boxoffice-specialty__111212022432-200x150 (1)Specialties boasting stars are certainly in abundance among this weekend’s crop of newcomers. SXSW Film Festival opener Chef  by and starring Jon Favreau along with Robert Downey, Jr., Scarlett Johansson and even Dustin Hoffman begins its run Friday in limited release via Open Road Films. Another Coppola will see a film hit a theatrical run as well. Gia Coppola’s directorial debut Palo Alto, based on short stories written by James Franco (who also stars) also bows courtesy of Tribeca Film. The late Philip Seymour Hoffman stars in IFC Films’ God’s Pocket by Mad Men director (and actor) John Slattery, while Jesse Eisenberg and Mia Wasikowska star in Richard Ayoade’s The Double for Magnolia Pictures. And Cohen Media Group will open the re-release of French filmmaker Patrice Chéreau’s 1994 feature Queen Margot in New York before heading to other U.S. locations.

Chefchef
Director-writer: Jon Favreau
Cast: Jon Favreau, Robert Downey, Jr., Scarlett Johansson, John Leguizamo, Bobby Cannavale, Emjay Anthony, Dustin Hoffman, Sofía Vergara, Oliver Platt, Amy Sedaris
Distributor: Open Road Films

Open Road cooked up its acquisition of Chef while it was still in the script stage, though it did not produce the film. The 2014 SXSW Film Festival opening-night comedy revolves around a chef who loses his restaurant job and starts up a food truck in an effort to reclaim his creative promise, while putting back together his estranged family.Favreau had tapped on the talents of Food Truck guru Roy Choi to make sure authenticity was in tact.”He’s back to his indie roots and you can feel the passion,” said Open Road’s president of marketing Jason Cassidy. “Honestly, being in that room at SXSW — it couldn’t have played better. It felt like a rock concert and it was exciting to be a part of. It played incredibly well.” The premiere “opened eyes” to its playability, according to Cassidy. The feature won an audience award at the recent Tribeca and Newport Beach film festivals. “It plays well to younger crowds with its ‘edgier, tech vibe,” added Cassidy. “And there’s a father-son relationship story that has a coming together as a family story that works for older audiences too.” Open Road set up an aggressive word-of-mouth screening series, luring the art crowd as well as chefs and tastemakers. “Tom Colicchio, Anthony Bourdain and others who are at the height of their place in the food world are showing enthusiasm,” said Cassidy. “We’re optimistic about the prospects for its launch.”

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Chef will open in six New York and Los Angeles theaters this weekend, expanding to the top ten markets in about 50 locations on the 16th followed by 50 markets and about 250 runs on May 23. “We’ll let the picture be our guide in how it goes,” said Cassidy. ” We think we’ll have a nice long run with it. The audience is really salivating for this fare in a similar way Exotic Marigold Hotel was an optimistic crowd pleaser that came out this time of year.”

paloaltoPalo Alto
Director-writer: Gia Coppola
Writer: James Franco (short stories)
Cast: Emma Roberts, James Franco, Jack Kilmer, Nat Wolff, Olivia Crocicchia, Val Kilmer
Distributor: Tribeca Film

Tribeca Film is going the traditional release route with Gia Coppola’s directorial debut Palo Alto. A debut at Telluride and Toronto last year, Tribeca announced its acquisition last year. Based on the collection of short stories by James Franco, the drama follows April, the class virgin torn between an illicit flirtation with her soccer coach and an unrequited crush on stoner Teddy. And there’s Emily who offers sexual flavors aplenty. “Right off the bat we loved the film and loved the elements we could use to market the film,” said Tribeca Film’s Todd Green. “Having it as Gia’s directorial debut was appealing and whenever you have James Franco you can do so much with his social media alone. And we loved the performances.” The film is the second traditional roll out for Tribeca Film which typically goes day and date. The distributor opened Oscar-nominated Belgian film Broken Circle Breakdown in theaters exclusively. It went on to gross over $175K in the U.S. Given the star wattage of Palo Alto and curiosity of a new Coppola taking on the family business, the title should get decent interest at the box office. Former IFC Films exec Ryan Werner (now at Cinetic Media) is also consulting on the title’s release. “We’re doing a partnership with Urban Outfitters which is displaying a poster in their stores and Gia is working on an exclusive vinyl project for the [retailer],” added Green. “And James and Emma [Roberts'] social media numbers in the millions. The freshness of the film addresses kids and teens today and lends itself to have a natural buzz that will attract audiences.” The New York Times has also given attention to the film, giving it a feature last weekend. And though James Franco is on Broadway with Of Mice And Men, he is taking time to promote the film. He attended the film’s Tribeca Film Festival premiere on April 24 and he did David Letterman this week. “I don’t know how he does it, but he’s been terrific to work with,” added Green.

“The film also played really well at the San Francisco International Film Festival,” added Green. “Gia is a talented director and hopefully this will be the first of many for her.” The feature will also play the Sunshine in downtown Manhattan as well as the Arclight and Landmark in Los Angeles. “Tribeca Film will open Palo Alto in New York and L.A. this weekend. Franco will do a Q&A Saturday night at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center at Lincoln Center. It will head to 15 additional markets on May 16 with additional cities added into May and beyond.

