The fall has unleashed a barrage of new specialty releases, and this weekend will be no different. Paramount’s TIFF debut Men, Women & Children by Jason Reitman likely will have a leg up at least in its first weekend as it reaps the benefits of a mostly named cast and a slick marketing campaign designed to lure both young and older audiences. Tribeca Film’s doc Nas: Time Is Illmatic appears to be in line for decent numbers this weekend, which curated an “eventized” rollout in select cities Thursday in addition to a regular traditional release in New York and L.A. Cohen Media Group is opening Simón Bolívar epic The Liberator. It is South America’s most expensive movie, celebrating the life of the region’s great liberator. If it holds as a movie, it could be a lure, though that remains to be seen. Magnolia is opening two films that should appeal to two very different audiences. Animation The Hero Of Color City is decidedly kid friendly, while the 5 1/2-hour director’s cut of Nymphomaniac is, well — not. Fans of Dan Harmon will get their chance to see his podcast tour on the big screen with doc Harmontown via The Orchard, while Sundance Selects will open French-language film The Blue Room by veteran filmmaker-actor Mathieu Amalric.
Men, Women & Children
Director-writer: Jason Reitman
Writers: Chad Kultgen (novel), Erin Cressida Wilson
Cast: Kaitlyn Dever, Rosemarie DeWitt, Ansel Elgort, Jennifer Garner, Judy Greer, Dean Norris, Adam Sandler
After opening Jason Reitman’s Labor Day in more than 2,500 theaters in January, Paramount is going for a limited rollout and word-of-mouth momentum for the filmmaker’s latest feature Men, Women & Children, which had its World Premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. Boasting a bevy of stars, the film is the story of a group of high schoolers and their parents as they attempt to navigate life, love and relationships in the age of social media and ubiquitous connectivity. The feature confronts social issues such as video game culture, anorexia, infidelity, fame hunting and the proliferation of illicit material online. “We were on board with [the film] from the start,” said Megan Colligan, President of Worldwide Distribution and Marketing at Paramount. “Jason brought us the script, and we’ve done his three previous films.” His most recent titles that opened with limited runs have done better at the box office. Labor Day bowed with a $2K per-theater average at the end of January in wide release, going on to cume nearly $13.4 million domestically. His late-2011 title Young Adult had a somewhat better result, opening in eight theaters ($38,783 average) before going wide, grossing more than over $16.3 million. And his December 2009 feature Up In The Air starring George Clooney easily fared best of the three, also opening with a limited 15 runs with a $78,763 PTA before going wide to more 2,200 locations. It eventually cumed more than $83.8 million domestically.
“We’re targeting two different audiences with Men, Women & Children,” said Colligan. “There are the 18- to 25-year-olds who’ve grown up with the Internet, and there’s also the adult sell where we build on the premiere in Toronto followed by a more traditional campaign.” Coinciding with its trailer debut in August, Paramount launched a partnership with Whisper, a popular app and online community that allows users to share their secrets anonymously. “[The launch] lead to robust conversation, and we were a trending topic on Twitter,” added Colligan. “[On the more traditional side], the television and radio campaign began Wednesday. I think the movie benefits from people getting in and talking about the subject matter.” The studio also set up word-of-mouth screenings at 30 colleges as well as 30 theaters targeting more mature audiences. There also will be related coverage on Huffington Post and Nightline highlighting the topics raised in the feature. Paramount opened Men, Women & Children exclusively in New York in L.A. including the ArcLight Hollywood, Landmark and AMC Century in California as well as Union Square and Lincoln Square in New York. It expands to the top 12 markets today, reaching the top 30 markets October 10 before going wide October 17.
Nas: Time Is Illmatic
Writer: Erik Parker
Cast: Nas, Mrs. Braconi, Fab 5 Freddy, Alicia Keys, Faith Newman, Q-Tip, Busta Rhymes
Distributor: Tribeca Film
Documentary Nas: Time Is Illmatic has traveled through the various initiatives by the Tribeca Film Institute and Tribeca Film Festival. “For a young festival and a young institution, it’s great to have a film that has touched all areas here,” said producer and Tribeca Film Institute co-founder Jane Rosenthal. The film, which opened the 2014 festival, also is getting a well-crafted rollout via the group’s distribution wing, Tribeca Film. The docu delves deep into the making of rapper-songwriter Nas’ 1994 debut album, Illmatic and the social conditions that influenced its creation. Two decades after its release, the album has become a hip-hop benchmark that encapsulates the sociopolitical outlook, spirit and angst of a generation of young black men searching for their voice in America. The project first went through Tribeca All Access, which supports filmmakers from traditionally under-represented groups where it received a grant. During TFF it went through the festival’s filmmaker/industry meetings. TAA organizer Ryan Harrington saw a cut of the movie in director One9’s studio and was “blown away,” according to Tribeca. The filmmaking team received more resources via the TAA Alumni grant to help with editing, in addition to resources from the Ford Foundation. “A lot of distributors were interested, and I told them that they should consider what is the best trajectory for the film,” said Rosenthal. Time Is Illmatic headed back to Tribeca with the group’s distribution wing setting a course for the film’s rollout.
Tribeca Film opened Time Is Illmatic at the Empire 25 in New York and LA at Burbank 30 on Wednesday. On Thursday the distributor opened the title in a series of one-night-only screenings in more than two dozen cities across the U.S. as well as Toronto. It expands to on-demand portals and iTunes today, followed by a theatrical expansion in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Detroit, Phoenix and other markets. Nas also will tour with the film and perform after screenings throughout the month. Tribeca noted that all six shows at the Empire in New York were sold out for the film’s Wednesday bow the previous weekend.
Director: Alberto Arvelo
Writer: Timothy J. Sexton
Cast: Édgar Ramírez, Erich Wildpret, María Valverde, Danny Huston, Juana Acosta, Dacio Caballero, Gary Lewis
Distributor: Cohen Media Group
A quick history lesson (or refresher course): Simón Bolívar is the celebrated military and political leader who played a key role in much of Latin America’s successful independence from the Spanish Empire. U.S. history classes frequently refer to Bolívar as the “George Washington of Latin America.” More than 180 years after his death — incidentally, the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez had his body exhumed several years back over a controversy about his death — the Latin American liberator is the subject of one of South America’s biggest-budget productions to date and recalls the 100 battles and 70,000 miles he traveled on horseback to rid the continent of Spain. “When I saw it several months ago, I was struck by its beauty,” said Cohen Media Group chief Charles Cohen. “It’s the most expensive movie to come out of [South America] at $50 million. Édgar Ramírez was great in Carlos and Zero Dark Thirty, and he’s great as Simón Bolívar. … It also has one of the best scores I’ve ever heard.” Gustavo Dudamel, the Venezuela-born music director of the L.A. Philharmonic, composed the soundtrack for the feature.
The film had its debut at Toronto last year and played the Los Angeles Film Festival in June. It also is Venezuela’s selection for Best Foreign Language Film Oscar consideration. “It’s doing great in Venezuela, where it opened spectacularly,” added Cohen. The title opened in the country (officially called the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela) in July and has attracted big crowds, according to Cohen. It also has received the sanction of the country’s current leader, President Nicolas Maduro, who endorsed it in a radio program. Cohen Media Group will open The Liberator in about 75 locations including a mix of art houses and select mainstream venues in major markets.
The Hero Of Color City
Director: Frank Gladstone
Writers: Jess Kedward, J.P. McCormick, Kirsty Peart, Rich Raczelowski, Evan Spiliotopoulos
Voices: Owen Wilson, Christina Ricci, Rosie Perez, Wayne Brady, Jess Harnell, Sophia Eraklis, Zoë Bright
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
Producer John Eraklis knew the brother of The Hero Of Color City co-writer J.P. McCormick from school and frequently asked him to read the script for what would become the animated feature. Color City revolves around a diverse band of crayons that seek to protect not only their magical multi-head homeland but the imagination of children everywhere from a terrifying monster. “[It seems like] every movie has to appeal to everyone from 8 to 80, but this [one] is meant to provide fun and wholesome entertainment for young kids,” said Eraklis. “It’s bright and saturated with color. Each kid should be able to find a character that appeals to him or her. It’s fun.” Color City is part of a three-feature film fund set up via Eraklis’ Exodus Entertainment. The first in the series was 2008’s Igor, which MGM released and grossed more than $19.5 million domestically. The third, which will feature John Goodman, is in production. Director Frank Gladstone, who teaches animation, was tapped to board the project as director and full-fledged production began in November 2012. “It was important to have someone who can speak the ‘animator’s language’ [with our] animators in India,” said Eraklis. The process of building animation is almost backward, he explained, noting that an edit of the movie is created first and then sent to animators to begin their work. “As a small independent company, we can’t afford to create sets we can’t use like bigger [companies] such as Pixar,” he added.
Magnolia Pictures entered the picture early on as distributor. Eraklis wanted to tap the company’s experience in releasing content in simultaneous theatrical and digital/VOD rollouts. “I sought them out because of their multiplatform release strategy and felt we could do something different [for Color City],” said Eraklis. “I’ll take my kids to a movie and they’ll want to see it again right afterward. … This allows for that.” The Hero Of Color City opens today in nearly 70 locations in top markets around the country in addition to on-demand and iTunes. Music from the feature hit iTunes on September 30.
Nymphomaniac: Extended Director’s Cut
Director-writer: Lars von Trier
Cast: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgård, Stacy Martin, Shia LaBeouf, Christian Slater, Jamie Bell, Uma Thurman, Willem Dafoe
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
Magnolia has another movie opening this weekend, and it’s quite the opposite end of the spectrum from its kid-friendly The Hero Of Color City. The distributor released Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier’s two-part Nymphomaniac. Volume I opened in the U.S. in 25 theaters in March, grossing $175K theatrically for a so-so $7K theater average. The title, however, already had been available via VOD and digital platforms, so conceivably it drew a sizable crowd to view the erotic thriller from the comfort of home. In Nymphomaniac, model-turned-actress Stacy Martin and actress Charlotte Gainsbourg play the younger and older “Joe,” a self-diagnosed nymphomaniac who recounts her erotic experiences to the man who saved her after a beating. “I auditioned for the role in London and later did a screen test in Copenhagen…I just had to take it.” Martin told me ahead of Volume I‘s release stateside. She is featured more prominently in the first Nymphomaniac installment as the younger Joe, while Gainsbourg is seen throughout Volume II. There are also two others who play Joe along with Gainsbourg and Martin. Porn actor doubles were used for the more graphic scenes. Volume II of Nymphomaniac opened April 4, but grossed just under $75K in theaters its opening weekend in 30 theaters ($2,499 PTA). Its theatrical gross amounted to only $327K, however, by that point the two parts were well into their on-demand runs.
