October 21, 2016
        Hollywood Contenders: New Oscar Predictions for October                Nicole Kidman, Hugh Grant, Naomie Harris, Lily Collins get Honors at 20th Annual Hollywood Film Awards                "Manchester by the Sea" leads the Gotham Award nominations                Tom Ford, Marc Platt and Kenneth Lonergan to be Honored at 20th Annual Hollywood Film Awards                Tom Cruise is in his action hero comfort zone with "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back"                "Moonlight" could be A24's big Oscar horse this year                Ewan McGregor steps behind the camera with "American Pastoral"                Hollywood Contenders: A second crack at Golden Globe predictions for 2016                "The Accountant" seeks to help give Ben Affleck another blockbuster                85 countries will be competing for Best Foreign Language Feature nominations at the Oscars                Tom Hanks to receive Hollywood Actor Award for "Sully" @ Hollywood Film Awards                "Certain Women" showcases Laura Dern, Kristen Stewart, and Michelle Williams                Ben Affleck is perhaps Hollywood's biggest and most diverse superstar                "The Birth of a Nation" looks to survive controversy and contend for awards                "The Girl on the Train" hopes to transport Emily Blunt to the Oscar race        

Why the successes of “The Debt” and “Our Idiot Brother” matter

HollywoodNews.com: Normally I would not spend a column championing a small $5 million comedy that is on track to gross over $30 million as anything other than a ‘gee, I like when that happens’. And while there are many reasons to praise the $14 million six-day opening of The Debt, the most surprising thing about it is that Focus Features debuted the film wide enough to achieve that kind of opening in the first place.

In a movie-going world where any number of seemingly mainstream pictures die in the art-house, peaking at 500 screens and unable to capitalize on mainstream buzz or word of mouth, kudos to the Weinstein Company and Focus Features for just opening these movies the old fashioned way. They may have sensibilities that differ from the most popular versions of their respective genre. Our Idiot Brother is (allegedly) a bit more painful and quirky than a Judd Apatow film, while The Debt is closer to John le Carré than Jason Bourne. But they are both damn-well mainstream entertainments, and both films will be quite profitable because their respective studios treated them as such.

If you’ve read this site for the last year or so, you’ve probably heard me complain a number of times about what one might call the ‘mainstream art-house film’. In the last several years, we’ve noticed a disturbing trend of seemingly mainstream pictures, with big movie stars, mainstream production values, and more-or-less mainstream stories, being dumped into art-houses hoping for a successful expansion that never really comes. We all crowed last year about the limited-release successes of Solitary Man, Cyrus, and/or Winter’s Bone.

But none of those films topped $8 million at the domestic box office. More importantly, all three of those films (along with several others in any given year) were the kind of seemingly mainstream vehicles (a Michael Douglas mid-life crisis dramedy, a dark comedy with John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill, and Marisa Tomei, and an intense rural thriller about family loyalty in the face of crippling poverty) that likely would have received a mainstream release just a few years ago. The same goes this year, where the well-liked (by myself and others) Cedar Rapids failed to reach $7 million despite weeks of successful art-house expansion last Spring. And Everything Must Go (out today on DVD – go rent it!) was not the usual Will Ferrell comedy, it was not so off-putting that it could not have survived with a semi-wide release. Even if it ‘tanked’ in wide release, the film as is grossed just $2.7 million. Does anyone think a somewhat well-marketed Will Ferrell comedy couldn’t open to at least three times that much, if not substantially more?

Photo by Focus Features and Laurie Sparham

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About Scott Mendelson

Mendelson's Memos: The basics - 30 years old, married with one child, currently residing in Woodland Hills, CA. I am simply a longtime film critic and pundit of sorts, especially in the realm of box office. The main content will be film reviews, trailer reviews, essays, and box office analysis and comparison. I also syndicate myself at The Huffington Post and Open Salon. I will update as often as my schedule allows. Yes, I'm on Facebook/Twitter/LinkIn, so feel free to find me there. All comments are appreciated, just be civil and try to keep a level discourse, as I will make every effort to do the same. Read more at Mendelson's Memos:

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