Brian Brooks is a Deadline contributor.
Picturehouse makes a heavy metal return with the roll out of Metallica Through The Never. The reincarnation of the brand once a Time Warner entity, is taking a unique approach to its first release with an exclusive IMAX weekend run. September is going out with a bang in terms of number of releases. The weekend is packed once again, though one exec told me off the cuff that he sees it as “lifting all boats,” while another disagreed. The Specialty Box Office has had more losers than winners – though isn’t that always the case – theatrically, though last week’s Enough Said managed great numbers despite the flood of fellow newcomers. Docs make a plentiful showing this weekend including Magnolia’s Muscle Shoals, which debuted at Sundance and Music Box’s TIFF ’12 premiere Shepard & Dark along with SXSW’s The Network, which FilmBuff will roll out theatrically. Entertainment One will open the English-language version of We Are What We Are, while TV actor Leland Orser takes a turn as film director with Anchor Bay’s Morning. Rialto has three openers this weekend including the 40th anniversary restoration of The Wicker Man and Well Go USA will bow its Cannes premiere, On The Job.
Metallica Through The Never
Director-writer: Nimród Antal
Writers: Kirk Hammett, James Hetfield, Robert Trujillo, Lars Ulrich
Subjects: Dane DeHaan, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Jeremy Raymond, Mackenzie Gray, Toby Hargrave
Action/music feature Metallica Through The Never is the first release of the second manifestation of Picturehouse, the former New Line Cinema and HBO Films label formed in 2005 that later closed house and then was revived by its head, veteran film exec Bob Berney along with wife/partner Jeanne Berney. The feature centers on Trip, a young roadie for Metallica who is sent on a mission during the band’s show, but what was meant to be a simple assignment turns into a surreal adventure. “It’s our first film and it’s going to be totally different as a release because it’s going to be in all IMAX theaters – a first time for an indie,” said Berney. “It will be in IMAX for a one week exclusive. We think IMAX and Metallica is such a perfect match.” Berney said that IMAX had tried to make a Metallica-centered film a while back, which ultimately didn’t come together, but now the film will hit IMAX screens in Through The Never. This film is not the first time Metallica has hit the big screen. The 2004 doc Metallica: Some Kind Of Monster grossed over $1.22 million domestically via IFC Films (once a Berney home during box office successes Y Tu Mamá También and My Big Fat Greek Wedding). “We saw the first 20 minutes of Metallica Through The Never back in January,” said Berney. “It’s a hybrid action/Metallica concert.”
Berney said that Picturehouse will likely release several films its first year and up to eight in its second and third years. They will mainly be platform releases, but there may be more of the unconventional roll outs if going outside the box makes sense as they did for Through The Never. “Releases will match the films,” said Berney. A premiere at the recent Toronto fest, Metallica Through The Never will be in about 300 IMAX locations its first week and expanding to about 650 theaters (a mix of IMAX and 2D) October 4. Berney noted that band members will join Q&As at select screenings.
Director: Greg Camalier
Subjects: Rick Hall, Aretha Franklin, Keith Richards, Gregg Allman, Bono, Jimmy Cliff
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
Music is also at the center of doc Muscle Shoals, which director Greg Camalier said had its roots in a road trip with a friend in 2008. The doc celebrates Rick Hall, the founder of FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama and the signature sound he developed in songs such as “I’ll Take You There, Brown Sugar” and “When A Man Loves A Woman”. “We ended up in Muscle Shoals and we knew there was a music connection to [the town] but we had no idea that there was so much,” said Camalier. “We became fascinated.” After piquing their curiosity, Camalier embarked on his first directorial, heading into a 15-month “pre-production” building a filmmaking team and finding resources, eventually securing private equity. In 2009, the team shot their first five days, which set the project’s momentum. “A lot of that first five days went into the final cut,” said Camalier. “It is a complex story with a lot of characters and history. [But] I knew we had a film and felt confident early on.”
Muscle Shoals had its debut at the Sundance Film Festival in January and went on to screen SXSW, Seattle and Sydney film festivals. Magnolia Pictures picked up the film in March. Magnolia will open Muscle Shoals exclusively at IFC center on Friday, day and date with iTunes and On Demand everywhere Friday. It will head to Chicago the following week and expand to nine cities including L.A., the Bay Area and Nashville October 11, followed by over a dozen more markets October 18.
