In the midst of the global financial crisis, it's no shock to see more and more independent movies are failing to find buyers or are being released straight to DVD in the US, and Australia.
But it is surprising that many of these movies feature stars who were once marquee names, such as Michelle Pfeiffer, Ashton Kutcher, Kathy Bates, Robin Williams, Jim Carrey, Pierce Brosnan and Susan Sarandon.
Pfeiffer's latest film, Personal Effects, couldn't find a theatrical distributor in the US and is heading to DVD. Writer-director David Hollander movie follows Kutcher as a young guy seeking vengeance for the murder of his sister, and gets sidetracked by Pfeiffer's beautiful older woman; Kathy Bates plays the mother of Kutcher\'s character.
The same fate befell Michelle's previous film, I Could Never Be Your Woman, in which she played a mother who has the hots for a younger man (Paul Rudd) while her daughter (Saoirse Ronan) falls in love for the first time. That movie premiered here on DVD last year.
All that is a comedown for the actress, now 51, who starred in Dangerous Liaisons, The Fabulous Baker Boys and The Witches of Eastwick.
“Is Pfeiffer a victim of the shrinking independent scene, poor career choices, or just a shifting audience that can\'t recall how she looks atop a piano?” Entertainment Weekly asked. “This June, she\'ll headline Stephen Frears\' Parisian romance, Cheri, but what she needs is a winning role in a studio film.”
The Greatest, a drama starring Brosnan and Sarandon as grieving parents whose child dies in a car accident, is one of a sizable number of movies that launched at the Sundance festival in January and still haven't landed buyers in the US.
Among other Sundance premieres displaying “For sale” signs are I Love You Philip Morris, a dark comedy featuring Carrey as a gay con man and Ewan McGregor as his prison lover; World\'s Greatest Dad, which stars Robin Williams as a man who learns the things you want most may not be the things that make you happy; Paper Heart, a low budget mockumentary starring Michael Cera; and Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, the directorial debut of The Office star John Krasinski.
The Carrey-McGregor film contains a graphic sex scene and has "fallen foul of anti-gay prejudice in America," the London Times reported. However Philip Morris producer Andrew Lazar withdrew the film from sale after it got a very mixed response at Sundance while it's being re-edited, and claims he's confident he'll secure a theatrical deal.
Last year Suburban Girl, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar as a Manhattan book editor who starts dating aging literary lion Alec Baldwin, went straight to DVD here and in the US.
I suspect we'll see more movies bypassing cinemas and heading to the DVD shelves. Some perfectly acceptable and entertaining movies can be found on disc, of course. But that's probably small comfort for some actors who were accustomed to seeing their names in lights.