One of the biggest movies out of Sundance, as followers of this blog may recall, was "The Kids Are All Right," Lisa Cholodenko's family comedy about a lesbian couple, their kids and the man who disruptively enters their lives. Now Focus Features, which bought the Annette Bening-Julianne Moore vehicle, will try to make it one of the biggest movies of the summer, too.The company has officially dated the film as a July 7 limited release, according to studio-release calendars. That may seem like one more date amid a litany of dates. But it's telling for all sorts of reasons.
For one thing, the film was a possible awards play, at least to some who saw it. While a July release doesn't preclude that -- best-picture nominees "District 9," "Inglorious Basterds" and "Up" this were year were all released before the fall season -- it's a clear signal of whom you are and are not playing to when you choose to release a film outside the September-December period.
Instead, Focus seems to want to make this more of a summer counter-programmer, the kind of movie that can open once the noisier blockbusters finish clearing out. That's what "Little Miss Sunshine," another comedy-drama out of Sundance, did a few years ago, opening in July and playing steadily and nicely through the summer and into the fall (though that movie was a more poignant drama and funnier comedy, at least for our money, and became a $60 million-grossing phenomenon, a figure that it's hard to see this film approaching).
But even this comparison doesn't completely hold up. Most summer counter-progammers from the specialty divisions open later in the season -- "Sunshine" came out the last week of July, and Focus' own counter-programming "Taking Woodstock" premiered in late August. But July 7, even in limited release, pits "Kids" against broadly aimed pictures like "The Last Airbender" the week before and "Inception" the week following -- both movies that at least a chunk of the "Kids" audience might want to see.
Then again, Fox Searchlight, which released "Little Miss Sunshine," has staked out a mid-July date for its own low-key comedy this year, "Cyrus," the John C. Reilly-Jonah Hill offering from indie darlings the Duplass Bros. And the "Woodstock" date actually didn't work, as the film got swallowed up at the end of a long summer of movie-going. As the big action movies move earlier in the summer, more specialized comedies may continue to creep up, trying to bring Sundance in to July.
-- Steven Zeitchik
Photo: "The Kids Are All Right." Credit: The Sundance Film Festival