Brian Brooks is managing editor of MovieLine.
David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis certainly has the publicity machine running in its favor with star Robert Pattinson getting lots of attention. Although the barrage of coverage has centered on the actor’s personal life, the movie’s distributor eOne said the star has stayed on message, focusing squarely on the film. Also among this weekend’s specialty openers, Persepolis filmmakers follow their popular Oscar-nominated movie with Chicken With Plums from Sony Pictures Classics, while Magnolia Films opens Compliance and Samuel Goldwyn Films ushers in its tech-laden Robot & Frank.
Chicken With Plums (Poulet aux prunes)
Directors-writers: Vincent Parannaud, Marjane Satrapi
Cast: Mathieu Amalric, Edouard Baer, Maria de Medeiros, Chiara Mastroianni
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Sony Pictures Classics released Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud’s breakout Iran-set animated Persepolis Stateside back in 2007 and received two Oscar-nominations. SPC co-heads Michael Barker and Tom Bernard had the filmmakers’ followup on their radar and eventually took it on. “We were interested in this film after our experience on Persepolis,” Barker said. Persepolis took in over $4.4 million at the box office. “We read the screenplay and liked it very much. We liked working with Marjane and Celluloid Dreams was selling the film … and then we saw it in its first screening in Toronto.” Set in France, the drama centers on a renowned violinist who loses his beloved instrument and cannot find a worthy replacement, which plunges him into deep despair. “It’s one of those films that is incredibly magical and she has a great following as a filmmaker,” said Barker. Barker said he thinks women of all ages will be particularly drawn to Chicken With Plums as well as the traditional art house crowd. SPC will start a platform release this weekend in New York, and it will open in Los Angeles on August 31, and then expand to additional cities. “Ultimately, it will easily play in the top 100 cities.”
Director: David Cronenberg
Writers: David Cronenberg (screenplay), Don DeLillo (novel)
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, Sarah Gadon, Paul Giamatti, Jay Baruchel
Distributor: Entertainment One
Entertainment One picked up Cosmopolis as a finished film just ahead of its premiere at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. The film opened soon after its somewhat disappointing box office debut in Cronenberg’s native Canada, although the barrage of press in the U.S. surrounding the film’s main star, Robert Pattinson, and his legion of die-hard fans may provide the title some reversal of fortune at least initially. Beyond the hype, it should also play well to Cronenberg’s most ardent fans noted eOne’s VP theatrical, marketing and distribution Dylan Wiley. “I think this movie is Cronenberg at his most ‘Cronenbergiest,” said Wiley. Pattinson and Cronenberg “have a wide audience and if they catch on, we’ll take it out as wide as it will go.” Wiley noted that the natural audiences for Pattinson, Cronenberg and Cosmopolis novelist David DeLillo don’t “share much overlap,” so the potential appeal is wide. “On the marketing side, it’s about harnessing the multiple awareness we already have. Obviously Pattinson has his fan-base and Don LeLillo has his target audience. Cronenberg has a bit older, smart and affluent following along with younger males and the hipster crowd.”
Asked if the recent flurry of Pattinson-centered press that erupted following revelations of relationship trouble with his Twilight Saga co-star Kristen Stewart had changed any of their marketing or release plans, Wiley said no. “To Rob’s credit, he has fulfilled everything he’s been asked to do and more,” said Wiley. “It’s a testament to him personally and also about what he feels about this movie and what it means to him and his development as an actor. [For him] the focus has been only on the movie. He’s been very professional in keeping the focus on his work for Cosmopolis.” The film’s U.S. release this weekend had already been pre-set months ago. “We’re doing an accelerated platform release, playing the Landmark in Los Angeles and the Sunshine and Lincoln Center in New York,” said Wiley. “Cronenberg will do Q&As at Lincoln Center. We know the audiences there will be naturally huge for him because of the number of fans he has in New York, and we expect the film to play there a long time. Next week, we’ll add 20 markets and then around the 31st, we’ll add more which will bring the film up to about 50 markets.”
Robot & Frank
Director: Jake Schreier
Writer: Christopher D. Ford
Cast: Peter Sarsgaard, Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon, James Marsden, Liv Tyler
Distributor: Samuel Goldwyn Films
Samuel Goldwyn Films picked up Robot & Frank out of Sundance along with with Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisition Group in a similar partnership the two companies forged for Noah Baumbach’s 2005 feature The Squid And The Whale. Goldwyn will handle theatrical, while Sony will take on home entertainment. “I drove down for the premiere in Salt Lake City,” said Samuel Goldwyn exec Peter Goldwyn. “I just felt from reading the storyline that this would be a unique and fun film to work on and that’s exactly how it’s turned out to be,” he said, adding that the trek down to Salt Lack City meant he missed other premieres that same night in Park City, the festival’s home.
“Exhibitors have been enthusiastic and we’re getting a bit more traction because of the technology elements”, Goldwyn added. “It’s a comedy that has a lot of heart and soul.” Samuel Goldwyn Films also initiated a Tumblr campaign related to the tech aspects of the film that Goldwyn said “went viral.” Robot & Frank, which centers on an ex-jewel thief whose son gives him a robot butler – and then the two decide to take on a heist of their own – will open in New York in two locations Friday, expanding to six markets and additional theaters in the New York area the following week.
Writer-director: Craig Zobel
Cast: Anne Dowd, Dreama Walker, Pat Healy, Philip Ettinger, James McCaffrey
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
Producer Sophia Lin said the elements for Compliance came together rather quickly. Writer-director Craig Zobel had researched various Stanley Milgram experiments on obedience to authority, including his electric shock study. The scenario had one person administer an electric shock to a “subject” to see how long the person who dealt the shock would be willing to continue. “Craig read about it along with the Stanford Prison Experiment and came across this series of incidences that became Compliance,” Lin said. “He pondered the idea for a couple years, but once he wrote it, he did the first draft in six weeks in September of 2010 and in December of that year, he identified locations. I was at Sundance in 2011 with Take Shelter and we completed financing at the festival. Right afterward, we started filming Compliance.”
The film revolves around a prank-caller who convinces a fast-food restaurant manager to interrogate an innocent employee, based on true events that lead to havoc. “We shot in February. At South By Southwest [in March] people who I’d seen at Sundance asked how things were going and I said, ‘I already shot another movie.’” Zobel’s fellow film school alum David Gordon Green came on as an executive producer and Lin said the timing, though a narrow window, worked perfectly for cast and crew to complete the project. Kerry Barden and Paul Schnee (Winter’s Bone, The Help) cast the project and Lin gave kudos to their efforts. “They have an incredible track record between the bigger industry and independent films. The film doesn’t have a large cast, so the work was limited by the size of the cast.” Compliance will open in New York this weekend, followed by Los Angeles and San Francisco and other cities in the coming weeks.