John Cameron Mitchell's provocative new American independent film "Shortbus" opened in U.S. theaters on Wednesday (starting in NYC and then in LA Friday), without an uproar, or even the appearance of protest. While some in Cannes this year initially wondered whether the film might have trouble securing a theatrical release, within weeks as many as a dozen distribution opportunities emerged and the filmmakers abandoned their talk about having to distribute the movie themselves. The film is among a new group of movies opening in theaters this weekend, including Freida Lee Mock's "Wrestling With Angels: Playwright Tony Kushner," James D. Stern and Adam Del Deo's "...So Goes The Nation," Marc Francis and Nick Francis' "Black Gold," Todd Field's "Little Children," and Michael Apted's "49 Up."
As The Hollywood Reporter noted last week (and then Variety offered this week), the buzz about "Shortbus" is -- in a way -- the lack of buzz. The film has not stirred outrage. Admitting a warm embrace thus far, ThinkFilm's Mark Urman cautioned indieWIRE earlier this week, "But we have been tilling relatively fertile ground -- big cities, film festivals, etc. The film has yet to be exposed to those who might be ill-prepared, and has yet to be presented in communities where it might be considered beyond the pale." He added, "If the film takes off, that will be a story. If people get angry then, that too will be a story. And, if the film really breaks out and there is relatively little brouhaha, that will be another, even bigger story."
As Ian Mohr noted in his Variety article this week, the Hollywood trade called the movie, back in Cannes, "the most sexually graphic American narrative feature ever made outside the realm of the porn industry." Indeed. And as a result, most of the larger U.S. theater chains (with the exception of a few Regal sites) have flat out rejected the movie, according to ThinkFilm's Urman. But he added, his company will have "Shortbus" in the top 40 U.S. markets by the end of October. And Landmark Theaters has openly welcomed the film, along with other independent outlets.
"These are the same theaters we usually play with all of our films, so we are thrilled to be able to share the bounty with them," noted Urman, "This film will never play on several hundred screens simultaneously, but it will do very, very well wherever it does play. To use an apt metaphor, it's not the size of the expansion that counts, it's what you do with it."
THE LIST FOR THIS WEEK
"Wrestling With Angels: Playwright Tony Kushner" (October 4), directed by Freida Lee Mock. Distributor: Balcony Releasing. Official website
"...So Goes The Nation" (October 4), directed by James D. Stern and Adam Del Deo. Distributor: IFC First Take. Official website
"Black Gold" (October 6), directed by Marc Francis and Nick Francis. Distributor: California Newsreel. Official website
"49 Up" (October 6), directed by Michael Apted. Distributor: First Run Features. Official website