Audiences step up for Tarsem’s ‘Fall’

Arthouse film benefits from word of mouth

“The Dark Knight” has Gotham City. “Mamma Mia!” prances around picturesque Greece and “Wall-E” floats through the magnificence of space.

But for sheer extravagant settings, you can’t beat “The Fall,” which has quietly ridden its sumptuous visuals and fanboy (and girl) appeal to become one of the stronger limited releases so far this year. Helmed by Tarsem Singh (“The Cell”) and distribbed by Roadside Attractions, the pic has taken in more than $2 million since its limited release in May.

Not bad for a pic that went largely ignored at 2006’s Toronto Film Fest.

Pic preemed in only nine theaters, but thanks to word of mouth has expanded to 110, says Roadside co-prexy Eric d’Arbeloff. “It took a while to identify its audience,” he says. “Now it’s part of this fanboy universe.”

Set in “once upon a time” L.A. (but definitely not shot in L.A.), pic follows the story of a wounded stuntman (Lee Pace) and a young Russian girl (Catinca Untaru), as he tells her an epic tale incorporating the employees at the hospital they are in. Pic unfolds with fantasy-laced sequences and panoramic shots of more than 18 countries as the stuntman’s depression weaves the story through deserts in Africa, cities in India and desolate waters in the Pacific.

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Pic also comes with a pair of high-profile endorsements from helmers David Fincher and Spike Jonze, and D’Arbeloff thinks their “presented by” credits helped lead to the film’s underground success with arthouse kids.

While the pic’s top grosses come from the metropolitan theaters of Gotham, it has found surprising traction in some non-urban locales, drawing large crowds in Eugene, Ore., and Santa Cruz, Calif. Apparently, the film’s locales struck a chord with populations in scenic areas.