Brian Brooks is a Deadline contributor.

boxoffice-specialty__111212022432-200x150 (1)Last week, Inside Llewyn Davis opened to the year’s second biggest screen average among Specialty releases and was clearly the ‘big indie’ heading into the weekend. This week the film will expand into over a dozen locations on the heels of its Golden Globe nominations this morning. This week’s new Specialties will still have to contend with Llewyn and other popular holdovers like fellow nominee 12 Years A Slave, Nebraska, Dallas Buyers Club as well as Philomena, which will likely dominate in the absence of a new star-boasting title that has built momentum out of the likes of Cannes or first tier fall festivals in North America. Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker Lucy Walker should find some momentum among non-fiction fans for her latest feature The Crash Reel, which has picked up festival awards will begin its theatrical phase this weekend via Phase 4 Films. Magnolia’s thriller Here Comes The Devil will also begin in L.A. and New York, while Janus Films will begin a New York exclusive run of doc Liv & Ingmar. And Sweet Talk will open in downtown L.A. Friday, followed quickly by a VOD launch. Of note, Sony/Columbia’s American Hustle and Buena Vista’s Saving Mr. Banks begin their theatrical releases in limited engagement, but will expand to well over 2000 screens the following week.

The Crash Reelcrashreel
Director-writer: Lucy Walker
Subjects: Kevin Pearce, Shaun White, Mason Aguirre, Jake Burton, Danny Davis, Scotty Lago
Distributor: Phase 4 Films

Twice Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker Lucy Walker may possibly head down the red carpet a third time the Dolby Theater in March with The Crash Reel. The film, which made the doc short list, follows the epic rivalry between half-pipe legends Shaun White and Kevin Pearce, childhood friends who became the number one and two in the world leading up to the Vancouver Winter Olympics. “The [project] came from meeting Kevin at a retreat for extreme sports. [At times] you are smack hit with someone and know it has to be your next film,” said Walker about the film’s origin three-and-a-half years ago. “But on the other hand, I always wanted to do a film about people adapting to spinal injuries in addition to extreme sports.” After getting Pearce on board for the project Walker tapped Julian Cautherley to join her on the project. “We just started shooting because the story was already happening even before we got any money,” said Walker, who added that she was also hitting busy with her Oscar-nominated short The Tsunami And The Cherry Blossom, when Crash Reel kicked into gear. “It was tricky finding money. When telling someone’s personal story you have an incredible responsibility so I wanted to make sure that any financing could be with someone who is trustworthy,” added Walker. “I felt responsible to the Pearce family to tell their story accurately and wanted that financing to be trustworthy and professional. We had trouble getting it even though I felt this was the most cinematic film I’ve done… In the end, I was able to do a licensing deal with HBO and get some money that way, but the deal also includes a big screen deal. The film was always been intended for the big screen.” HBO played the film ahead of its regular theatrical run.

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Walker finished the film just before its Sundance premiere. Phase 4 Films caught the film at the festival and inquired about picking it up after the screening from sales agent Andrew Herwitz from the Film Sales Company. “There wasn’t a dry eye in the place,” said Phase 4’s Berry Meyerowitz. “What struck me was that there were a lot of senior citizens also in the movie who had nothing in common with snowboarding and they were moved. Meyerowitz noted the film has collected ample festival awards while hitting the circuit this year, including an Audience Award at SXSW. The company is targeting major markets and “mountain resorts” for its theatrical roll out, capitalizing on its snowboarding appeal though Meyerowitz said that the film crosses boundaries. “Snowboarding is a backdrop,” said Meyerowitz. “[The film] has taken us much broader than we thought it would be,” adding that the company has reached out to groups ranging from veterans to neurological/brain interests. The film will open in 10 markets in 10 theaters this weekend including IFC Center in New York and L.A. at the Arena Cinema.

devil1Here Comes The Devil
Director-writer: Adrián García Bogliano
Cast: Laura Caro, Francisco Barreiro, Michele Garcia, Alan Martinez, David Arturo Cabezud
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures

Thriller Here Comes The Devil follows a married couple who lose their children while on a family trip near caves in Tijuana, Mexico. They later reappear without explanation, but it becomes clear there has been a change. Producer Andrea Quiroz Hernandez recalls that filmmaker Adrián García Bogliano had the idea to shoot this film in Mexico after working with him on previous projects in Argentina. “As I am Mexican, it made sense to take care of the production,” said Hernandez. “Adrian wanted certain landscapes and I thought it was good to try to shoot far from Mexico City, because budgets tend to dramatically increase there.” Financing came via MPI Media Group/Dark Sky Films, which distributed their previous film Cold Sweat. “I think it’s the very first time an American company financed a Spanish-spoken horror film,” noted Hernandez. “We did a casting in Tijuana a few months before the shooting and every actor but Francisco Barreiro is from there. It was a challenge to make a movie with so many characters, working with actors that, for the most part, didn’t have experience in movies. But Adrian is a very skilled director and knew how to approach each one of them.” The film had a tight three-week shoot schedule and later premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Submarine’s Josh Braun repped the film at the festival where acquisition discussions began. “Having them taking care of the film, it’s probably one of the best things that can happen to an independent film,” said Hernandez. “The film is going to be released on December 13th both on theaters and VOD, the DVD will come out a bit later.” Magnolia will open Here Comes The Devil day and date this weekend, beginning its theatrical run at Cinema Village in New York and Sundance Sunset Cinemas in West Hollywood. It will head to Columbus, OH Christmas Eve and New Orleans Christmas day, expanding to additional locations next month.

Liv & Ingmarlivingmar
Director-writer: Dheeraj Akolkar
Subjects: Liv Ullmann, Ingmar Bergman
Distributor: Janus Films

Told from Norwegian-born actress Liv Ullmann’s point of view, Liv & Ingmar recalls the 42-year relationship between the Swedish filmmaker and his long-time muse, lover and friend. Spearheaded by Indian-born filmmaker Dheeraj Akolkar, Ullmann was not inclined to cooperate when approached about the project. “At first I didn’t agree to cooperate, but then I met with [the filmmaker and producer] in Norway,” said Ullmann. “[Akolkar seemed] sincere and talented and convinced me to take part in his movie.” Ullmann said that she only spent two days doing interviews and recorded passages from her 1977 autobiography Changing, which serves as a reference for the film. “I told [Akolkar] at the beginning that [if I didn't like it] I would not cooperate and bad-mouth it,” said Ullmann. “But I think that if Ingmar would have been able to see it, he would like this interpretation of our relationship.” Ullmann added that it’s “one interpretation” of their decades together, which includes five years when they lived together on a remote Baltic island, often in virtual exile. The film played in Norway and the Rio de Janeiro Film Festival before bowing at the New York Film Festival in October 2012. It has continued to make the festival rounds including this past September in Vancouver. Janus Films will open Liv & Ingmar at the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York exclusively this weekend followed by the NuArt in Los Angeles December 13. It will head to Chicago, Montreal and San Francisco next month.

sweettalkSweet Talk
Director: Terri Hanauer
Writer: Peter Lefcourt
Cast: Karen Austin, Natalie Zea, Devion Andrez Coleman, John Glover, Lindsay Hollister, Anzu Lawson, Andre Myers
Distributor: Chiaroscuro Productions (self-distributed); Gravitas will handle VOD

Sweet Talk, perhaps appropriately, unfolds over a phone sex line in which a blocked writer connects with a young woman who go on a journey together. “I met director Terri Hanauer through a mutual friend, Julie Davis, whom I’ve worked with,” said producer Linda Miller. “It sounded like a challenging and intriguing project and she seemed like a strong director who was also open to collaborating so I got on board.” Hanauer and Miller hired casting directors Meg Morman and Sunny Boling. Financing came via private investors, friends and family, but resources were nevertheless a challenge for a project that required elaborate settings. “Some of the biggest challenges were how do we shoot the period pieces, ballrooms, 1914 Budapest, 1934 Vienna, costumes, sets, locations on an Indie budget,” said Miller. “The Cinematographer Marco Fargnoli, Production Designer Celine Diano and Costume Designer Kristen Anacker were so creative and artistically clever that those challenges were dealt with in brilliant ways. And since one of the themes in the film is how does one person really connect to another – Terri felt that the characters’ imagination would be the first place a fantasy could start.”

Gravitas came on board for the film’s VOD release, but are going DIY for its theatrical rollout, which begins at the Downtown Independent Cinema Friday. VOD will begin December 15.