Brian Brooks is a Deadline contributor.
Sofia Coppola‘s Cannes Un Certain Regard opener The Bling Ring will have its chance to shine this weekend as the real-life inspired feature hits theaters. A24 will open the film in limited release, joining a number of Specialties going up against Man Of Steel. Also offering an alternative beginning Friday is doc Pandora’s Promise by Oscar-nominee Robert Stone, who gives a sobering reassessment of nuclear power. China Lion will open China’s biggest homegrown box office hit of the year, So Young in a trio of North American cities as it assesses its prowess on this side of the Pacific. Also hailing from abroad are France’s romantic comedy The Stroller Strategy from Rialto Premieres and Strand Releasing’s Cannes 2012 feature, In The Fog.
The Bling Ring
Director-writer: Sofia Coppola
Writer: Nancy Jo Sales (Vanity Fair article)
Cast: Emma Watson, Katie Chang, Leslie Mann, Taissa Farmiga, Israel Bourssard, Claire Julien
Sofia Coppola came across the real-life story in Vanity Fair that inspired The Bling Ring while on a plane going on vacation. The article, The Suspects Wore Louboutins by Nancy Jo Sales, tells the story about a group of San Fernando Valley fame-obsessed teens who used the Internet to track when celebrities were away from their homes in order to rob them. “After reading the quotes from the kids, I thought it had some of the elements that would make for a good movie,” Coppola said at an event hosted by the Film Society of Lincoln Center this week. “I figured someone else was already doing it. It’s an interesting look at contemporary culture.” Emma Watson stars in the film that also includes a number of unknown actors. Coppola said that casting directors took a year to assemble the group and it was important to include actors that were not “fully formed or polished.” Producer Youree Henley, who worked with Coppola on her previous feature, Somewhere, came on board soon after the filmmaker optioned the story. “The wonderful thing about working with Sofia is that she’s a force,” said Henley. “She’ll say casually that we’ll shoot in the summer and then it does happen. If we could all be so lucky to put a stake in the ground and not have to move it. It makes all the difference.” Henley and Coppola then searched locations — or “going on safari” as Henley described. “We don’t hang out in that world. I didn’t even know what bottle service was,” he said. One victim of the real-life Bling Ring, Paris Hilton, also helped out with a key location once production began about a year ago. Coppola met her at a party she hosted in her home after her Somewhere star, Stephen Dorff invited her to come along. The socialite/actress loaned her house where a number of robberies took place by the gang and even made a cameo in the film.
A24 came on board as distributor ahead of its premiere in Cannes as the opening night of Un Certain Regard. There were a couple of suitors, but we have had a good experience with them,” said Henley. “It was a bit of a risk because it was pre-Spring Breakers. But we had worked with them on Roman’s film, and found them to be great supportive partners. We also liked that they’re young and passionate about our movie.” A24 will open The Bling Ring in three theaters in Los Angeles and two in New York this weekend and will head nationwide on June 21st. “I think we’re in a good place, but we’ll see this weekend and even more next weekend,” added Henley. “But I think it’s going to be a long [haul]. Sofia’s movies get better after you’ve had a chance to sit with them.”
Film vet Richard Abramowitz saw documentary Pandora’s Promise at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The film, by Robert Stone, focuses on the history and future of nuclear power and why it has been embraced by a number of former foes who once led the fight against it. “I thought it was very provocative,” said Abramowitz. “The audience reaction was fascinating because you had the left-leaning documentary crowd you’d expect — myself among them.” Abramowitz said the film has been “fun to market” because it has instantly solicited reactions at pre-release screenings, including at the True/False Film Festival and Hot Docs in addition to select one-off events. “We did 10 to 15 college screenings and Robert attended doing extended Q&As,” said Abramowitz. “Part of the mandate is to encourage this kind of discussion and get people talking about this. Two months ago the NY Times had two full pages about energy issues and the word ‘nuclear’ didn’t even appear. I’m not a strong nuclear activist, but the fact that it wasn’t part of the discussion made me feel like I made the right decision being a part of this.” Most recently, Pandora’s Promise screened at the Jacob Burns Center in Upstate New York and included a discussion with Stone and Bobby Kennedy, Jr. “It was a very energetic conversation,” added Abramowitz. “It went on for an hour and could have easily gone longer.” Stone himself went through something of a transformation on the issue, once being a critic of nuclear power. His 1988 debut, Radio Bikini, received an Oscar nomination for Documentary Feature.
Abramowitz, who is serving as a consultant on the film’s release, said the film will hit the top 15 or 16 markets this Friday after opening Wednesday at the Sunshine Theater in New York exclusively. It will then roll out in another half dozen markets the following weekend and continue its expansion into July. “Landmark has been incredibly supportive of the film,” added Abramowitz. The doc is slated to play at over a dozen Landmark venues.
So Young has proven a box office tour de force in mainland China where it opened in early May, grossing $53 million in its opening weekend, only $11 million less than Iron Man 3. It has since cumed $115 million, all the more impressive given that Zhao is a first-time director, though she is a well-known actress in the country. “It’s one of the year’s top Chinese films on the mainland,” said China Lion’s Robert Lundberg. “It’s being released the same day here as in Hong Kong and we think that will be a marketing plus for us. Our Beijing-based President, Jiang Yaiming picked up the film in Cannes.”
Set in China, Lundberg touts the film as nevertheless having a universal appeal, focusing on a group of young people as they head to university. “It’s poignant to movie going audiences and crosses cultural boundaries,” he said. “I’d liken it to a Chinese Breakfast Club, though that will probably date me.” The film follows 18 year-old Zheng Wei as she arrives at college, encountering all the excitement and challenges that are inherent to the experience. China Lion will open So Young in its core niche Asian-focused locales in Los Angeles, Toronto and Vancouver in one theater each this weekend, followed by San Francisco and New York the following week. It will continue to roll out the title in the coming weeks based on performance.
The Stroller Strategy is the first of a five-title pact Rialto has with French film outfit Studio Canal, which will be released under their Rialto Premieres label. “It was a natural step for us to do some of their first runs,” noted Rialto co-president Adrienne Halpern. “The Stroller Strategy opened in January in France and part of the idea for all of these films is to open them within six months of their release in France. This has a young and up and coming cast with a young director.” The comedy, which will screen at next month’s Boston French Film Festival, centers on a man who is suddenly made the guardian of a baby and pretends to be its real father so he can win back his girlfriend who dumped him the previous year.
“The lead actors, I believe, will be seen more [in the future] here. Charlotte Lebon is in the new Michel Gondry film [Mood Indigo] and Raphael Personnaz had a small role in Anna Karenina.” Halpern is hoping to tap audiences that are fans of romantic comedies beyond the core fans of French film generally. Rialto will open The Stroller Strategy at one location each in New York and Los Angeles and will target additional French film events this summer.
German-produced drama In The Fog debuted last year in Cannes where Strand co-president Marcus Hu first saw it screen. Set in the USSR in 1942 during Nazi occupation, the film revolves around a man who is wrongly accused of collaboration. “I absolutely lost it,” said Hu. “Loznitsa is a real talent and it was the strongest film we saw in competition last year.” The film has also ridden momentum with good reviews in the U.S. which the company hopes will propel its release here. It will open at Village East in New York, though additional playdates will be determined by how it performs in its initial runs. Strand has booked a run in Miami ahead of its roll out in Los Angeles as well as Boston in July.