Brian Brooks is a Deadline contributor.
September weekends have been packed with Specialty newcomers and this Friday is no exception. One exec at a boutique outfit commented this weekend that the marketplace cannot sustain the heavy number of new films that have hit the marketplace lately, but the momentum is continuing nevertheless. Fox Searchlight, Roadside/Lionsgate and Tribeca Film are opening Enough Said, Thanks For Sharing and A Single Shot respectively. All boast star power, though their roll out strategies differ at least initially. Thanks For Sharing is by the far the biggest opener in terms of locations. Screen Media and Focus World will bow C.O.G. which is a David Sedaris-adapted story for the big screen, while TWC will open bio-comedy Haute Cuisine, which it hopes will attract foodies and China Lion will tap its core Chinese market with My Lucky Star. Documentaries are also on tap this weekend with Oscilloscope’s After Tiller potentially drumming up attention due to its controversial look at the four remaining doctors who perform late-term abortions in the U.S. Samuel Goldwyn’s The Short Game, meanwhile, is the SXSW audience award-winner centering on 7-year-old golfers. And First Run’s Men At Lunch investigates the back story of one of the depression-era’s most famous photographs.
One of James Gandolfini’s final roles, Enough Said premiered at the recent Toronto International Film Festival. Written and directed by Nicole Holofcener, the romantic comedy centers on a divorced woman who decides to pursue the man who is her new friend’s ex-husband. “Everybody was happy to be presenting the film at the Elgin [in Toronto],” said Fox Searchlight Senior V.P. Frank Rodriguez. “There was great audience response and everyone came out on stage including Nicole, Julia and Catherine, but there was a big hole with James not being there.” Searchlight had been involved with the project since its early days and Rodriguez called Holofcener’s work a good fit for the distributor. “Her films have been a combination of adult drama and touching a nerve with an audience, which is what we’re always looking for,” said Rodriguez. “She is right in the wheelhouse with that market.” Rodriguez said Searchlight has treaded carefully to not overplay the fact this is one of Gandolfini’s final new onscreen performances.”
“We didn’t think we should specifically delay anything but to use the momentum from Toronto and critical response [to propel] the release,” said Rodriguez. “[Gandolfini's] unfortunate passing didn’t change much. We were still going to approach it in the same way. It is Julia’s movie but he was always going to be a big part of the trailer and one sheet. This is very much closer to what his real personality is like – a softer and simple guy. It’s a great role for him to be seen in.” Rodriguez said that Gandolfini’s final film, also a Searchlight production, is Animal Rescue, though that film may have a title change. Enough Said rolled out September 18 in New York and L.A. including the Arclight Hollywood and Landmark as well as the Angelika Film Center and AMC Lincoln Square. It will expand to about 200 locations September 27.
Thanks For Sharing
Director-writer: Stuart Blumberg
Co-writer: Matt Winston
Cast: Mark Ruffalo, Tim Robbins, Gwyneth Paltrow, Pink, Patrick Fugit, Joely Richardson, Carol Kane, Emily Meade, Isiah Whitlock, Jr.
Roadside and Lionsgate picked up Thanks For Sharing at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, but waited a year before its theatrical roll out. The romantic comedy brings together three disparate characters who are learning to face a challenging and confusing world as they struggle against sex addiction. “One reason we waited was because Pink was on tour,” said Roadside chief Howard Cohen. “She’s doing a lot of press for the film now and is at the height of her fame. She came to the [L.A.] premiere Sunday night.” Gwyneth Paltrow, who moved to L.A. is also giving a good amount of time for press in what Cohen said is a “publicity blitz.” “We wanted to let the noise from Toronto to subside and for their schedules to open up,” said Cohen. “We think [this weekend's studio opener] Prisoners skews more for males…Thanks For Sharing has an amazing cast and that’s our biggest selling point.” Cohen said women tested as the film’s biggest fans and expects audiences in the 25-plus range to drive ticket sales this weekend.
Roadside/Lionsgate will open Thanks For Sharing in 269 theaters, following a pattern they have used for other releases this year maximizing star potential. “We’ve done the larger release where there are true movie stars known nationally and doing a lot of PR and television advertisement etc., said Cohen. “We had all those elements with this film between Mark Ruffalo, Pink and Gwyneth.” The film will open in 75 markets and expand in subsequent weeks.
