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Limited Releases - One Last Stab at Oscar Glory - UPDATED

December 29th, 2006

Another busy week for new releases with eight films coming out, more than half that were obviously made for Oscar glory. While it is unlikely that any will be the big winner on Oscar night, I could see four of the films at least earning some nominations.

Arthur & the Invisibles - Reviews
The film is doing a quick Oscar qualifying run before opening wide next month. While it has done huge business in its native France, it will have a much harder time finding an audience here. Reviews have been bad and most people here are not familiar with the series of books the film is based on. (On a side note, the books were written by the director, Luc Besson.) So while the film has made $25 million in France (and some smaller markets), in just two weeks, it will likely struggle to make that here in total.

The Dead Girl - Reviews
The dead of a woman is explored through a series of interlocking stories. There's a lot of talent involved in this movie and overall it is certainly worth checking out. However, it suffers from a common problem with ensemble pieces; there are too many characters / storylines and not enough time to flesh them all out. The Dead Girl opens tonight at the Angelika Film Center in New York City and the Laemmles Sunset 5 in Los Angeles before expanding over the coming weeks.

Factory Girl - Reviews
A biopic about 60s "It" girl, Edie Sedgwick. Sienna Miller is earning some praise as the lead, but the script just isn't good enough to make a compelling story. Anyone who knows Edie Sedgwick's story will be frustrated with her presentation in the movie, and those who don't will find little here to keep their attention. Factory Girl opens tonight at the Westside Pavilion Cinemas in Los Angeles.

Fast Track - Reviews
This film is using the prestige release strategy, a short limited release before a planned wide expansion. There are several films that have successfully done this in the past, In Good Company instantly springs to mind. Then again, that film had a lot more publicity surrounding it at this point. Fast Track seems to be sneaking in under the radar; I've seen no ads, the trailer hasn't been widely seen, there are almost no reviews at Rotten Tomatoes, and it doesn't even have a full website yet. Speaking of the trailer, it looks only intermitted funny, even with some personal favorites in the film. The lack of publicity is partially due to the relatively recent release date change (it was supposed to come out on March the 9th of next year). Since they had to rush the publicity machine into high gear not enough people know the film is coming out this weekend and that will surely hurt its box office potential. Fast Track starts its exclusive one week run tonight, but the location seems to be an issue of national security because it is not mentioned on either official site.

The Flying Scotsman - Reviews
A true-life story about Graeme Obree, an unemployed cycling enthusiast who designed a revolutionary new bike, built it out of parts from old washing machines and used it to break the one-hour cycling record. However, what should be an inspirational story comes across as melodramatic in a TV movie-of-the-week kind of way. The Flying Scotsman opens tonight at the Laemmles Fallbrook in Los Angeles (or very close to it).

Miss Potter - Reviews
Beatrice Potter is the latest British author to be the subject of a biography. Considering how well Finding Neverland did, there's little surprise that studios are interested in making similar movies. That film did earn better reviews and managed one Oscar among its seven nominations. This film's potential is not as strong, either at the box office or with Oscar voters. Even so, it should match its production budget, or come close, and Renee Zellweger has a 50/50 chance of earning her fourth Oscar nomination. Miss Potter opens tonight in 2 theatres before expanding wide on the 12th of January.

Notes on a Scandal - Reviews
The term "Oscar Bait" is used a lot this time of year and it is not necessarily a negative term. This film was clearly made to win Oscars, specifically for its two great actresses and with reviews that are 83% positive, it's got a great chance at winning them. Strangely, the biggest competition for several of the awards could be Babel, which also stars Cate Blanchett. Babel will end its theatrical run with about $20 million, but I don't think Notes on a Scandal will earn half that. The competition for Oscar Bait films is much tougher this time of year and there ad campaign hasn't been nearly as aggressive. Notes on a Scandal opens tonight in 22 theaters and should expand during the coming weeks.

Pan's Labyrinth - Reviews
Guillermo Del Toro is one of the most imaginative directors working today; he has a superb ability at creating worlds which seem real yet utterly fantastic. While he has earned stellar reviews for past work, Pan's Labyrinth is his best film to date. Already nominated for a Golden Globe and two Independent Spirit Awards, the film is practically guaranteed to pick up at least one Oscar nod for Best Foreign Language Film (and I wouldn't be surprised if it grabbed a couple nominations for technical awards as well). That's not to say its theatrical run is clear sailing; it is a foreign language film and those tend to struggle at the box office, regardless of the quality. I think the distributor will be very happy if the film can match its production budget of $5 million. On the other hand, if it does fail to live up to its potential theatrically, it should be a big seller on the home market.

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer - Reviews
The most expensive Germany film ever with a production budget of close to $65 million (which is about average for a Hollywood production). The film has been a massive hit in its native Germany and a solid performer in many other European markets. However, it will not repeat its success here. The subject matter is far too extreme for American audiences, and while it will earn a fiercely loyal audience, it won't be large enough to support more than a few hundred theaters at its widest. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer opens tonight in three theaters before expanding next weekend.

Unconscious - Reviews
One of the best-reviewed films on this week list, the film was nominated for five Goyas in its native Spain. However, despite this high level of quality, it will nonetheless struggle to find an audience here. The foreign language will have an effect, but so will the unusual subject matter and the way its presented. The film is quite clearly aimed at moviegoers that hang out more at art house cinemas than big multiplexes. Unconscious opens tonight at the Opera Plaza Cinema in San Francisco before opening in New York City and Los Angeles in February.


Filed under: Limited Releases, El Laberinto del Fauno, Notes on a Scandal, Arthur et les Minimoys, The Ex, Miss Potter, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, Factory Girl, Inconscientes, The Dead Girl