God’s Pocketgodspocket1
Director-writer: John Slattery
Writers: Peter Dexter (novel), Alex Metcalf
Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christina Hendricks, Richard Jenkins, Eddie Marsan, Caleb Landry Jones, Jack O’Connell
Distributor: IFC Films

Sundance Film Festival ’14 debut God’s Pocket centers on Mickey (Hoffman) whose crazy stepson Leon is killed in a construction ‘accident,’ though nobody in the working class neighborhood is sorry he’s gone. Mickey tries to bury the bad news with the body, but the kid’s mother demands the truth and Mickey finds himself stuck in a struggle between a body he can’t bury, a wife he can’t please and a debt he can’t pay. “[John Slattery] is a great director. He tried to option the [novel] years ago and then it came back to him,” said IFC Films chief Jonathan Sehring. “We have done a number of screenings on both coasts and have had great cross-promotion with Mad Men.” IFC Films and John Slattery have a their connections with the famed television series that is in its final season on AMC. AMC Networks is the parent company of IFC Films and Slattery has both appeared in and directed episodes of Mad Men. “They have been a great partner and it’s great that they are our ‘big sister’ network in all the great senses,” said Sehring. “They have been more than gracious, and I’d say that anyway, but they have really gone above and beyond.” The insider push has even included commercial time on Mad Men.

The film, of course, is also one of the last that will feature the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, who was at Sundance for the film’s debut along with A Most Wanted Man, but died soon afterward. It will be the first feature he has starred in since his death to be released (A Most Wanted Man will open in July). “There are the obvious challenges of unfortunately not having him with us but we really wanted to be sensitive his memory and his family so that was top most in our mind,” said Sehring. “In our marketing and PR we’ve worked very closely with the producers on this. We’re very respectful of his memory.” IFC Films will open God’s Pocket in New York and L.A. this weekend, heading to to more locations next week and should be playing about 50-75 theaters by its third weekend in release.

thedoubleThe Double
Director-writer: Richard Ayoade
Writers: Fyodor Dostoevsky, Avi Korine
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Mia Wasikowska, Wallace Shawn, Noah Taylor, Chris O’Dowd
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures

Filmmaker Richard Ayoade read a first draft of the adaptation of The Double in 2007 and traveled to Nashville to meet with Avi Korine who worked on its move into script form. The thriller follows a clerk in a government agency who finds that his unenviable life takes a horrific turn with the arrival of a new co-worker who is both doppelgänger and his opposite in personality – specifically a confident, charismatic individual who is seductive with women. “I shot Submarine (2010) and then Avi Korine came to London to work on another draft,” said Ayoade. “I thought the [story's main character] would be a good role for an actor [though] the novella is confusing in a way.” Production began in 2012 and having Ayoade and star Jesse Eisenberg helped move things along in the finance. Emirati/UK film production and finance company Alcove Entertainment as well as FilmFour and BFI came on board the project. “They’re very transparent whether they’re interested in doing a project,” said Ayoade. “I’ve found it great and have been lucky to work with them. It’s modestly budgeted and having Jesse and me helped. I met Jesse in 2011 in New York for the release of Submarine. I spoke to him before reading the script and then watched Submarine. We waited until he was available.” Ayoade met Mia Wasikowska toward the end of 2011 while he was acting in The Watch in Atlanta. She was the only person he met for the part. The Double shot over 53 days outside of London at nighttime only. “It made things slower because we shot in summer so there were very short nights so there’s an element of inefficiency,” said Ayoade.

Magnolia Pictures came on board the title after its Toronto premiere last fall. The film also screened at New Directors/New Films in March. Ayoade is in town ahead of its U.S. theatrical bow appearing on Seth Meyers, Craig Ferguson and Carson Daily’s shows. The Double will open at the Sunshine in New York and the NuArt in L.A. this weekend. It will head to Santa Barbara on the 14th, followed by additional markets including Atlanta, San Francisco, Washington, D.C. and Cambridge, MA on May 16 with additional roll outs in cities throughout the month and into June.

Queen Margot (1994)Queen Margot CMG poster (1)
Director-writer: Patrice Chéreau
Writers: Alexandre Dumas Pere, Daniele Thompson
Cast: Isabelle Adjani, Daniel Auteuil, Jean-Hugues Anglade, Vincent Perez, Virna Lisi, Dominique Blanc
Distributor: Cohen Media Group

The complete Director’s Cut of French filmmaker Patrice Chéreau’s 1994 title Queen Margot will hit the big screen at New York’s Film Forum this Friday. The historical drama follows a young Queen Margot who finds herself trapped in an arranged marriage amidst a religious war between Catholics and Protestants. Hoping to escape with her lover, she is nevertheless imprisoned by her powerful family. “We’ve licensed over 30 classic films that have not been seen or rarely seen in America,” said Cohen Media Group head Charles Cohen. “We have others like The Bronte Sisters, The Damned, seven of Claude Chabrol’s films and Abbas Kiarostami films. For this, we’ll follow a traditional release pattern as if it were a new film with DVD down the line.” Winner of the Best Actress Prize at the 1994 Cannes Festival, it was originally released in the U.S by Miramax in a truncated version. It did well at the box office way back in ’94, grossing over $1.29 million in the U.S. The version at Film Forum is the complete 159-minute cut. The release is part of Cohen Media Group’s strategy of featuring theatrical re-releases and restorations. Its collection of classic and fully restored cinema titles, known as The Cohen Film Collection, officially launched in 2013. It includes the Rohauer Library of over 700 films including all of Buster Keaton’s original work, Douglas Fairbanks, D.W. Griffith and many sound classics from 1920’s through the late 1960s. Queen Margot will head to L.A. on May 16 followed by additional cities.