A Single Shot
Director: David M. Rosenthal
Writers: Matthew F. Jones
Cast: Sam Rockwell, Jeffrey Wright, William H. Macy, Kelly Reilly, Ted Levine, Jason Isaacs, Jeffrey Wright, Melissa Leo
Distributor: Tribeca Film
Director David M. Rosenthal was not in an early manifestation of A Single Shot, which Matthew F. Jones initially wrote as a novel in 1996. The story centers on the death of a young girl, which begins a tense game of cat and mouse between hunter John Moon and hardened backwater criminals. “[Jones] initially developed it with someone else and then [a producer partnered] with others in Canada they started looking for another director and that’s when I got into the mix,” said Rosenthal. “The script was first given to me and it reads in a quite literary way,” said Rosenthal. “As soon as I piqued their interest I read the book and gave them my take taking some fundamentals out and putting some in.” But the project unraveled in 2011 due to financing and consequently lost most of its cast as well. “Keith Kjarval, [other producers] and I just didn’t give up,” said Rosenthal. “We decided this was going to happen and we kept pushing, so we found different equity sources… I chased Sam Rockwell and that worked out… And in the early spring of 2012 shot up in Vancouver.” Initially slated for 35 days, the shoot lasted 28 days. The film was supposed to take place over spring and summer, but the production had to contend with unseasonable snow. “We just had to wait for it to melt,” added Rosenthal. “It was a physical shoot for the cast and crew because of rain and damp muck. It wasn’t an easy studio shoot.”
The film premiered at the Berline International Film Festival, where Tribeca Enterprises’ Geoff Gilmore and team first saw the film. It subsequently went to Tribeca and later Newport Beach and Deauville. Tribeca Film launched A Single Shot on Utra-VOD August 20 and will open the film in 10 cities this weekend. It will expand based on performance.
After Tiller dives head-on and personal into one of the most tricky areas of the already controversial abortion debate – third trimester abortions. Filmmakers Martha Shane and Lana Wilson were motivated to take on the topic after the murder of Dr. George Tiller in Wichita, KS at his church in 2009, a symbol for militant anti-abortionists. The film profiles the four remaining U.S. doctors who are licensed to perform the procedure. “The news mentioned he had been shot once in his car going to work in the 1990s and then he went to work the very next day after being shot. I thought, ‘That is insane. Who would go to work the next day after being shot?’ and what incredible dedication that was. So that made me very curious about him,” said Wilson. Of the four profiled, the two male doctors signed on for the project, while the female doctors hesitated. “They had worked more closely and been mentored by Dr. Tiller and he had never done any interviews,” noted Shane. “He’d always say, ‘It’s not about me, it’s about the patients…’ and so they were coming from that school of thought at first.” But after meeting them in their clinics and explaining their goal to give more empathy to patients seeking the procedure, the two signed on. Financing was difficult, though Chicken & Egg gave an early grant, though most of the project’s initial financing came via individual support. “It was hard to get institutional grants or from the typical documentary funding sources,” said Wilson. “We got a lot of wonderful support from some of those organizations like Sundance and IDA at the very end, but we relied mostly on individual donors, so it was hard to get institutional support until after the film was finished and they could see what it is. Chicken & Egg came in early on with a grant and mentoring us.”
The filmmaker duo also had some push back with pro-choice activists who didn’t want to spotlight late term abortion which they view as an area that railroads the entire debate about abortion and access to contraception. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and later at the True/False Film Festival where it received a rapturous welcome in the heart of the U.S. “We’ve been surprised by how warmly the film has been received at festivals,” said Shane. “The screening at True/False Film Festival was incredible. We had a little protest in Ann Arbor, MI but there hasn’t been that many. In fact, we’ve had many anti-abortion people come see the movie and come up to us afterward and say that it made them think differently about the issue and that it gave them more empathy for the women and what they’re going through even if it doesn’t make them change their minds about the issue itself.” Oscilloscope is opening After Tiller at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center and Film Forum in New York exclusively this weekend and will expand to the top 15 markets over the next six weeks. It will have a digital/DVD release in early 2014.
Author David Sedaris has been adverse to film adaptations of his stories, but filmmaker Kyle Patrick Alvarez managed to get the OK for C.O.G. Starring Jonathan Groff, the film revolves around a cocky ivy league grad who travels to Oregon to work on an apple farm. Alvarez had tried the usual channels to adapt C.O.G., but received a reflexive “No” from Sedaris’ people, leading him to try a different route. “I gave him a copy of my first film at a book reading he had in Irvine,” said Alvarez. “He watched the film and a few months later he responded to me by email that he liked it and then I got a message that he wanted to talk about C.O.G.” Alvarez adapted the story so it would not involve Sedaris’ family members. After the particulars on the adaption agreement were worked out, Sedaris was hands off. As production began, casting evolved as budgets fluctuated. “I wrote it with one budget in mind as both a producer and director,” said Alvarez. “There was a year of false starts and a trimming of the budget. The budget was significantly under a million dollars. Film Independent was always supportive of me. I participated in their Fast Track program and did their ‘speed dating.’ Although I had met with a lot of those people already, the last persons I met with were Stephen Nemeth and Cookie Carosella and they were able to get financing going.”
