Fox Searchlight bets on ‘Slumdog’

Film looks to replicate 'Sunshine's' success

Fox Searchlight went from zero to 100 when it took on the release of Danny Boyle‘s rags-to-riches romance “Slumdog Millionaire.” The specialty label acquired the pic just before its launch at September’s Telluride and Toronto film fests and quickly ramped up “Slumdog” marketing materials in advance of the pic’s Nov. 12 limited release.

It had to.

While Boyle’s name has cachet with indie cinephiles, the pic has no name stars and a quirky title.

The movie, which is 80% English-language and 20% Hindi, follows a teen from the slums of Mumbai who answers every question right on India’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” “We do some of our best work under extreme pressure,” says Searchlight chief operating officer Nancy Utley. “The upside of the title is it doesn’t seem like anything you’ve ever heard before: it’s a contradiction in itself. We picked up the color palette of the foreign locale, and a beautiful girl, in action. Ultimately, it’s a feel-good movie.”

Searchlight is sending Boyle to spread his Brit charm on a press tour of a dozen American cities through October and November. And Searchlight will do what it did with “Little Miss Sunshine”: aim to conjure early buzz with word-of-mouth screenings, 215 to be exact, in 50 cities.

TV spots will spotlight the movie’s Bollywood soundtrack and closing-dance number, and look to build on reviews and awards, if they come.

Searchlight is supporting an Oscar campaign for the filmmaker — “it’s time,” says Utley — and adapted screenplay writer Simon Beaufoy.

“We always have the little underdog,” says Utley, who’s banking that “Slumdog” will place favorably against darker, grimmer Oscar competition. “This movie makes you feel good in a time of deepening anxiety.”