Brian Brooks is a Deadline contributor.
A24 Films will release two of its brood this weekend including Harmony Korine’s anticipated Selena Gomez/Vanessa Hudgens/James Franco starrer Spring Breakers, which had its U.S. debut this past week at the SXSW Film Festival. The new distribution company will also roll out Ginger & Rosa, although it sees the titles as appealing to different audiences. Also in this weekend’s specialty slate is Millennium Films’ Kirsten Dunst starrer Upside Down, which may had the largest number of opening cities among the limited release debuts, though it will still be under a dozen runs. And Oscilloscope’s Reality has a unique story of its own, with a convicted prisoner as a star — filmmaker Matteo Garone made an arrangement with Italy’s prison system.
Spring Breakers had a lively U.S. debut at the SXSW Film Festival ahead of its theatrical run which begins this week. Described as the “most accessible” of veteran indie director Harmony Korine’s career to date by some festival-goers, the title debuted in Venice and Toronto last Fall. Newcomer distributor A24 Films became involved with the feature in November. “Spring Breakers is, initially, for a younger audience and, frankly, anyone looking for something a little different,” noted A24’s David Fenkel. The crime-comedy centers on four college girls who end up in jail after robbing a restaurant to finance their spring break vacation, but find themselves bailed out by a drug-and-weapons heavy who wants them to do some more dirty work. “We’ve executed a robust social media campaign for Spring Breakers so we can effectively message to both Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Benson fans and the core audience who have been waiting for this movie since Harmony announced it last year,” added Fenkel. The film had another push at SXSW during a live conversation in which Gomez sang a few lines from Britney Spears’ “Baby One More Time,” which caused a bit of a flurry on Twitter, including a mention by Spears herself.
A24 will release Spring Breakers the same weekend as another one of its titles, Ginger & Rosa, but the company said the two films are sufficiently divergent so as to not compete with the other. “They’re not reaching the same audience. In fact, they’re possibly the most diverse movies of the year,” said Fenkel. “We received tremendous exhibitor support for both films during this time frame and didn’t want to jeopardize their releases.” A24 will open Spring Breakers in New York and LA at three locations this weekend and then will head to nearly 600 theaters the following week.
Ginger & Rosa
Director-Writer: Sally Potter
Cast: Elle Fanning, Alice Englert, Annette Bening, Christina Hendricks, Oliver Platt
Distributor: A24 Films
A24 first caught Sally Potter’s drama at last year’s Telluride Film Festival, picking up the title soon after in Toronto. Set in the 1960s, the film follows two teenage friends, Ginger and Rosa, who grow up in London against the backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Cold War event ends up being a catalyst for re-defining their friendship. “Ginger & Rosa is playing extremely well to an older art house audience,” noted A24 Films head David Fenkel. “We’ve set up screenings in every major market to build upon strong word of mouth that’s been around since the fall. The film resonates on emotional and political levels to this under served audience — people who came of age in and around the ’60s.” Following its Telluride and Toronto events, the film screened at the New York and London film festivals.
A24 will open Ginger & Rosa at three locations in New York and L.A. — Lincoln Plaza and the Angelika in NYC and the Landmark in West Los Angeles. The film will roll out to all top markets in the next few weeks.
Director-Writer: Juan Solanas
Cast: Jim Sturgess, Kirsten Dunst, Timothy Spall, Agnieshka Wnorowska, Neil Napier
Distributor: Millennium Films
Writer-director Juan Solanas’ journey with Upside Down began seven years ago. He had completed Northeast and hadn’t considered doing another project until he saw a vision one morning that inspired him to begin writing the script for what would become Upside Down. “While drinking tea, I was looking at this image and I suddenly understood there was a story,” said Solanas. “It was an upside down image [of] two worlds, which was a metaphor for the story and it drove me to use this energy to make it. It took two years to write the script.” After completing the script, Solanas translated it from Spanish to French in order to sell it to his Paris-based producers. “The idea was original and people responded to it. We found money in France and pre-sold the movie in some territories,” said Solanas. The film centers on Adam and Edne who fall in love as teens despite living in two opposing worlds pulling them in opposite directions. Ten years after a forced separation, Adam sets out to find his love.
The script also made rounds at Hollywood agencies where it also found some support, and Solanas made his way to the U.S. to talk to potential actors. “It was surprising, it was my first Hollywood experience. I flew to Los Angeles and spent time with Kirsten Dunst and had a great feeling she was the one. She understood the script and that was it. We did it. I then met Jim Sturgess in London and I had this feeling he was the one. I told my producers that I needed Jim to say yes and he did.” Although the project found funding in France and through pre-sales in other territories, the budget was tight and the 2010 shoot in Montreal had little wiggle room. “The shoot was very concentrated — 54 days, not long for a movie like that. Every day was like an impossible day to achieve. I thought, take every day and if I die, I die. I couldn’t make a mistake because every minute counted. Millennium plans to open Upside Down in 10 theaters in eight cities this weekend, including New York, LA, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Washington, D.C., Boston, Dallas and Denver.
Director-writer: Matteo Garrone
Co-writers: Massimo Gaudioso, Ugo Chiti, Maurizio Baucci
Cast: Aniello Arena, Paola Minaccioni, Loredana Simioli, Nando Paone, Nello Iorio
Reality bowed at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, where it screened in competition and won the Grand Prize of the Jury. U.S. distributor Oscilloscope eyed the title after its run at the festival, hoping to tap the strong response to the film in its U.S. release. “We were at the first screening in Cannes and we loved it and started going after it immediately,” said Oscilloscope exec David Laub. “We finalized it a day or two before the awards ceremony [in Cannes] and then it won the Grand Prix. We thought it was a great film. This movie is unique, beautiful and special. People are passionate about this film and that is something we want.” Laub noted Reality has a “strong cinephile appeal” but that it touches on broader themes. The plot centers on a fishmonger who becomes obsessed with being a contestant on a reality show that leads him down a dark path.
The project itself has a unique real-life subplot. Garrone met star Aniello Arena in prison while he was researching his previous project, Gomorrah. Arena’s prison did not allow him to appear in Gomorrah as Garone had hoped, but it did allow for him to be released for filming under restriction. Imprisoned on a homicide charge, he could only be out during the daytime and back in jail at night. The project, however, went to various locations in Italy, so Arena had to show up at a local jail by sundown. Authorities denied him a request to attend Cannes, but ahead of its U.S. release, he’s taken part in interviews from his jail cell with the LA Times, NPR and others. “The story is based on his wife’s brother,” said Laub about Garrone. “It is actually a true story and now is talking about it [more openly].” Reality will open in New York exclusively this weekend followed by Los Angeles the following weekend and into six to eight major markets afterward.