Director Treva Wurmfeld initially interviewed actor Sam Shepard for a separate project. The footage proved interesting, but not for what had initially been intended. “Treva brought me some footage of an interview with Sam,” said producer Amy Hobby. “She had asked him basically everything she had ever wanted to ask him, so I said to her, ‘You should do a film about Sam Shepard.'” Hobby had worked with Shepard who appeared in the 2000 big screen version of Hamlet, so Hobby contacted him. “The director also sent him a letter and he said, ‘Ok,'” said Hobby. “So [Wurmfeld] started following him around and met Johnny Dark who revealed a whole new side of Sam and that was the story we followed.” The project came together and found an actress who was willing to put up resources which gave the project momentum. “Our great benefactor Joanne Woodward came on board,” said Hobby. “She’s very involved in the theater community and once she [joined], we were able to barrel forward.” The project also scored veteran editor Sandra Adair, who has long worked with Richard Linklater, to join the doc. “She agreed to do it if Treva moved to Austin, TX,” said Hobby. “So we edited in Linklater’s office. We were this three-woman team making a film about two guys – it was fantastic.” Shepard & Dark premiered at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival, later picked up an award in Woodstock and even screened as a Special Presentation in Cannes. Music Box picked up U.S. rights in March and opened the film in New York Wednesday. It will head to L.A. October 11 in addition to other cities. It will be available via VOD/DVD October 22.
We Are What We Are
Director-writer: Jim Mickle
Writer: Nick Damici
Cast: Bill Sage, Ambyr Childers, Julia Garner, Kelly McGillis, Kassie Wesley DePaiva
Distributor: Entertainment One
Based on the 2010 film We Are What We Are (Somos lo que hay), filmmaker Jim Mickle was approached by producers Rodrigo Bellott and Andrew Corkin to do an American version of the film while developing Cold In July with Belladonna Productions and Memento Films. The drama-thriller centers on the Parkers, a reclusive family who follow ancient customs, but find their existence threatened as a torrential downpour moves in, forcing their daughters to assume responsibilities beyond a typical family. “I had heard a ton about the film and loved the concept but had never actually seen it, so I sat down with [writer] Nick Damici and we watched it in his kitchen on a little laptop,” said Mickle. “When it was over we both thought ‘why remake this?’…But we both loved the themes and the way it dealt with religion and family values against a horrific backdrop, and we started to see ways of finding our own take on the original film.” Mickle and the filmmaking team had admired Julia Garner in Martha Marcy May Marlene and she was the “first piece to fall in place” on the casting side, which was followed by others including Kelly McGillis who had appeared in their previous film Skate Land. Shooting took place in the Catskills in upstate New York over 25 days last summer.
Devastation from Hurricane Irene was still evident where they shot in Margaretville, NY, so some of that was incorporated into the project. “It was a pretty devastating time there, so we tried to work some of that into the world of the story, setting it all against the backdrop of a torrential storm,” said Mickle. “In reality it never rained once during our 5-week shoot and so our designer Russell Barnes built these amazing homemade rain towers to use on set. The end result is 100% homemade rain for the entire movie.” The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January where eOne picked up rights. It will open at the Sunshine in New York and the NuArt in L.A. Friday. It will expand to additional markets October 11.
TV actor/filmmaker Leland Orser shot the short that preceded Morning, which premiered at SXSW and while traveling the festival circuit, he decided there was more to the story. The film follows the five days in the life of a couple immediately following the accidental death of their child. Resources in the form of money and people came and went. At one point veteran cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki was set to shoot the film, but he was lost to the Coens, Terence Malick and Alfonso Cuaron projects, but eventually Morning took shape. “We found more money, and on Chivo’s (Lubezki) recommendation, we hired a young female protégé of his from Mexico City, Paula Huidobro,” noted Orser. “She made the film gorgeous and I love that even though the writer and director is a man, the film is actually and literally being seen (and shot) through the eyes of a woman. It was important to me to shoot the story on film, not digital. The subject matter is so brutal and intense that I felt it needed to be elevated by the beauty and molded and shaped by the actual material of celluloid.” Orser’s wife is the film’s lead actress, Jeanne Triplehorn (“That was pretty seamless, all I had to do was sleep with her,” joked Orser) and Laura Linney came on board quickly after receiving the script as did Elliott Gould and others. The film shot in L.A., which was important to Orser. “Runaway production is a big problem for this industry and a very sad thing to me; people having to leave their families and run all over the country to earn a living,” said Orser. “This is Hollywood for heaven’s sake. Why can’t we figure it out, bring people home and put them to work right here? The city of Los Angeles is an important character in the film…
“People on the crew kept asking me why I couldn’t have written a film called ‘Afternoon,'” joked Orser about the early morning call times. “Jeanne and Laura carpooled to the set and shared a honeywagon with Elliott Gould. They broke the tension in between takes of the tougher scenes by cracking jokes, doing impersonations and talking about ‘The Biggest Loser.’” Anchor Bay’s Kevin Kasha and Bill Clark saw the film at an early stage and took on the film’s release. The film will open in New York and Los Angeles in addition to San Francisco and Tulsa, OK where Orser and Tripplehorn grew up respectively.