With a tight budget, the filmmaking team went into pre-production in September, 2012 and faced a race against the season. “The apples were falling off the trees and the season was changing. It was an 18-day shoot with 30 locations,” said Alvarez. “Every day was a race and we had to buy thousands of apples…You can notice that every apple has a blemish on it.” Screen Media and Focus World caught the film at its premiere at Sundance and acquired it soon after the festival after the filmmakers fielded other offers at the festival. C.O.G. will open in L.A. at the Sundance Sunset and New York at the Village East and the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, Chicago at the Gene Siskel Center and nine other cites including Berkeley, Dallas, Denver and Miami this weekend. It will add ten additional cities including San Francisco and Seattle the following weekend.
Director-writer: Christian Vincent
Co-writer: Etienne Comar
Cast: Catherine Frot, Arthur Dupont, Jean d’Ormesson, Hippolyte Girardot, Jean-Marc Roulot, Philippe Uchan
Distributor: The Weinstein Company
Harvey Weinstein saw bio-comedy Haute Cuisine in France and picked it up for TWC. The film is the true story of Danièle Delpeuch, a common French chef who won over the stomach of ’80s era French President François Mitterrand. “Foodies will love the movie and we’re going to start it out small and hope it captures their attention,” said TWC’s Erik Lomis, president of Theatrical Distribution. “Harvey is a huge fan of French film, food etc. It’s one of those films that if it catches on, it can do really well.” Now in her 80s, Delpeuch has come to the U.S. and done some of the food show rounds ahead of this weekend’s release. She will also do Q&As in New York at the Sunshine Friday and Lincoln Plaza Saturday afternoon. In addition to New York, TWC, which picked up the film for the “low six figures” will open Haute Cuisine in L.A. at the Landmark before heading out in a slow expansion.
Doc The Short Game debuted at this year’s SXSW Film Festival where it won the Audience Award. The film chronicles 7-year-old golfers from around the world who travel to the famous Pinehurst Golf Course in North Carolina to crown a new champion and perhaps find out who may be the sport’s next phenomenon. “For any kid who is involved with a sport or athletics, it’s a great entertaining movie of what it takes to be a champion,” said Samuel Goldwyn’s Peter Goldwyn. “It’s a heartwarming film about kids who are fiercely competitive but also friends. We think it’s going to get great word of mouth.” Goldwyn said its topic has a “natural built-in” audience among sports enthusiasts and it has drawn the attention of Katie Couric and Jimmy Fallon. Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel were also among the documentary’s executive producers. “Aside from both being avid golfers, they were blown away by the kids themselves and wanted to help bring the positive and inspiring messaging of the film to as many people as possible,” said Goldwyn. “If you’ve ever played a game of golf I think you’ll find this fascinating.” The Short Game will open in 8 markets including NYC and L.A. and expand to the top 25 markets in the coming weeks.
China Lion was approached by Distribution Workshop about My Lucky Star in Cannes. The Chinese comedy revolves around a woman who gets caught up in an international diamond heist that draws her to a spy trying to save the world. “We liked the concept and both Ziyi and Wang Leehom are extremely popular with our core audience,” said China Lion’s Robert Lundberg. “As an example, Wang Leehom has 1.3 million Facebook followers and around 37 million Weibo (the “Chinese Twitter”) followers. We also were big fans of ‘Sophie’s Revenge,‘ the film that introduced Ziyi’s character, which she reprises in this film, though it’s technically not a sequel.” China Lion is targeting its staple Chinese-speaking audience throughout the U.S. and Canada, though they’re hoping to tap into Ziyi’s The Grandmaster audience as well. “We’ll be continuing our preference of opening along with the Mainland; we want audiences overseas and in the U.S. and Canada to have a fresh experience and the best way to do that is to offer up the film at the same time,” sand Lundberg. “We also are able to leverage our marketing push off Weibo, as well as tie into the multitude of promotional activities Ziyi, Wang Leehom and the American director, Dennie Gordon, are doing across the Asia Pacific region.” My Lucky Star will open in 23 theaters in major metropolitan areas. The film is the niche distributor’s biggest release since last December’s Back To 1942.
First Run picked up doc Men At Lunch last spring. The film investigates the backstory of the famous 1932 photo of eleven men having lunch on an exposed steel beam on the 69th floor of the unfinished Rockefeller Center. “We felt a NYC theatrical release would be logical given the subject matter,” said First Run VP of Distribution and Marketing Marc Mauceri. “It’s a good fit because we have a strong collection of well-crafted documentaries and Men At Lunch fits in well.” The film has been called a “photographic detective story,” but it’s also an immigration story, so it will appeal to a cross-section of history, architecture and photography buffs and anyone interested in America’s Irish newcomers. Men At Lunch will have a small NYC theatrical release in addition to a “couple of other cities”, according to Mauceri. It will be available via VOD/DVD December 3.