Brian Brooks is Managing Editor of MovieLine.
More Oscar contenders are lined up at the specialty gate this weekend, most notably The Weinstein Company’s The Silver Linings Playbook, whose strategy has evolved in the run-up to Friday’s launch. The title will start with a handful of bookings before expanding gradually into wide release. Focus Features’ hopeful Anna Karenina will also hit the same number of cinemas in its initial outing, targeting women and the art-house crowd. Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney’s Mea Culpa Maxima: Silence In The House Of God will open in NYC and LA before HBO takes it to the network. Also opening is IFC Films’ Parker Posey starrer Price Check which IFC picked up last spring, and Rialto is spearheading a relaunch of the digitally restored 1951 classic, The Man In The White Suit.
Director: Joe Wright
Writers: Tom Stoppard (screenplay), Leo Tolstoy (novel)
Cast: Keira Knightley, Jude Law, Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Distributor: Focus Features
A dozen remakes have tackled Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel of the same title. This one is distinguished with large portions of the action taking place as if on a stage. Director Joe Wright said that he came up with the idea only weeks before the shoot was set to begin. He admitted the decision threw the production into a frenzy but he decided it would be the best course creatively and for the bottom line. “A lot of the budget was being spent on hotels and travel and all this stuff that the audience is never going to get to see … And I thought, if I could set this film in one place, where would it be? I was reminded of Orlando Figes’ book Natasha’s Dance: A Cultural History of Russia, in which he talks about Russian society as if they lived upon a stage.”
Anna Karenina is the fourth project Focus undertook with the British director. “This is a film that we’ve been involved with since the beginning,” said Focus president Andrew Karpen. “There’s a lot of films out there right now targeting adults and we think we have an alternative for this audience. We’re marketing this to women 25-54 and that core art-house/smart-house audience.” Focus will open the film in 16 theaters this weekend and take it to an additional 11 markets before Thanksgiving. “Anna is one of those films that’s female-centric so it’s an opportunity for us to [target] that market.” Focus will expand Anna Karenina further November 30th.
The Main In The White Suit (1951, re-release)
Director: Alexander Mackendrick
Writers: Roger MacDougall, John Dighton, Alexander Mackendrick
Cast: Alec Guinness, Joan Greenwood, Cecil Parker
The 1951 classic went through a restoration spearheaded by Europe’s StudioCanal and the UK’s Pinewood Studios. The film, about an altruistic chemist who invents a sturdy fabric that benefits humanity, but irks the interests of capital and labor, will be released in DCP format for the first time. The re-release coincides with the centenary of director Alexander Mackendrick.
Rialto is opening The Man In The White Suit at New York’s Film Forum this weekend. The distributor will then take the title to additional select markets beginning in January.
Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence In The House Of God
Director-writer: Alex Gibney
Subjects: Jamey Sheridan, John Slattery, Chris Cooper, Ethan Hawke
Distributor: HBO Films
Oscar-winner Alex Gibney first came to HBO with this project two years ago when he was already well into preparation to take on the topic of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Although the topic has been explored in other films, Gibney offered a larger historical angle, which sparked interest from the premium cable network. “Our initial reaction was, ‘Haven’t we heard this before?’ But once he explained it to us and told us about the first case of public protest before the scandal broke publicly in 2002 and connected the dots and explained how far this really went, then we just knew he had something new so we decided to get behind it,” said HBO’s Sara Bernstein. ‘Behind it’ meant handing over the bulk of the doc’s financing although other private financiers also came forward.
Gibney’s Taxi To The Dark Side editor came aboard to piece together the global story. “Sheila [Nevins] and I saw cuts of the film ahead of the world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival,” said Bernstein who added that the Milwaukee Film Festival screening was “incredible.” The film is partly set there. HBO will open the film at Film Forum in New York and one Laemmle theater in Los Angeles this weekend where the film has a two-week commitment. Bernstein said there “is demand” for more runs, but for now they will take a wait and see approach. “It’s a tricky line we walk with our strategies. Obviously our primary business is HBO but we knew it deserved a theatrical experience.”
Director-writer: Michael Walker
Cast: Parker Posey, Eric Mabius, annie Parisse
Distributor: IFC Films
IFC Films picked up the Parker Posey starrer last Spring in part because of her involvement. The feature premiered at Sundance and since then the distributor has done a a “series of targeted screenings” with Posey and director Michael Walker. “We are all big fans of Parker Posey,” said IFC Films exec Ryan Werner. “It’s been awhile since we’ve seen her with such a fun leading role. She totally committed herself to it, and we think her fans will really fall for it.”
The film had a one month pre-theatrical release via VOD and other digital platforms. It will open at IFC Center in New York this weekend followed by Los Angeles on Thanksgiving weekend.
The Silver Linings Playbook
Director-writer: David O. Russell
Writer: Matthew Quick (novel)
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert DeNiro, Jackie Weaver, Chris Tucker
Distributor: The Weinstein Company
It initially was planned as a wide release, but The Weinstein Company changed strategy and decided to launch its Oscar hopeful The Silver Linings Playbook with a limited debut. The film will add locations on a trajectory toward wide release similar to some of the company’s past awards contenders. “Harvey made the decision to come out with a limited release weekend and then head to 400 and then more,” TWC COO David Glasser said. TWC picked up the rights to the book by Matthew Quick six years ago. “It’s been an incredible journey of getting the right people,” added Glasser. “Bradley [Cooper] was attached and it was perfect timing. Jennifer [Lawrence] fell in love with it. David [O. Russell] is great in that when he wants someone, he gets them and they all just clicked.”
Now, the plan is for Silver Linings to open in 16 locations in 10 cities, expanding to a total of 440 theaters over the Thanksgiving holiday. It will head into wider release through Christmas and will expand to 2,000-plus locations in the New Year.