CITY ISLAND: SUCCESS (OR SOMETHING LIKE IT)
Finally, a little good news at the box office. The little indie-that-could City Island has now grossed $5 million after twelve weekends in theatrical release. The Andy Garcia-Julianna Margulies family drama seems to have struck a nerve with audiences around the country despite its limited run. At its widest release, the PG-13-rated film from Raymond De Felitta (The Thing About My Folks) was in 269 theaters. This weekend it will be in 175 U.S. locations.'
So there we are. Heading into our THIRTEENTH week--how many movies last that long? An eighty three percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes "tomatometer" viz:
Consensus: Raymond De Felitta combines warmth, humanity, and a natural sense of humor, and is abetted by Andy Garcia and an excellent ensemble cast.
More people digging the movie each weekend--our per screens actually go UP instead of the way that gravity designed
things--to go DOWN. Clearly word of mouth is working. So is Anchor Bay's marketing. Dig this: last year, four--FOUR!!!--
indie films were sold for theatrical release at festivals. We were one. None has lasted this long in theaters--thirteen weeks
and counting (we seem to have bookings for the film extending well into July). Meanwhile, I spend way too much time driving around LA having meetings--a sure sign that the film is considered a success. (You'd be surprised at how few meetings you have when your film smells like...well, like it smells...)
So why, then, do I occasionally get quearies and comments--all well meaning--that sound something like this?
You're film is wonderful. I wish they could get it out there more.
Or: Too bad they don't have enough faith to advertise it more...
Or: This really should have been a big hit. What happened?
All of these comments have been said to me, some by friends and some by perfect strangers. There is no correct response--
it's one of those "how long have you been beating your wife" questions which automatically make you guilty just in your
attempt to answer the unfounded charge.
I've thought a lot about this and came to realize that what we expect of movies has grown all out of proportion to what, as audiences, are prepareed to give movies. In a time when box office returns are posted like sporting results (this, courtesy of USA Today), people's hunger for a movie focuses mostly on which movie beat the other guy. This naturally skews things a certain way...so that movies that make the most are considered the best, etc.
But the real question remains: what is it we still want out of movies? For them to "win"? Or for them to make us feel like we
"won" by discovering an unforgettable dramatic/comedic experience? When I've heard the above comments, my first instinct is to dismiss them out of hand. But lately I've taken to simply correcting the false perception of what success is in this troubled field. It's important, I think, to always keep in mind two truths about the medium: one is that a good movie will rise, like cream, to the top. It may make its money and name in its intial release...or it may become famous later, as an afterthought. But good is good and eventually proves sturdier than the most cynically manufactured tripe.
The second thing to remember is: the audience is the ultimate judge. And if a movie has a big heart plus a big studio behind it, you get: Jerry McGuire, Ghost, Sleepless In Seattle. Of if a movie has a big heart and not much money but plenty of belief behind it, you get "Big Fat Greek Wedding". Or, for that matter, "City Island". Because the people who enjoy the movie tell others and bring others and sell others on it. And this, I"m convinced, is what accounts for our perfectly steady or rising
per screen averages every damn weekend we're open.
Now let's all get civilized and have a drink. Shall we?
Posted by Raymond De Felitta at 11:17 AM