erik lundegaard

Is this SIFF's Most Commercial Opening Night Ever?

The film that opens the Seattle International Film Festival is often full of the intrigue of the unknown: an African film, a local favorite, a black-and-white updated Shakespeare, a serious portrait of a local rock legend.

Not this year. This year on opening night, May 14, we've got Paul Feig's broad comedy, “Spy,” starring Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne, Jude Law, Jason Statham, Bobby Canavale and Morena Baccarin. At least the trailer seems funny:

“Spy” is getting a wide release June 5th, so one wonders what's the point of showing it here. That we get to see it three weeks early? It's not even premiering here. South by Southwest got it March 15th and the Louisiana International Film Festival (LIFF) has it May 7th. We're thankless thirds.

Larger question: Is “Spy” the most commercial film to open the Seattle International Film Festival? Here's that history, along with each film's widest domestic theatrical release, its domestic box office (unadjusted), and its current IMDb rating:

Year SIFF's Opening Night Movie Widest Release Domestic Box Office IMDb Rating
1991 The Miracle
41 $835,519 6.8
1992 Le Bal des casse-pieds 
n/a n/a 5.5
1993 Much Ado About Nothing  204 $22,549,338 7.4
1994 Little Buddha  139 $4,858,139 6.0
1995 Braveheart  2,037 $75,609,945 8.4
1996 The Whole Wide World  20 $375,757 7.3
1997 Addicted to Love  2,021 $34,673,095 6.1
1998 Firelight  39 $785,482 7.3
1999 The Dinner Game
67 $4,071,548 7.7
2000 Love's Labour's Lost  14 $299,792 6.1
2001 The Anniversary Party 120 $4,047,329 6.4
2002 Igby Goes Down
156 $4,777,465 7.0
2003 Valentin 15 $275,968 7.7
2004 The Notebook 2,323 $81,001,787 7.9
2005 Me and You and Everyone We Know  160 $3,885,134 7.4
2006 The Illusionist 1,438 $39,868,642 7.6
2007 Son of Rambow  155 $1,785,505 7.0
2008 Battle in Seattle  40 $224,169 6.7
2009 In the Loop  92 $2,388,804 7.5
2010 The Extra Man  33 $453,377 5.9
2011 The First Grader  36 $332,306 7.4
2012 Your Sister's Sister  101 $1,636,190 6.7
2013 Much Ado About Nothing  222 $4,328,849 7.3
2014 Jimi: All Is By My Side  75 $340,911 5.6
2015 Spy
? ? ?

SIFF mostly premeries movies that don't get much of a shot elsewhere, which is what film festivals should do. But if “Spy” follows the pattern of recent films starring McCarthy, it'll open in 3,000+ theaters. Which, yes, would be the widest release for a SIFF opening-nighter.

On the other hand, the above list is hardly full of greatness, is it? We've got two brilliant comedies (“The Dinner Game,” “In the Loop”), one Oscar winner (“Braveheart”) and two Much Ado About Nothings (Branaugh's and Whedon's). There are also several films with Seattle connectons: “Jimi: All Is By My Side”; “Your Sister's Sister”; “Battle in Seattle.” I like all that. But there's also a lot of depressive, dull fare. Out of 25 movies, how many of these would you watch again? Or once?

So maybe it's time to go another way.

Even so, opening with “Spy” feels like a bit of a cop out. Anyone know the story behind it?

SIFF 2015

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Posted at 06:41 AM on Wed. May 06, 2015 in category Seattle  
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