July 16 was the release date for two very different movies: Inception (Christopher Nolan) and Kisses (Lance Daly). They differ in a few ways:
1) Nolan is an accomplished filmmaker known world wide, and Daly, an up and coming filmmaker based in Ireland, but not well known in America.
2) Nolan's film is a sci-fi with a budget of $160M. Daly's film is a drama about two kids that run away from home in Dublin, and the films' budget is probably one hundred times smaller than Nolan's.
3) Inception's cast has Leonardo Di Caprio. Kisses' cast is based on a couple of first time actors chosen from local schools.
5) One of them is an American film, and the other one is foreign (luckily for them, in English.)
4) The amount of theaters where they open: 3,792 vs. 3 (guess which film is opening in three theaters...)
So, what do you do, as a foreign filmmaker, to try to catch attention, when you compete against such a tremendous blockbuster machine? Let me say that Nolan is amazing, probably one of the most creative filmmakers out there. Every one of his films is great, including his first film Following (1998). There are some blockbusters that are better to forget, but we're talking about Nolan, you know his film has a high chance of being a great one... that makes it even more difficult to compete. I imagine all the expectations, opening in the theaters in New York, Los Angeles, and suddenly somebody calls you: "Hey, Lance, Inception is opening the same day..."
We could say that's the life of an independent filmmaker. If not, ask Todd Solondz. On July 23, his new film Life During Wartime opened in one theater. Yes, read it again: one. Why? No idea. Remember Todd Solondz? Happiness (1998), Storytelling (2001), Palindromes (2004). Yes, he's that great writer/director with a unique way to tell stories about dysfunctional characters. One theater... it's just a crime. Well, probably I went too far saying that's a crime. Because blockbuster machines bombard you with marketing, posters and trailers, but in the end you choose which movie you'll see. I just hope more people could find out about small films that are actually bigger than blockbusters in their own way. Because some of these films not only reach hearts, but also they are like those special kisses.
Update (November 15):
Inception' domestic gross: $291,851,666
Life During Wartime' domestic gross: $281,447
Kisses' domestic gross: $81,680
Source for gross: Box Office Mojo
Photo: From Kisses, Kelly O'Neill & Shane Curry