Several newcomers make their way to the Specialty box office this coming weekend, though it is more than certain holdovers will entrench their reign with audiences. Searchlight’s tour de force The Grand Budapest Hotel has been shattering sales numbers and will move into upwards of 675 additional theaters heading into Friday. Last weekend Budapest had a stunning $22,204 PTA in 304 theaters. Also grabbing screens in the last weekend of March will be Focus Features’ Bad Words, three weeks after its launch. The Jason Bateman directorial debut will add over 650 locations. Last weekend it averaged $5,747 from 178 runs. On Friday, Sony Classics will follow up its 2012 The Raid: Redemption release with The Raid 2 in limited runs. Cohen Media Group will bow director Drake Doremus’ fourth feature Breathe In with Guy Pearce and Felicity Jones in well over a dozen locations, while Sundance Selects will head out with Finding Vivian Maier, an enigmatic figure in the photography world that has turned into a titan in death. And Abramorama will open Mistaken For Strangers, a music documentary centered on the relationship of two brothers.
The Raid 2 by Gareth Evans follows his 2012 first installment, The Raid: Redemption. The latest feature follows a short time after the first raid, in which Rama goes undercover with the thugs of Jakarta and plans to bring down the syndicate and uncover the corruption within his own police force. “From the beginning we wanted to be a part of Raid 2,” said SPC co-president Michael Barker. “We became involved with [this feature] even before they shot this one, which was still in the script stage at the time.” The project, which SPC worked on with Sony Worldwide Acquisition Group, is building on the momentum of the first Raid, according to Barker. Raid: Redemption grossed over $4.1M domestically, opening in 14 theaters in April 2012 with a $15,270 screen average. “Raid was very successful for us,” said Barker who gave kudos to XYZ Films, which produced the feature. “We think [Evans] is one of the greatest directors of action the cinema has ever had. He’s infused a freshness that is amazing.”
Sony Classics will open The Raid 2 on Friday in seven theaters in its initial weekend. It will head into about 30 theaters in five or six cities before heading wide into 1,200 locations the following week. “We went wider one week later in the first Raid,” noted Barker. “There’s a loyal following to the first film, but the word-of-mouth from all the screenings we’ve had have been great. It was a triumph at Sundance and at SXSW. All these factors foreshadow a good run.”
Director-writer: Drake Doremus
Writer: Ben York Jones
Cast: Felicity Jones, Guy Pearce, Mackenzie Davis, Matthew Daddario, Ben Shenkman, Alexandra Wentworth, Amy Ryan
Distributor: Cohen Media Group
Cohen Media Group picked up romantic drama Breathe In out of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. It centers on a foreign exchange student who arrives in a small upstate New York town. Her presence challenges the dynamics of her host family’s relationship and alters their future. “I watched it and thought it was terrific,” said Charles Cohen, who noted that the company’s president Daniel Battsek first showed him the title. “The subject matter is both provocative and timely and strikes a cord about inter-family relationships.” Cohen said star Felicity Jones’ dynamics with Guy Pearce on screen are a must-see and should drive audiences to theaters. “It’s one that demands attention and I think it’s a continuation of a developing career for someone I believe will be great,” added Cohen. The company is targeting young and middle-aged women (and their partners) as Breathe In‘s core. “It’s got a tremendous amount going for it. It will appeal to many age groups and both sexes. The way the film has been made will draw attention to [Drake Doremus'] career.”
Felicity Jones starred in Doremus’ previous 2011 feature Like Crazy along with Anton Yelchin and Jennifer Lawrence. The Paramount Vantage release grossed nearly $3.4 million in the U.S. with a nearly $31K screen average in four theaters at its October opening that year. Breathe In has its work cut out for it to reach that total. It will open in 18 theaters in four markets, including three Manhattan theaters this weekend. It will head out to an additional 32 theaters the following weekend in additional cities.
The origins of Finding Vivian Maier are intrinsically wrapped into the feature documentary itself. Co-director and subject John Maloof obtained thousands of negatives at an auction while searching for historical images on a book project he was involved with. After viewing work by an unknown photographer, Vivian Maier, Maloof posted photos from the unknown, which went viral. There was also a photo show at the Chicago Cultural Center which proved popular. The media became interested and Maier set out to learn more about the woman, who he later learned was an avid “amateur” photographer who led a low-key life as a nanny. “Chicago TV did a piece on Vivian and then Jeff [Garlin] came on as a producer for the documentary [project],” said Maloof. After Garlin joined, he reached out to Charlie Siskel who Michael Moore had suggested as a possible collaborator. “We hit it off and started going down the rabbit hole,” said Siskel. “At the center of not only the photos, but also video and audio footage, that Vivian had created was this story of this secret woman who lead a double life. So the [documentary] has this detective story of John [Maloof] uncovering this archive and uncovering her life.”Maloof’s treasure-trove of photos was augmented by a storage locker filled with Maier’s belongings, which a family she had worked for had turned over to him. “The storage locker contained all these clues,” said Maloof. A Kickstarter campaign financed pre-production, though Maloof and Siskel fronted the money for the bulk of the project. Though Maier died in obscurity in in April 2009, her reputation and art have ballooned in death. “It’s accessible and there’s an element of nostalgia,” said Siskel of her photos. “I think people really respond to her ability to capture humanity whether they’re wealthy people or the very poor on the fringes of society. And the self-portraits add to the intrigue and the sense of discovery.”
The film will augment the growing audience of Maier admirers who have discovered her in recent years and that interest, people behind the film hope, will naturally draw audiences to the doc. Sundance Selects came on board around the time the film premiered at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival. It later screened at DOC NYC, Palm Springs, Berlin and this year’s Miami International Film Festival. Finding Vivian Maier will open Friday at Lincoln Plaza and IFC Center in New York as well as The Landmark in L.A. It will be available via VOD March 31.
Abramorama chief Richard Abramowitz has released dozens of music films stretching back two-plus decades. He is doing it again with docu-comedy Mistaken By Strangers, in which Tom Berninger chronicles his time spent on the road as a member of the tour crew for The Naitonal, the rock & roll band fronted by his brother Matt. “I’ve worked on 20 to 30 music films over the years. I find them or they find me,” said Abramowitz who released Anvil: The Story Of Anvil, winning Best Documentary at the 2010 Independent Spirit Awards in addition to a slew of festival awards in North America and overseas. “I spoke with the band’s management, Tom and Matt [Berninger] and really liked the music and the ‘hybrid’ storytelling that included comedy. There aren’t a lot of independent films that are funny, but this is one and still manages to be thoughtful.” Aside from being a fan of music films, Abramowitz said by default the genre informs how the films should be released. Music films focused on individual artists or bands have an identifiable base in which to target release dates and messaging. “I look at it like a target,” said Abramowitz. “The band’s fans are the bullseye and then there are the concentric circles, such as fans of indie rock or fans of non-fiction film.” In the case of Mistaken For Strangers, Abramowitz said the comic elements combined with the relationship between the Berningers are selling points. “The music is the trojan horse in this story about two brothers,” he added.
Wednesday night, the band played at the Shrine auditorium in Los Angeles after a screening of Mistaken For Strangers. Some of the ticket sales collected for the event will be applied to its opening box office. Mistaken For Strangers will open in ten markets in as many theaters this weekend, beginning with a couple of showings Thursday evening at IFC Center in New York. It will also be available day and date. The brothers are participating in getting the word out in the lead-up to this weekend’s roll out, including an appearance on The Tonight Show. They will also participate in select Q&As in New York before heading to their hometown of Cincinnati to do additional appearances. The film will head to around 35 markets, with some playdates set as limited runs.