The summer can be a pretty financially viable time for indies, with previous years seeing big breakouts like "Midnight in Paris" and "The Kids Are All Right" finding some very nice grosses. But instead of a simple list (though you can check out a list of the predicted top 10 indie grossers this summer here), we're looking at 5 of the most notable "indie showdowns" of the summer, starting with the two films that could easily end up grossing more than any other:
1. Wes Anderson vs. the highest grossing French film ever
The Films: Wes Anderson's latest film, "Moonrise Kingdom," and "The Intouchables" -- a feel good French import that has grossed over $325 million worldwide already.
The Release Dates: Both May 25th.
The Prediction: A week after one ("Moonrise") opens the Cannes Film Festival in the country where the other ("Intouchables") has become the highest grossing homegrown film ever, the two both debut on U.S. screens. And they could very well end up the two highest grossing indie films of the summer. Expect "Moonrise" to be bigger out of the gate (Anderson's 2007 film "Darjeeling Limited" averaged a whopping $67,469 in its first weekend), but "Intouchables" to be the one with the staying power. The latter is definitely the bigger question mark, though it clearly has something going for it if it can pull in those grosses worldwide. And it's coming on the heels of 2011's American love affair of all things France, from "The Artist" to "Midnight in Paris." $10 million+ grosses for both seems a like pretty safe bet, with much potential beyond that.
The Films: Robert Pattinson period romance "Bel Ami" and Bruce Beresford's "Peace, Love and Misunderstanding," which stars Jane Fonda, Catherine Keener and Elizabeth Olsen.
The Release Dates: Both June 8th
The Prediction: Neither likely to receive very strong reviews based on responses from debuts at Berlin and Toronto, it might be an uphill battle for both "Ami" and "Understanding." One might think marketable casts will cancel that out, but let's keep in mind Pattinson's "Little Ashes" grossed just $481,586 back in 2009 and Fonda's "Georgia Rule" was a big dud in 2007. Still, it's probable both will cross the $1 million mark, at the very least. And give the overall edge to "Bel Ami." While "Little Ashes" was a Salvador Dalí biopic were R.Patz played gay, "Bel Ami" has the type of sex appeal to woo Pattinson's fan base a bit more. But the real potential for both films? VOD. Both will be released on it ("Ami" well before its theatrical run), and these are the kind of films that tend to do quite well on that format.
The Films: Colin Trevorrow's Sundance hit "Safety Not Guaranteed" and Lynn Shelton's "Humpday" follow-up "Your Sister's Sister" -- both of which star Duplass, and "The Do-Deca-Pentathlon," which he co-directed with brother Jay.
The Release Dates: June 8 ("Safety"), June 15 ("Sister"), July 6 ("Do-Deca").
The Prediction: Within a month, the specialty market will get a triple treat of Mark Duplass in three very different films (in addition to getting him again in studio film "People Like Us"). Currently, no film that has had Duplass in a major role has grossed over $1 million, and it seems like a good bet either "Safety" of "Sister" (or both) will change that. The former's plot -- in which Duplass plays a guy who placed a classified ad seeking a companion for time travel -- suggests it might be the most likely of the two, though "Sister" will have the stronger reviews. As for "Do-Deca"? With no stars and lukewarm response after its SXSW premiere, it's very unlikely to achieve the box office success of "Cyrus" or even the somewhat disappointing "Jeff Who Lives at Home." Though no one's really expecting it to.
The Films: Alison Klayman's "Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry" and Malik Bendjelloul's "Searching For Sugarman" -- both docs that were hugely popular when they debuted at Sundance this year.
The Release Dates: Both July 27th.
The Prediction: Each centered around figures sure to spark a lot of interest, these two films seem like the most likely doc breakouts of the summer (aside from perhaps "Queen of Versailles"), and they both open on the same day. While "Ai Weiwei" -- about the renowned and controversial Chinese artist and activist -- could give distributor Sundance Selects another hit doc after a string of them in the past year or so ("Buck," "Cave of Forgotten Dreams," "Pina"), "Sugar Man" is the more likely breakout. Depicting two folks who set out to discover what happened to the mysterious 1970s rock 'n' roller, Rodriguez, it has a narrative that is sure to create a lot of buzz.
The Films: Two Canadian icons go head to head with the American releases of Polley's second directorial effort, "Take This Waltz" and the doc "Neil Young Journeys," from director Jonathan Demme.
The Release Dates: Both June 29th.
The Prediction: Though I'm sure Polley or Young would exhibit typical Canadian politeness in rooting for the other's film, it's clear which one of these will be the bigger moneymaker. Neil Young is a beloved man among many, but it's unlikely to challenge the appeal of "Waltz," which is aided by the presence of bonafide stars Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen... even if it is a small Canadian indie production. Polley's "Away From Her" grossed $4.6 million back in 2007. Expect "Waltz" to come close to eclipsing that.