Forget the pirates and newbie X-men: This summer is all about the small films
Though the summer movie slate includes a record 27 prequels, sequels, and spinoffs, it it still shaping up to be a great year for smaller, specialty films, say experts.
Dean Rogers / The Weinstein Company / AP
This year‚Äôs franchise-laden summer movie slate ‚Äď with a record 27 sequels, prequels, and spinoffs ‚Äď casts a mighty shadow over the warm-weather filmgoing landscape.
But despite the presence of every popcorn fave from X-Men to Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean, there are some signs that small films ‚Äď which make up three-quarters of theatrical films in any given year ‚Äď just might be on track to get some sunshine of their own.
Consider this past weekend‚Äôs performance of such high-toned films as Terence Malick‚Äôs ‚ÄúTree of Life‚ÄĚ and Woody Allen‚Äôs ‚ÄúMidnight in Paris.‚ÄĚ While both opened in only a handful of theaters, each placed in the top 12 on a per-screen box office basis, says Paul Dergarabedian, a box office expert with Hollywood.com.
‚ÄúIt looks like we are on track to have a very good summer for the specialty films,‚ÄĚ says Mr. Dergarabedian, noting that while blockbusters tend to sell themselves, ‚Äúthese smaller, specialty films rely heavily on critical reviews.‚ÄĚ
Many in the film industry were wringing their hands not even a month ago as box office returns dropped 20 percent from the previous year. But in a few short weeks, particularly bolstered by the strongest Memorial Day weekend box office in movie history ‚Äď some $280 million ‚Äď the box office take has rebounded to surpass the same period in 2010.
‚ÄúThere‚Äôs nothing like one good movie to get film fans back into the moviegoing habit,‚ÄĚ says Harry Medved, spokesman for Fandango.com. ‚ÄúThe summer started off with the universally-well-liked Fast Five‚Ä¶ 87 percent of our moviegoers said Fast Five fueled their interest in checking out other movies at the theater this summer.‚ÄĚ
'Something for everyone'
Studios have realized that, more than ever, diversity is the key to survival, says Ean Mering, senior creative producer of Pomegranate www.pom8.com, a digital media network agency. Even big films have bowed to this necessity, he points out.
‚ÄúLook at the marketing campaign for ‚ÄėHorrible Bosses,‚Äô ‚ÄĚ he says, referring to a film starring Jennifer Aniston opening July 8. A different character and storyline appear on virtually every piece of the campaign, he says. ‚ÄúThis way, they can reach out to as many segments of the marketplace as possible.‚ÄĚ
As most of the major film studios have shuttered their specialty film divisions, and a shrinking DVD market has dried up funding for smaller films, this ray of light in the small film world is welcome news for aspiring filmmakers with movies to sell.
Producer Brandon Yankowitz‚Äôs film ‚ÄúTrophy Kids‚ÄĚ begins its journey through the film festival marketing process this weekend with its debut at the Dances with Films Festival in Los Angeles. The film, budgeted at under $1 million, details a generation raised on praise and trophies: ‚ÄúWe all just got trophies simply for showing up,‚ÄĚ he says with a laugh.
Mr. Yankowitz happily plunks down his own eight or ten dollars to support his fellow small filmmakers, he says. ‚ÄúThe better those films do, the better it is for all of us starting out.‚ÄĚ
This is a glorious summer, says Fandango‚Äôs Mr. Medved. ‚ÄúThere‚Äôs something for everyone,‚ÄĚ he notes via email. ‚ÄúJust look at the better-than-projected openings for small films like Woody Allen‚Äôs ‚ÄėMidnight in Paris‚Äô and Terence Malick‚Äôs ‚ÄėTree of Life,‚Äô which enjoyed the best per-screen average in Fox Searchlight history last weekend.‚ÄĚ
This summer‚Äôs roster of specialty films offers a few prospects for sleeper breakout on the par of a ‚ÄúLittle Miss Sunshine‚ÄĚ or ‚ÄúSlumdog Millionaire.‚ÄĚ Two strong possibilities, both opening Friday, are ‚ÄúSubmarine,‚ÄĚ a Scottish coming-of-age tale about a 15-year-old in the throes of first love, and ‚ÄúBeginners,‚ÄĚ a father/son comedy/drama starring Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer.