Steppenwolf Films’ first feature, “Diminished Capacity,” opens in theatres

Culminating in six years of development, Steppenwolf Films’ first film, “Diminished Capacity,” opened July 4 to generally good reviews by major film critics.

The comedy, budgeted at $2 million, was directed by Steppenwolf’s Terry Kinney, one of the founders of the theatre company, and stars Mathhew Broderick, Alan Alda and Virginia Madsen.

“Capacity” was highly praised at its Sundance premiere, where it was picked up for distribution by the Independent Film Channel and compared to smash hit “Little Miss Sunshine” by reviewers.

“The screenplay was one of the first things we read after forming Steppenwolf Films” in 2002, says partner Tim Evans. “We didn’t like it initially, but we went back and read the book by Sherwood Kiraly and asked if Sherwood would redevelop the screenplay. We then went through about 15 or 16 drafts.”

Then came numerous “false starts” with potential producing and financing partners over the years before settling on a co-production deal with New York-based Plum Productions (“Grace is Gone”) in 2007.

“Matthew Broderick was always attached. He said,?Whenever you’re ready to make it, I’m here for you.’ That definitely helped us find the financing,” adds Evans.

The film shot over 25 days in New Jersey and New York in May 2007, with a week’s additional shooting in Chicago last July. “What was most important for us is that we did some of the shooting here, so we’re glad that got accomplished,” says Evans.

Broderick plays a Chicago journalist suffering from memory loss who returns to his rural hometown, where he encounters his Alzheimer’s-impaired uncle Rollie (Alda) and former girlfriend (Madsen).

The trio returns to Chicago to attend a memorabilia convention at which Rollie hopes to sell a rare baseball card featuring “Wildfire” Schulte, the first baseman of the 1908 Cubs’ World Series-winning Chicago Cubs.

In a year in which the Cubs are boasting the best record in baseball, the timing couldn’t be better for “Diminished Capacity’s” chances of being a breakout success, Evans says.

Steppenwolf co-founder Terry Kinney, who also helmed Steppenwolf’s first film, the short”Kubuku Rides” in 2006. Vanja Cernjul (“30 Rock”, “Wristcutters”) was the cinematographer on both projects, shooting on HD, and Tim Streeto (“The Squid and the Whale,” “The Promotion”) edited.