It’s been a fairly week summer on terms of breakout independent fare – think youth-skewing Sundance hits Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and The Diary of a Teenage Girl have fizzled at the box office – yet it’s been a fairly strong summer overall for films aimed at older audiences. The Lily Tomlin-headline Grandma is currently opening well and films like Love and Mercy, Mr. Holmes and Far From the Madding Crowd have delivered strong returns. The biggest surprise may be I’ll See You In My Dreams, a modestly scaled drama starring Blythe Danner (Meet the Parents) and Sam Elliott (Grandma), which has earned north of $7 million since opening this past May. Now the film is making bids for an Oscar play.
As of last week, I’ll See You In My Dreams officially became the first screener to be shipped out to Academy members. That’s a bold strategy for upstart distributor Bleecker Street, and one that may just sit well with the older-skewing members of the Academy. The film made its world premiere at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, where Danner’s leading performance earned raves, however the film never really made much of an impact considering the buzzier titles that dominated the Park City festival (that’s where Me and Earl grabbed both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award). Bleecker Street got the last laugh, as the film is coming up a successful 16-week theatrical run.
Being the first screener out doesn’t necessarily mean much historically. Last year, Snowpiercer held that honor and in the end received zero Oscar nominations- same goes for Mud, the first screener out of the 2013 awards season. However, in years’ past, smaller-scaled fare like Junebug (2005) and A Better Life (2011) scored acting nominations stemming from being the first films out of the gate. For Danner, I’ll See You In My Dreams marks her first leading role after a long career of stage work and supporting characters. The Emmy Award winning actress is also the mother of Oscar winner Gwyneth Paltrow (Shakespeare in Love).
At any rate, Bleecker Street has more than one potential for this years’ awards derby. The distributor also released the older-skewing art-house hit Danny Collins this past spring and has two more projects later this year that might somewhere- Pawn Sacrifice, a bio of chess champion Bobby Fischer and Trumbo, another bio about blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. The latter stars Bryan Cranston and is set to make its world premiere at the upcoming Toronto Film Festival.