When your $12.5 million movie competes with the $100 million-plus budgets of Steven Spielberg and Michael Bay, you search for new marketing approaches.
“Duma” producer Hunt Lowry and Alex Michaletos as Xan (Warner Bros.)
For one longtime Hollywood producer, the approach for his latest movie is straightforward: "Let the audience find it."
Hunt Lowry, whose current production "Duma" is in limited theatrical release, hopes audiences will gravitate toward this more intimate yet adventurous film about a boy who befriends a cheetah.
"It's definitely a hard picture to market," Lowry told EthicsDaily.com on the phone from his Warner Bros. office in Burbank, Calif.
Alex Michaletos makes his feature-film debut as Xan, a young boy in southern Africa who struggles to return a cheetah to the wild. "Duma" co-stars Campbell Scott and Hope Davis and plays out against the continent's striking vistas.
Though "Duma" has been well received at kids' festivals around the globe, it has been a tough box-office sell.
A three-city release in Phoenix, Sacramento and San Antonio "did just OK," said Lowry. The studio recently unspooled the film in Chicago.
"We thought we would try to go for the critical response and do publicity word-of-mouth screenings in Chicago," he said. "We had a picture that we knew once audiences got in there, they would like it."
Critics have taken a shine to the film, which was directed by Carrol Ballard, best known for "The Black Stallion" and "Fly Away Home."
"Carol Ballard is such a master with this genre—with families, children and animals," said Lowry.
Movie Critics Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper gave "Duma" two thumbs up, while Leonard Maltin and David Ansen also praised the film.
"We just wanted to build awareness," said Lowry, who is convinced the movie will do well in ancillary markets like VHS, DVD and cable. But "it's such a treat to see on the big screen," he said.
Lowry, an Oklahoma City native, moved to Los Angeles in 1976 and fell in love with the movies. He was executive producer of the critical and cult favorite "Donnie Darko," and has produced dozens of other films, including "The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" and "A Walk to Remember."
He shared producing credits on the latter with Denise Di Novi, with whom he has re-teamed and purchased the rights to the popular Mitford series of novels by Jan Karon.
"I like telling movies with a good story and entertaining story, but I want them to have a positive message," said Lowry. "It's all our jobs to help make the bad go away."
Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for EthicsDaily.com.
Read our review of "Duma."
The movie's official Web site is here.