This past weekend, "Up in the Air" made more than $1 million on 15 screens while "Transylmania" took in only $250,000 (roughly) on more than 1,000 screens. So you see, limited release doesn't mean limited box office gross, and it certainly doesn't mean limited appeal. Of course, "Up in the Air" stars George Clooney. This week's three spotlighted films opening in limited release don't have that luxury, yet each has enough appeal to enough of a built-in audience that I won't be surprised to see all of them do relatively well with the screens their given.
"A Single Man"
What it is: Fashion designer Tom Ford makes his directorial debut with "A Single Man," a '60s-set drama in which a college professor (Colin Firth) deals with the death of his boyfriend (Matthew Goode). Julianne Moore and Nicholas Hoult, of "About a Boy," also appear as the man's best friend and student, respectively. Based on the novel by Christopher Isherwood.
Why you should be interested: The performances are excellent all around, though Julianne Moore is especially brilliant in her few scenes. And for those who prefer aesthetics to acting, Ford puts his design talents to good use as a filmmaker, while the costumes and sets should be appealing to any fan of TV's "Mad Men." In fact, that show's production designers also worked on this film (and star Jon Hamm has a kind of cameo, too).
How you can see it: The Weinstein Co. will release "A Single Man" in NYC this weekend but there's a scheduled expansion set for Christmas Day. Having just picked up three Independent Spirit Award nominations (Best First Feature; Best Screenplay; Best Actor - Colin Firth), with likely an Oscar nomination or two to follow, the film should get around to most markets eventually.
"My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?"
What it is: Based on a true story, "My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?" is a strange crime drama starring recent Oscar-nominee Michael Shannon ("Revolutionary Road") as a man inspired by a Sophocles play to kill his mother (Grace Zabriskie) with a sword. It also features Willem Dafoe as a police detective, Chloe Sevigny as the man's fiancee, Brad Dourif as an ostrich-raising racist, Verne "Mini-Me" Troyer as simply a little person and Udo Kier as a theater director. The second film this year from Werner Herzog, it was produced by David Lynch.
Why you should be interested: Well, the idea of a collaboration between Herzog and Lynch should be a dream for most film fans, and apparently it is indeed a mix of the two cult filmmakers' styles. And then there's an indirect hint of Lars Von Trier in the mix given that Dafoe, Sevigny and Kier have worked with him on multiple films. "My Son, My Son," hasn't received the amount of attention Herzog's "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans" has, but most reports out of the Toronto Film Festival, where both films screened, recommend that they be seen together.
How you can see it: Unified Pictures releases "My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?" in NYC this weekend. This is likely one of those films that's best booked by a local film society or museum. Contact both a nearby exhibitor and the distributor to see how to get it played in your hood.
"The Slammin' Salmon"
What it is: "The Slammin' Salmon" is the latest from comedy team Broken Lizard, best known for the cult favorites "Super Troopers" and "Beerfest." This one involves a fish restaurant where the former-boxing-heavyweight owner (Michael Clarke Duncan) pits his wait staff in a competition for a $10,000 prize.
Why you should be interested: This seems strictly for the Broken Lizard fans, but there are plenty of you out there. That said, I'm not a fan of the troupe (yes, I regularly get crap from my friends for not finding "Super Troopers" funny). Yet this one looks insanely enjoyable. It kinda makes me wonder what it'd be like if the Marx Brothers were let loose on the set of Top Chef during its seasonal Restaurant Wars episode.
How you can see it: "The Slammin' Salmon" opens Friday in NYC, Boston, Philly, DC, New Orleans, Milwaukee, Austin, Dallas, Portland and Seattle (a list of booked theaters can be found here). The guys in Broken Lizard acknowledge that "if folks go see it on opening weekend we can get it out to everyone." And so... "SPREAD THE WORD!!!"