Shallcross/James’ indie “Uncle Nino” moves from record-breaking test to national screens

It’s been a long, rocky trek for writer/director Bob Shallcross and producer David James from a lone test in a Grand Rapids’ movie house to major market theatres for their prize-winning family feature, “Uncle Nino.”

Through distributor and “Uncle Nino” true believer Lange Film Releasing, the movie is now playing on 200 screens in 12 cities in 15 states. (See it locally at the Esquire.)

The comedy/drama film stars Joe Mantegna and Anne Archer as parents who are disconnected from their two children and from each other. All that begins to change when the family receives a visit from an eccentric, long-lost relative from Italy, Uncle Nino, played by veteran character actor Pierrino Mascarino.

Shallcross is a former spot director for Hallmark and McDonald’s. His first feature in 1994 was the 1994 peewee football movie, “Little Giants.” He began filming “Uncle Nino” in 2001 for a budget between $2.5 and $3 million. It was shot in Glenview and Northern Italy.

Shallcross took the finished film to Hollywood in early 2003, but all the major studios passed on it. “We heard a little bit of, ,It’s just not our kind of film,’ ,Nice movie but not what we’re doing,’ ,Not something we’d be interested in right now,'” he said.

To show you what word-of-mouth can do for a movie ignored by Hollywood, “Uncle Nino” ended a record-breaking 55 week test run, beating “My Big Fat Greek Wedding’s 53-week run, in a Grand Rapids movie theatre. It opened well but didn’t peak at the box office until its 13th week in release.