Two more wrap-ups, both excellent, from those crazy kids over at LA Weekly:
Scott Foundas writes an immensely satisfying compare-contrast between "Hustle & Flow"‘s hype and subsequent mediocre box office turnout, and "March of the Penguins"‘ lack of hype and subsequent surprising box office success. Both of the films premiered at Sundance, "Penguins" rather quietly, "Hustle" famously being acquired in the biggest deal in the festival’s history. "Penguins" has gone on to be the sleeper hit of the summer, while "Hustle" has about broken even, and has petered out of theaters.
Our "Hustle & Flow" schadenfreude aside (Foundas is right there with us: "And if you happen (as I do) to find ‘Hustle & Flow’ a callow and loathsome minstrel show of a movie, that pleasure is doubled."), it’s been an oddly satisfying summer that way. There’s nothing quite like seeing millions of marketing dollars gone to waste while films seemingly picked at random went on to great success.
David Ehrenstein, meanwhile, has a look at the increasingly tough market of foreign films. It’s frustrating to read â€” for many theaters and distributors, it’s not worth it to book small foreign films anymore. Ryan Werner of Wellspring:
"[T]he climate with exhibitors is that there are so many films opening that unless you can guarantee youâ€™re going to get major coverage from The New York Times and the L.A. Times, itâ€™s really hard to get a film to run for more than one week."
For small distributors, DVD sales have become the focus, and the limited theatrical releases they pull are really just a way to get publicity about a film in preparation for the DVD. But most interesting of all is Ehrenstein’s chat with Dave Kehr, the New York Times’ video/DVD reviewer.
Kehr…is becoming arguably more important than his counterparts, A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis, who review the week’s new theatrical releases.
"Most foreign films close a week after they open," says Kehr, "even with Manohla plugging away at the readers about ‘Head-On’ and ‘Tropical Malady.’ Both Manohla and Tony see it as their mandate to push the art films they love, and they’ve both found it a sobering experience that their love doesn’t make any difference. The power of New York Times film critics to influence filmgoers is practically nonexistent at this point.
We’d argue that even if crowds fail to turn out at the cinemas on the basis of a great review, it’s still that review in a consumer’s mind when they seek out a DVD, but still â€” gah!