Brian Brooks is managing editor of MovieLine.
Jane Fonda, Kylie Minogue, Helen Hunt, William H. Macy and more have debuts in the specialty realm this weekend. Fox Searchlight hosted a series of word-of-mouthers for The Sessions, which it nabbed at Sundance. NYC distributor Kino Lorber is teaming with Tribeca Film for its first title going out via theatrical day and date with French-language All Together. Cannes favorite Holy Motors will head out in theaters via Indomina, opening in New York this weekend, followed by releases in various U.S. cities following a string of festival premieres. And niche Asian film company Well Go USA is releasing the first movie in its Chinese-language “franchise,” Tai Chi Zero.
Director-writer: Ben Lewin
Cast: John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, William H. Macy, Moon Bloodgood, Annika Marks
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Fox Searchlight snagged Ben Lewin’s The Sessions at Sundance, where it won an Audience Award in January under its original title The Surrogate. Searchlight SVP Distribution Frank Rodriguez said the film will attract a core of cinephiles and an “over-40 audience” though it won’t be limited to those. “The film has John Hawkes, Helen Hunt and William H. Macy, so I think some younger audiences will be drawn to it,” Rodriguez said. “I think word of mouth will help.” Toward that end Searchlight set up 250 word-of-mouth screenings. The movie also joined the lineups of 22 film festivals in the U.S. and Canada, and Lewin, Hawkes and producer Judy Levine did a Q&A tour. “There have been good responses and reviews,” noted Rodriguez. “It’s won other festival awards including Mill Valley, San Sebastian and Nashville”.
The Sessions will open in New York and Los Angeles in four theaters this weekend, followed by Chicago, Boston, Toronto, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. the following week. “We’ve had nothing but good word of mouth so we hope to expand up to 350 theaters by the beginning of December.”
All Together (Et si on vivait tous ensemble?)
Director-writer: Stéphane Robelin
Cast: Jane Fonda, Geraldine Chaplin, Guy Bedos, Daniel Bruhl, Claude Rich
Distributor: Kino Lorber, Tribeca Film
Kino Lorber is making its first foray into day-and-date VOD/theatrical with this French-language picture starring Jane Fonda and Geraldine Chaplin about five friends who decide to spend their golden years as roommates. The distributor, which is partnering with Tribeca Film, decided the title was right for its initial outing via the platform. “We think this film is an ideal candidate for distribution with cable timed with a theatrical release,” said Kino Lorber chief Richard Lorber. “We think people will want to see it in theaters, but we feel it deserves to be more widely seen.” Fonda and Chaplin anchor the cast along with mainstays of French film. “The Fonda and Chaplin tie-in makes it uniquely marketable in the U.S. I think it will engage the imaginations of aging baby boomers and their parents,” said Lorber. “I think it speaks to anyone from their 30s to their 80s, showing a youthful side of people getting older.”
Lorber had been talking to Tribeca Film about partnering on a release since the film debuted in Berlin. “We wanted a partner that was plugged in with the cable systems. We’re very happy the way it’s worked out. Hopefully we’ll do more.” All Together will open theatrically in 15-20 cities with more to follow.
Director-writer: Leos Carax
Cast: Denis Lavant, Edith Scob, Eva Mendes, Kylie Minogue
L.A.-based Indomina picked up rights to Holy Motors out of this year’s Cannes Film Festival where it received some word-of-mouth among festival-goers as one of the year’s unique – or strange – titles. “What critics are picking up on is that it’s a standout in the market place and unlike anything this year. Not many will be like Holy Motors,” said Indomina exec Rob Williams. The film grabbed attention at Fantastic Fest and the New York Film Festival on this side of the Atlantic. It picked up a Critics Award at Fantastic Fest and it was a “hit with bloggers and indie fans” in New York, according to Williams. “If you’re paying attention to art movies, the press is saying this is a must see movie,” said Williams. “If you’re a serious film goer this is for you, and hopefully there are enough of those to make it work”.
Pop superstar Kylie Minogue traveled to New York to promote the film, which opened Wednesday in exclusive runs at the Elinor Brunin Munroe Film Center uptown and Film Forum downtown in Manhattan. She said she met writer-director Leos Carax through French filmmaker and actress Claire Denis who suggested Minogue for a part in the surreal journey of a man who takes his turn in a variety of scenarios throughout Paris. The film took in $6K at its Wednesday debut in the two venues, which Williams believes is “encouraging for us for the weekend.” Next up for Holy Motors are festival stops in Chicago, Mill Valley, AFI Fest and Philadelphia. Indomina will roll out the film immediately afterward in those markets to capitalize on the attention.
Tai Chi Zero
Director: Stephen Fung
Writer: Kuo-fu Chen
Cast: Xuan Xiaochao, Angelbaby, Tony Leung Ka Fai
Distributor: Well Go USA
A top buyer for Asian cinema for American release, distributor Well Go picked up Tai Chi Zero (or 0, depending on where you look) directly from Chinese production company Huyai Brothers. Execs from the distributor viewed it in the Huyais’ Chinese offices. Well Go “released Aftershock, which was China’s biggest grossing film at the time, and Painted Skin: The Resurrection which generated $100 million-plus in China,” said Jason Pfardescher at Well Go USA. Tai Chi Zero is actually the first of three Tai Chi films. The second is Tai Chi Hero, which opens in Asia this month, and Well Go will take it to theaters in January. “We like the idea of a franchise,” said Pfardescher. “Action and Asian cinema fans will bond with the film. It will play well to the gamer. It’s a PG-13 film and will grab attention from [males] 13 – 34.” The film debuted in Venice followed by Toronto, Fantastic Fest and is playing the Hawaii International Film Festival this month.
Well Go USA will head to 30 screens across the country. The distributor debuted six clips on various YouTube channels, Fandango and other sites that cater to that demographic. “We have an expansion plan and will do so regardless of the box office,” noted Pfardescher.