The release of the restored 1973 classic thriller The Wicker Man is one of three titles distributor Rialto is rolling out to theaters this weekend. StudioCanal worked to obtain original missing film material from the horror feature directed by Robin Hardy in anticipation of its 40th anniversary. The release four decades ago was significantly shorter than the film Hardy had made and the negatives – it was believed – had disappeared. “Because of [strong] exhibitor response, we’re planning its release in many cities throughout the fall,” said Rialto’s Eric Barnardo. “The film will open in 20 cities starting in New York this Friday. On October 4 it will head to the Castro Theater in San Francisco, where an earlier version premiered in 1979.” The film will open in L.A. November 1. Along with Wicker Man, the distributor is also pushing out the reissue of Antoine And Antoinette and foreign pic Hotel Normandy. “Wicker Man is targeted toward a genre audience, while Hotel Normandy is for people who seek out contemporary French romantic comedies and Antoine And Antoinette is a classic romantic comedy – it’s a bit of a rediscovery,” responded Bernardo about releasing three films the same weekend, explaining that the trio target separate demographics. “Two theaters we [wanted] had availability September 27 so we decided to suck it up and open the same day. But New York has a big enough audience to accommodate. … We’ll see how they perform.”
A debut at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Well Go USA picked up the title ahead of its premiere at the event in May. Inspired by real events, the crime-thriller centers on prison inmates who are temporarily released from incarceration to work as contract killers on behalf of politicians and high-ranking military officials. “The movie is a perfect fit for us. Well Go USA specializes in Asian genre films, and this movie is non-stop action,” said the company’s Jason Pfardrescher. “We’re glad to finally have a Filipino movie to add to our catalog of titles. We haven’t had a chance to directly reach out to that audience yet, and between Erik Matti’s reputation and the sheer star power of the four leads, this is going to thrill audiences. They’ve never seen these guys in this kind of story before.” Pfardrescher said the “killer cops vs. crooks” pic could prove to have “huge crossover potential.” The film will open in New York, L.A. and some regional markets in 30 theaters this weekend and will expand based on performance. “On The Job is one of our largest theatrical releases to date,” added Pfardrescher. “The reviews from Cannes, and now coming from the North American premiere at Fantastic Fest, are both building a huge level of excitement. We’re excited too.”
Documentary The Network is a behind-the-scenes look at the largest television network in one of the world’s most dangerous places, Afghanistan. The film caught the attention of FilmBuff who sees it as a story that will resonate with media junkies and people with an entrepreneurial spirit. “[It’s] the first post-Taliban network in Afghanistan – that’s pretty cool,” said Steve Beckman, head of Content Partnerships at FilmBuff. “We first saw the film at this year’s SXSW and immediately appreciated its relevance for both theatrical and digital audiences. The film will appeal to anyone interested in geopolitical issues today.” FilmBuff is reaching out to U.S.-based Afghan groups as well as women’s organizations in colleges and universities to spread the word. “It speaks to the audience that actively sees smart and thought provoking movies in theaters, as well as the digital savvy audience that will really appreciate the film’s focus on a group of passionate people fighting against all odds to create a media start-up in their country,” added Beckman. FilmBuff will open The Network exclusively at IFC Center in New York this weekend. It will open in L.A. October 4 at the Laemmle Music Hall and will be available on all VOD platforms October 8.