for limited releases and this one will likely finish below the Mendoza Line.

Timber Falls - Reviews
Limited release horror films have not done well this year. Without enough buzz there's little reason this film will perform better, but this low-budget slice of Torture Porn should still find a audience on the home market.

The Violin - Reviews
So far this film is earning the best reviews of any release this week, however, with just 10 reviews, one negative one could change that. This Mexican film tells the story of a family of musicians helping to smuggle ammunition to the rebels during the Peasant Uprising, but has appeal that transcends its setting and should entice audiences. The Violin opened on Wednesday at the Film Forum in New York City.

Walk All Over Me - Reviews
Leelee Sobieski stars as Alberta, a small town girl you runs away from her old life and walks into a whole lot of trouble after stealing her roommates identity, as a dominatrix. It's a Canadian movie, so there's roughly zero chance most people reading this will get a chance to see it in theaters, but if you live in Vancouver, Calgary, or Toronto, check it out and support our movie industry.

The Walker - Reviews
The first film from writer / director Paul Schrader in five years stars Woody Harrelson as a gay escort who caters to high society Washington women who gets mixed up in a murder case. The film is earning only mixed reviews, which is usually deadly on the art hour circuit. Woody Harrelson's performance is also earning mixed reviews with some calling it Oscar-worthy while others are saying casting him as the lead was the biggest error the filmmakers made. The Walker opens tonight in three theaters, two in New York City and the other in Los Angeles.


Filed under: Juno, Atonement, Noëlle, Dus Kahaniyaan, Revolver, The Walker, El Violin, Strength and Honour, Grace Is Gone, Billy the Kid, Dirty Laundry, Oublier Cheyenne, Timber Falls, The Amateurs