Anyone who predicts sleeper hits ahead of the summer is either very brave or very spun. But these are the pics expected to emerge through the cracks of tentpole action: All benefit from obvious counterprogramming, festival hype, and demo-targeted storytelling. In chronological order:
— IFC’s Frances Ha has high awareness among its targeted younger-skewing arthouse crowd and exhibitors. “It’s certainly getting talked about in the right places for the audience they’re going for,” one NATO member tells me. Star Greta Gerwig and director Noah Baumbach are indie darlings and scored a talked-about New Yorker piece last week that boosted their profile as a filmmaking couple. According to an IFC Films rep, it’s the sleeper they’re banking on when it releases May 17. “We think we’re going to get great word of mouth,” they tell me.
— CBS Films has two indie pickups budgeted at under $2M each that they’ve slotted into the summer. Sundance pickup Kings Of Summer (formerly Toy’s House) stars three youngsters and has TV stars Alison Brie, Nick Offerman, and Megan Mullally supporting. The studio’s hoping for its Stand By Me-esque story to build momentum with a May 31 limited release. “It’s a movie about discovering in general — which people who see arthouse films spark to,” a studio insider tells me. “And discovery is part of what makes a sleeper hit”. CBS Films is hoping it becomes this year’s Salmon Fishing In The Yemen which was a surprise success for the studio last year.
— Upstart distrib A24 is new to the summer game and has two more youth-skewing pics on tap after scoring a minor youthquake with the sexploitation Spring Breakers in March. The first is Sofia Coppola’s Bling Ring will get a NY-LA limited opening June 14 two weeks after its Cannes premiere.
— Summer’s underserved older female audience could make Fox’s June 28 buddy comedy The Heat, a Bridesmaids-style hit, says Fandango’s Harry Medved. Especially because the Sandra Bullock–Melissa McCarthy pic is the only and biggest female-fronted and -targeted wide release in an particularly testosterone-dominated season.
— Kevin Hart‘s films have been the very definition of sleepers. What could score huge is his comedy concert documentary Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain, which Codeblack and Lionsgate release July 3 hoping for lightning to strike twice after Hart’s previous comedy docu, 2011’s Laugh At My Pain, came out of nowhere and made $7.7M on a microbudget.
— Fox Searchlight’s coming-of-age dramedy The Way, Way Back (Sam Rockwell, Steve Carell) has key placement in the July 4th holiday weekend opposite The Lone Ranger and Despicable Me 2. And “it’s got a cast they could market around”, adds one exhibitor.
— Everyone’s on the lookout for this year’s Beasts Of The Southern Wild. (Fox Searchlight snapped up that pic at Sundance and rolled it out in June, building toward a 38-week run in theaters and four Oscar nominations.) This year’s best bet could be Sundance-to-Oscars Fruitvale Station, the Michael B. Jordan-starrer about BART shooting victim Oscar Grant that The Weinstein Co will release July 26 opposite Fox’s Wolverine that weekend.
— A24‘s Sundance pickup The Spectacular Now will take a more strategic tack. The highly praised drama starring Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley has been making the festival rounds with hot director James Ponsoldt putting in serious Q&A time. An August 2 frame not only will catch young people out of school but also potentially lead into a serious awards-season rollout.
— CBS Films’ other $2M budget sleeper might be its August 16 Aubrey Plaza-fronted comedy The To-Do List. Pic has screened broadly but still appeals to its core younger female audience, which CBS is hoping will kickstart a groundswell of buzz.