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Summer Indie Counter-Programming

Posted June 18, 2010 to photo album "Summer Indie Counter-Programming"

In anticipation of the release of Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right, Nick Dawson looks back at summer indie hits from years past.

Slide 1: Introduction
Slide 2: Kids
Slide 3: The Usual Suspects
Slide 4: Ulee's Gold
Slide 5: The Full Monty
Slide 6: The Blair Witch Project
Slide 7: Ghost World
Slide 8: Whale Rider
Slide 9: 28 Days Later
Slide 10: Swimming Pool
Slide 11: American Splendor
Slide 12: Napoleon Dynamite
Slide 13: Fahrenheit 9/11
Slide 14: Broken Flowers
Slide 15: Little Miss Sunshine
Slide 16: (500) Days of Summer
Slide 12: Napoleon Dynamite

Slide 12: Napoleon Dynamite

Release Date: June 11, 2004
Domestic Gross: $44,540,956
Programmed Against: Garfield: The Movie

In June 2004, there were two comic choices at the U.S. cinemas as a family-friendly blockbuster about a lazy cat (Garfield: The Movie) and an indie movie about a maladjusted teen underdog (Napoleon Dynamite) both opened on the same week. As Mike Plante documents in his article “Short Films That Grew Up”, Napoleon Dynamite had its humble beginnings as a 9-minute short titled Peluca (2003), made for his BYU film class by writer-director Jared Hess. The $500 film about a socially awkward high school student starred fellow student Jon Heder, who returned to reprise his role in 2004’s Napoleon Dynamite, a feature-length version of the same premise, which Hess co-wrote with his wife Jerusha. Napoleon was bought for $3 million at Sundance, but then exceeded all expectations (for a decidedly offbeat movie with no stars) by bringing in a fifteen-fold return on that investment. Michael Atkinson wrote in the Village Voice that the film was “an epic, magisterially observed pastiche on all-American geekhood,” and though the critical opinion on Hess’ movie was split, more important was the smart marketing of the movie that resulted in Napoleon’s dance and “Vote for Pedro” T-shirts becoming part of the cultural language.