The 5 1/2-hour Director’s Cut bowed in Copenhagen, Denmark September 10, von Trier’s hometown. The title is already available on-demand. The Directors Cut will open theatrically in Philadelphia at the Roxy Theatre and in Santa Ana, CA, at Frida Cinema. It will add Denver and San FranciscoOctober 4, and New York and Cleveland October 12.
Director-writer: Neil Berkeley
Subjects: Dan Harmon, Jeff Bryan Davis, Erin McGathy, Spencer Crittenden, Steve Agee, Jack Black, Ben Stiller, Sarah Silverman
Distributor: The Orchard
Writer-performer Dan Harmon saw doc filmmaker Neil Berkeley’s first feature Beauty Is Embarrassing. They were introduced by a mutual friend and Harmon inquired if Berkeley would be interested in filming Harmontown. “I opted out at first because the [original idea called for something more] meta,” said Berkeley. “But then he came back and said, ‘It’s your movie and you will have final cut.'” The non-fiction feature follows Dan Harmon on tour for his podcast series of the same name after he was fired from his NBC sitcom Community. “We just hit the road in January 2013 and I didn’t know how it would go,” said Berkeley. “But there were no fights despite a [grueling schedule] of 20 shows over 23 days in traveling over 9,000 miles.” In fact, Berkeley said the entourage touring on the bus frequently did not use private accommodations provided along the way and instead bunkered down on their tour bus. “Nobody knew how great it would be [traveling on] a luxury rock star bus,” said Berkeley. “We had hotels, but everyone would just stay on the bus. It was that fun.” Harmon’s show contains no script and Berkeley would just allow people to shoot. “The unpredictability of each show actually lends itself to the story,” said Berkeley. Harmon’s company produced the feature. “Dan is a producer and would give me notes, but he never said, ‘I look bad in these…'” added Berkeley. “He said he’d rather be a ‘bad person in a good movie than a good person in a bad movie.'”
After returning from tour, Berkeley picked up interviews from Harmon’s celebrity pals. He noted that everyone he asked to participate said, ‘Yes.’ Harmontown debuted at the SXSW Film Festival in March and screened at Los Angeles Film Festival in early summer. The Orchard picked up the title over the summer and will take the feature to 6 – 8 cities with Dan Harmon on a tour in addition to other theatrical showings as well as an on-demand/digital release.
The Blue Room
Director-writer: Mathieu Amalric
Writers: Stéphanie Cléau, Georges Simenon (novel)
Cast: Mathieu Amalric, Léa Drucker, Stéphanie Cléau, Laurent Poitrenaux, Serge Bozon
Distributor: Sundance Selects
Only days after its U.S. premiere at the New York Film Festival, Sundance Selects is taking French filmmaker/actor Mathieu Amalric’s The Blue Room into theaters Friday. The Cannes debut centers on two adulterous lovers who go from pillow talk to possible murder in the sexy mind-bending teaser. Amalric (who starred in Julian Schnabel’s The Diving Bell And The Butterfly in 2007 – $6M domestic gross) stars in the title he also directed, playing a salesman in the heat of an affair with a married woman. Based on a novel by crime writer Georges Simenon, the story gets a twist as the woman makes a startling suggestion following a round of kinky sex, which lands the man in a police investigation. “The novel was something I was obsessed with,” said Amalric after a press screening of the feature at NYFF. Amalric said he had been working on a separate script for ‘a few years’ and a producer friend urged him to set it aside and do something quickly. “[My producer] Paulo Branco told me [jokingly] it’s not good for your health. He said, ‘You need to shoot now.'” Amalric took up the challenge and called his co-writer Stéphanie Cléau to help him dive in adapting the novel ahead of an ambitious timeline to begin production. “I thought a lot about RKO thrillers,” said Amalric. “Their productions are low-budget and high energy.” When shooting did begin, Amalric said that his director status didn’t shield him from crew reaction when he stepped in front of the camera playing the male lead, Julien. “If the acting was bad, they’d tell me right away,” he said.
“We were attracted to everyone involved with the film from the producer Paolo Branco to Mathieu Amalric who is both a great director and a great actor,” said IFC Films president Jonathan Sehring. “It’s a traditional release. The exhibition community loves it.” Cinephiles and the art-house crowd are the distributor’s target audience. It will open this Friday at Lincoln Plaza and IFC Center in New York before heading to other cities. VOD/digital will follow.