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Box Office 2.0: 10 Potential Late Winter Indie Breakouts

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire February 10, 2010 at 2:26AM

The 2010 specialty box office has so far been mostly about 2009, with late-to-the-table Oscar hopefuls like "The Last Station," "Crazy Heart," and "The White Ribbon" reigning at the art houses. While there have been a few 2010-released bright spots - this past weekend new entries like "Red Riding Trilogy," "Terribly, Happy" and "Ajami" all found decent debuts, for example - there certainly have not been any breakouts.
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The 2010 specialty box office has so far been mostly about 2009, with late-to-the-table Oscar hopefuls like "The Last Station," "Crazy Heart," and "The White Ribbon" reigning at the art houses. While there have been a few 2010-released bright spots - this past weekend new entries like "Red Riding Trilogy," "Terribly, Happy" and "Ajami" all found decent debuts, for example - there certainly have not been any breakouts.

This isn't uncommon for a year's first month or so. Like its Hollywood counterpart, Indiewood tends to let its Oscar crop have some breathing room before breaking out the next year's bigger guns. Last year, Magnolia's "Two Lovers" was the only specialty film released in January or February to hit the $1 million mark as films like "The Class," "Waltz With Bashir," "Gomorrah" and "Che" - all technically 2008 releases despite grossing the vast majority of their box office the following year - dominated. At this point, 2010's top grossing indie release is IFC Films' "Fish Tank" - which has grossed a whopping $187,074. But late Winter often marks a different story, and here's ten 2010 specialty releases to look out for between now and April's thaw. For additional films coming out during that time (many of them arguably worthy of being on this list themselves), check out indieWIRE's release calendars for February and March.

The Ghost Writer (February 19, Summit Entertainment)
A few days after its premiere at the Berlinale, Summit with unleash director Roman Polanski's first film since 2005's financially challenged "Oliver Twist." Obviously, Polanski hasn't exactly been out of the spotlight in the recent past, so it should be interesting how American audiences respond to the thriller, which has a semi-marketable cast in Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan and Kim Cattrall (more on indieWIRE's film page).

Prodigal Sons (February 26, First Run Features)
Oprah Winfrey is dedicating a full hour of her show to Kimberly Reed's doc, which first premiered way back at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival. Detailing Reed's return to her hometown as she reintroduces herself as a transgender woman hoping for reconciliation with her long estranged adopted brother, the film has received glowing responses on the festival circuit, and a nudge from Ms. Winfrey can't hurt it either (more on indieWIRE's film page).

A Prophet (February 26, Sony Pictures Classics)
Sony Classics decided to hold Jacques Audiard's Cannes favorite back from a qualifying Oscar run in December, showing the film one last time on the fest circuit as this past month's Sundance Film Festival. Critical response continues to be resoundingly positive for the film, which follows a young Arab man who is sent to a French prison where he becomes a mafia kingpin. Released just over a week prior to Oscar night (where it is nominated for best foreign language film), "A Prophet" might hope to reach the $3.8 million heights another Oscar-nominated Cannes film released by Sony Classics last winter - "The Class" (more on indieWIRE's film page).

Brooklyn's Finest (March 5, Overture)
Antoine Fuqua's "Brooklyn's Finest" was the first major deal to come out of last year's Sundance Film Festival, only to see its newfound distributor - Senator - run into some serious problems. Overture Films ended up taking the Richard Gere, Don Cheadle and Ethan Hawke-headlined cop drama off Senator's broken plate, and is releasing it this March. Decent reviews, a distributor known for churning out late winter specialty hits (see "Sunshine Cleaning" last year), and decent starpower could help "Finest" end up living up to initial promise despite a rocky road to theaters (more on indieWIRE's film page).

Mother (March 12, Magnolia)
Another Cannes '09 release finds a home in U.S. theaters this Winter with Joon-ho Bong's "Mother." The Korean film - submitted by the country for Academy consideration last year - follows a mother desperately searching for the killer that framed her son for their horrific murder. It is a re-teaming between Magnolia and the director, whose "The Host" grossed an impressive $2,201,412 back in 2007 (more on indieWIRE's film page).

