Whenever a company I don't expect comes along and picks up a film that I admire -- say when Fox Searchlight acquired "Shame" and "Martha Marcy May Marlene" last year or when some years back, Miramax picked up "In the Bedroom" or Fine Line took out "Dancer in the Dark," I get nervous. So it was when new distributor Millennium Entertainment announced that it had bought and would release Oren Moverman's tightly focused portrait in police misconduct and psychological turmoil "Rampart," starring Woody Harrelson as a corrupt cop. One of my favorite films from last year's Toronto International Film Festival, "Rampart" needs tender-loving care in the marketplace. Is Millennium up to the challenge?
For today's Indiewire, I've written a story about Millennium ("A New Millennium: With 'Rampart,' Can Avi Lerner Finally Make a Run at the Art-House") that addresses this question. While hopefully the new direction of the company will do "Rampart" right, the proof will be in the box office pudding this weekend. Now there's no given that a good film with a good marketing campaign will automatically succeed in the tough and competitive art-house market, so it might be unfair to put the onus on Millennium. But as my report reveals, the company is in some way staking its future as a legitimate art-house distributor on this particular film.
I know that the health of the niche film business relies on film buyers and film distributors who can release these indie films, and release them well. And the more that there are, the better. But there have been plenty of sheysters over the years, too, and plenty of those who've mistaken good films for "product" that ithey want to "exploit."
It's too early to tell whether Millennium will be one of the good ones, but for the sake of "Rampart" -- and the indie film busienss -- let's hope so.
For more on my coverage of "Rampart," check out this earlier post: "Corrupt Cops, Rampart and the Crisis of Masculinity."