Member Profile | FocusFeatures.com
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 15: Little Miss Sunshine
Release Date: July 26, 2006
Domestic Gross: $59,891,098
Programmed Against: The Ant Bully
On July 26, 2006, kids animated feature The Ant Bully, the big movie opening that week, was hoping to become the family favorite of the summer, however instead it found itself cast as Goliath in a battle with a small-scale indie by the name of Little Miss Sunshine. Directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, partners in life as well as film, had spent five years trying to make the movie, a script by first-time writer Michael Arndt about a dysfunctional family who travel cross-country in a beat-up VW bus to the children’s pageant of the title. Dayton and Faris, who had a strong track record making pop promos and commercials but had never directed a feature film, ultimately decided to bypass the studio route and make the movie independently. It proved the right move: when Little Miss Sunshine premiered at Sundance, it sparked a bidding war, and the distribution rights were sold for a record $10 million. The film had much to recommend it: a strong cast that combined talented headliners (Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette), a comedy star playing against type (Steve Carrell), a veteran star (Alan Arkin) and talented youngsters (Paul Dano, Abigail Breslin), plus a funny, touching script, a memorable ending and – most importantly – charm to burn. In addition to earning almost $60 million at the box office – easily out-muscling The Ant Bully – Little Miss Sunshine burned bright during awards season, winning Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor (for Alan Arkin) at both the Oscars and the Baftas, while it was also named the American Film Institute’s Movie of the Year.