Cinematical's Indie Roundup: 'Pelada,' 'The Illusionist'

Indie Roundup is your guide to what's new and upcoming in the world of independent film. Pictured above:
Pelada, The Illusionist.

Deals. Score another one for SXSW. Pelada, a documentary that had its world premiere at the Austin festival last month, has made a distribution deal with FilmBuff and will be released in June. Pelada follows Gwendolyn Oxenham and Ryan White, two former college soccer stars, as they travel the world filming pick-up games, an activity known in Brazil as "pelada," or, literally, "naked," the game stripped to its core, according to the official site.

"It is the personal aspect of the film that is its greatest strength and emotional center," wrote Landon Palmer at Film School Rejects, "a grounding that engages even a viewer as uninformed as me with the subject through its universal themes and engrossing narrative." Timed to coincide with the World Cup, look for Pelada on demand via cable systems, starting on June 7, with platforms such as iTunes and Amazon VOD to follow.

Sony Pictures Classics has acquired The Illusionist, Sylvain Chomet's latest animated film, and plans to release it toward the end of the year, according to indieWIRE. That's outstanding news, especially if you've seen Chomet's excellent The Triplets of Belleville, a delightful, refreshing and amusing endeavor. The Illusionist, based on an unproduced screenplay by the great Jacques Tati, is set in Scotland "at the dawn of television and rock & roll," says indieWIRE, "featuring a circus of live performers who are on their way out as audiences embrace new types of entertainment." I can't wait to see what Chomet has conjured up this time.

After the jump: Why don't we talk about the highly-profitable IMAX documentaries?

Indie Box Office Weekend. Lately this column has been running a day or two later in the week than normal -- a victim of my shifting personal schedule -- so the previous weekend's box office results are really old news by the time I get around to them. But what caught my eye recently were the remarkable cumulative earnings by independent films playing at IMAX theaters, as reported by Box Office Mojo,

First released nearly five years ago, Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D has made $32.7 million so far, while Deep Sea 3-D has now exceeded $43 million. The latter seems to be an outstanding return for a film that runs just 41 minutes. The latest IMAX doc, Hubble 3D, has gotten off to a good start, taking in almost $4 million in six weeks of release.

Like all titles that play in IMAX theaters, the premium ticket price, not to mention the usual 3D surcharge, boosts earnings. A number of IMAX theaters are located as part of museum complexes, which probably spurs non-traditional moviegoers to experience the wonders of deep space and sea on a giant screen in 3D. But I think it also ties into the idea that audiences will respond to event movies, as long as they haven't become exhausted from a glut of product.

That's the danger of so many narrative summer blockbusters crowding in for their turn in the IMAX spotlight, and why IMAX and other exhibitors have tried to pass off smaller screens and theaters as the traditional IMAX experience. They want to accommodate as many people as possible in order to maximize their profits, but maybe there should be more "sold out"signs, in order to preserve the awesomeness of the original experience that keeps people coming back to moon walking and deep sea exploring.

On a related note, Oceans, released by Disneynature on Earth Day last week, earned $8.5 million. According to AJ Schnack at All These Wonderful Things, that means it has already exceeded the gross of all but four non-fiction films from 2009. Too bad our own Peter Hall was "underwhelmed" by the well-intended doc.