'The To-Do List,' 'Austenland,' 'Haute Cuisine'

'The To-Do List,' 'Austenland,' 'Haute Cuisine' vie for femme auds

Call it the kitchen and bitchin’ weekend. For the past four years, the studios have let the blockbusters play themselves out in May, June and July, reserving the first or second weekend in August for femme-targeted pix like “The Help” and “Eat Pray Love.”

But Meryl Streep, the reigning doyenne of the summer chick flick (“Hope Springs,” 2012; “Julia & Julia,” 2009; and “Devil Wears Prada,” 2006) doesn’t have a major movie coming out until “August, Osage County” in November. So what will fill that spot?

This year, three pics with strong female appeal are opening head to head on the weekend of August 16th, an end of summer period which has become an opportune time to capture the anti-superhero ticket buyer.

 

Platform releases on that date are planned for Sony Pictures Classics’ “Austenland” and the Weinstein Co.’s French language “Haute Cusine,” while CBS Films’ R-rated Aubrey Plaza-Bill Hader comedy “The To-Do List” will open wide.

While this year’s titles might not have the B.O. potential of some past August hits like “The Help,” they’re still well positioned to tap into women, older and educated filmgoers looking for a tentpole break.

“Entertaining independent films work very well in the last part of the summer,” says Sony Pictures Classics co-topper Michael Barker. “The audience has been in the moviegoing habit and has been watching all these blockbusters, and is now ready for a change of pace.”

Panelists at a recent CinemaCon panel called on Hollywood to produce more films that appeal to women. Aside from “Bridesmaids” being a rare original hit in July, early summer is normally reserved for sequels, toons and superheroes.

Keri Russell stars as a woman who travels to a Jane Austen theme park in romcom “Austenland,” directed by “Napoleon Dynamite” writer Jerusha Hess and produced by “Twilight” author- creator Stephenie Meyer. A big fan of the novel the film is based on, Meyer has been involved in the campaign since the beginning, says Barker.

 

“Women adore this film,” says Barker. “It has a real female perspective and it’s the kind of entertainment that works really well at the end of the summer.”

Food is also an important ingredient in wooing the sophisticated adult femme audience — from “Julie & Julia’s” multi-course meals, to the luscious pasta shots in “Eat Pray Love” and fried chicken in “The Help.”

Thus the date could prove appetizing for “Haute Cuisine,” a French comedy about a country woman who becomes chef to the president of France. Variety’s reviewer called the film’s star Catherine Frot “as close to a French Meryl Streep as creme brulee is to crema catalana” — that is, very close. Though subtitled films don’t have “Julie & Julia”-sized potential, last summer the Weinstein Co.’s French comedy phenom “Intouchables” grossed $10 million, the biggest performance of the year for a foreign language movie.

Tasty August Dates:

  • “Julie & Julia” (2009) — Release date: Aug. 7; Domestic gross: $94 million
  • “Eat Pray Love” (2010) — Release date: Aug. 13; Domestic gross: $80 million
  • “The Help” (2011) — Release date: Aug. 10; Domestic gross: $170 million
  • “Hope Springs” (2012) — Release date: Aug. 8; Domestic gross: $63 million

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