I saw the best movies of the year destroyed by blockbuster behemoths. I have seen smaller, more niche films like Son of Rambow, The Wackness and Hellboy II thrown out to fend for themselves amidst a summer season of insanely huge films, with their distributors hoping for the best.
One film that was, until today, in that company was Religulous, the documentary where Bill Maher and Larry Charles take on religion. Originally opening the film in LA in late June and elsewhere early July, Lionsgate has decided to instead take it out of the fray of Summer 2008 and put it in a safer October berth.
“Originally we liked the idea of positioning ‘Religulous’ as counterprogramming among the summer blockbusters, but we simply weren’t ready to premiere the film at Cannes or any other spring festival,” Lionsgate president Tom Ortenberg said. “We do feel that a film like this needs a big festival launch. We’re going to target some of the more prestigious fall fests. We want to emulate the box office success of films like ‘Fahrenheit 9/11′ and ‘Sicko,’ which had major launches at prestigious fests where the films were lightning rods of a sort and created a stir within the media.”
I have to say that I don’t believe in the wisdom of counterprogramming these days, although Religulous is the only one of the summer sacrifices that I could see as being legitimately counter; Rambow and Wackness are tailor made for the same audiences going apeshit in cineplexes this summer while Hellboy II might be too smart, sweet and idiosyncratic to stand up against the soulless corporate toy tie-in movies.
Of course I could be very wrong. My view of this dog eat dog summer was shaken when Speed Racer destructed in a most spectacular way. Could other films be likely to hit the wall, making what appeared to be the ultimate summer of one week wonders something more interesting? It doesn’t matter to Maher and Charles – they’re safe in the fall.