The Exploding Girl (March 12, Oscilloscope)
While Oscilloscope has yet to see one of its narrative releases gross over $1 million, they made significant strides with last fall's "The Messenger," which received two major Oscar nominations and is slowly approaching the million dollar benchmark as a result. Bradley Rust Gray's "The Exploding Girl" follows the distributor's inspired history of narrative releases, depicting Ivy (Zoe Kazan), a young epileptic woman who struggles to balance her feelings for her fledgling boyfriend while her friend Al crashes with her for the summer. The film premiered to raves in at the Berlinale last year, and has since screened at Tribeca, Seattle, Thessaloniki and London's film fests (more on indieWIRE's film page).

The Runaways (March 19, Apparition)
In what could be a serious test for upstart Apparition - which had mixed results from its late 2009 slate - "The Runaways" features some serious starpower in Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning as real life rockers Joan Jett and Cherie Currie. Directed by Floria Sigismondi, the 1970s biopic may have found mild critical responses when it premiered in Sundance last month, but that may not matter... Stewart and Fanning (last seen together in "Twilight: New Moon") are hot commodities, and the right marketing campaign could make this a runaway hit (more on indieWIRE's film page).

Vincere (March 19, IFC Films)
Controversially snubbed as Italy's Academy submission for this year's Oscars in favor of panned "Baaria," Marco Bellocchio's "Vincere" was the country's most exported film of 2009 and one which has been winning raves on the festival circuit since its debut in Cannes last May. IFC Films is releasing the film - about Mussolini and his secret wife and a son - this March (more on indieWIRE's film page).

Greenberg (March 26, Focus Features)
Noah Baumbach returns for his fifth feature directorial effort in this film about a New Yorker (Ben Stiller), who moves to Los Angeles in order to figure out his life while he housesits for his brother. Also starring Greta Gerwig, Chris Messina and Jennifer Jason Leigh (Baumbach's wife, and co-writer of the film's script), "Greenberg" is premiering this Sunday night at the Berlin International Film Festival, at which point we'll hear first word as to whether the film stands up to some of Baumbach's greatest efforts ("Kicking and Screaming," "The Squid and the Whale"). Either way, having Stiller around should help bring in audiences - though Nicole Kidman didn't help Baumbach's "Margot at the Wedding" push past $2 million domestically (more on indieWIRE's film page).

I Love You Philip Morris (March 26, Consolidated Pictures Group)
One of the most divisive films of last year's Sundance Film Festival, Glenn Ficarra and John Requa's "I Love You Phillip Morris" is about to become the first film out the gate for an interesting new company. Consolidated Pictures Group is a "film development, financing, production, acquisition & worldwide distribution/sales company" run by Timothy Patrick Cavanaugh, Randall Miller, Jody Savin and James Mancuso. Formed in 2008, they made a mid-seven figure deal to pick up "Morris" last May. While two of its principals - Randall Miller and Jody Savin - self-released their "Bottle Shock" to surprisingly decent grosses in summer 2008, how they manage with a darkly comic gay romance and biopic starring Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor is quite the mystery. Some wondered after the film's Park City premiere if marketing the film successfully was even possible, but we're about to find out (more on indieWIRE's film page).

"Box Office 2.0" is a weekly column by indieWIRE Associate Editor Peter Knegt. Check out the previous editions:

Box Office 2.0: Oscar By The Numbers
Box Office 2.0: Recapping The Non-Competition Films of Sundance '09
Box Office 2.0: Recapping The Competition Films of Sundance '09
Box Office 2.0: Tracking The Awards Contenders
Box Office 2.0: The Biggest Stories of the 2009 Indie Box Office
Box Office 2.0: "Broken Embraces" and the Cannes '09 Crop
Box Office 2.0: What Happens To "Precious" Now?
Box Office 2.0: The Curious Case of "Orson Welles"
Box Office 2.0: Fall Winners and Losers
Box Office 2.0: Assessing 2009's Dox Office From "Capitalism" to "The Cove"
Box Office 2.0: Two Notable DIY Releases That Opened In "Precious"'s Shadow
Box Office 2.0: Snap Judgements & Great Expectations

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