Paul Thomas Anderson’s legion of fans will get their chance to see the filmmaker’s latest Inherent Vice — at least those in New York and L.A. after a long build-up of anticipation. Studio boxoffice-specialty__111212022432-200x150-1__140530221134Warner Bros. is handling the director’s latest, set in a drug-laced L.A. in the 1970s. Barring some unforeseen cataclysm, the feature is easily going to be this week’s b.o. superstar and likely one of the year’s biggest per screen debuts. How it will fare against other fall b.o. knock-outs like Searchlight’s Birdman or TWC’s The Imitation Game remains to be seen. A slew of Specialty openers will coincide with the Inherent Vice juggernaut. A24 will open Oscar-nominated filmmaker Atom Egoyan’s The Captive day and date after an early fall bow in the director’s native Canada. Sundance Selects will expose Free The Nipple in New York Friday following a special “topless screening” Thursday. James Franco took a dozen of his aspiring NYU filmmaker students to create The Color Of Time, opening via Starz Digital Media, and Kino Lorber will open Isabelle Huppert starrer Tip Top at an exclusive NYC location. Other limited release openers this weekend include Cohen Media Group’s Magician: The Astonishing Life And Work Of Orson Welles (which bowed Wednesday), Dada Films’ Six Dance Lessons In Six Days and Music Box Films’ We Are The Giant.

Inherent Vice posterInherent Vice
Director-writer: Paul Thomas Anderson
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Joanna Newsom, Benicio del Toro, Katherine Waterston, Josh Brolin, Jeannie Berlin, Jordan Christian Hearn, Eric Roberts, Serena Scott Thomas, Maya Rudolph
Distributor: Warner Bros.

The first-ever film adaptation of a Thomas Pynchon novel, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice has been one of this fall’s most anticipated film titles. New images and trailers from the film have been ravenously viewed online, even ahead of the title’s World Premiere at the New York Film Festival in October. The plot is not seamlessly summarized, but the setting is a drug-filled 1970s Los Angeles. Private investigator Doc Sportello’s (Phoenix) former girlfriend shows up with a story about her current billionaire land developer boyfriend and his wife. The wife and her boyfriend are apparently plotting to kidnap him and have him incarcerated in a lunatic ward, at least according to her. The film is a cast of characters that includes “surfers, hustlers, dopers and rockers, a murderous loan shark, LAPD detectives, a tenor sax player working undercover, and a mysterious entity known as the Golden Fang, which may only be a tax dodge set up by some dentists,” Inherent Vice is part “part surf noir and part psychedelic romp,” according to its website.

“If you’re adapting a book, I was told you can’t rely on voiceover,” said Anderson at NYFF ahead of the film’s premiere earlier this fall. “I think the premise is that you have to have your characters do the work for you. But some of my favorite films use a narrator.” Benicio del Toro and Owen Wilson noted that there was a heavy-dose of antics on set, with Wilson describing the shoot as “loose and chaotic.” “The only frustrating thing [for me] was that most people were only shooting for two or three days,” said Anderson who added he did spend “a lot of time” with Joaquin Phoenix who plays Doc. “For me it didn’t feel like chaos but certainly receptiveness to change a plan based on a momentary instinct,” said Joanna Newsom. “The first shot of the movie was not on any sides I got.”

Inherent Vice will likely be a per theater average superstar this weekend, given its momentum leading into this weekend’s initial limited release. His last film The Master, which The Weinstein Company opened in September 2012, set a record for highest PTA of a live-action film at $147,262 and remains TWC’s highest opening average ever (last weekend’s The Imitation Game at $120,518 is TWC’s second highest opening PTA). The Master went on to cume about $16.37M. There Will Be Blood had a $95,370 PTA in two theaters when Paramount Vantage opened it in December, 2007. It went on to gross over $40.22M. Sony’s Punch-Drunk Love averaged $73,440 in 5 theaters back in October 2002 ($17.84M cume), while New Line’s Magnolia averaged $27,657 in 7 locations ($22.45M cume). Also a New Line release, Boogie Nights only averaged $25,084 in two theaters in its initial October 1997 bow, but it went on to cume over $26.4M in theaters.

Warner Bros. will open Inherent Vice Friday at the Angelika and AMC Lincoln Square in New York as well as the Arclight, Landmark and AMC Century City in Los Angeles, with much more to come in the coming weeks. “

The CaptiveThe Captive new poster
Director-writer: Atom Egoyan
Writer: David Fraser
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Scott Speedman, Rosario Dawson, Mireille Enos, Kevin Durand, Alexia Fast, Peyton Kennedy
Distributor: A24

The Captive has been Oscar-nominated Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan’s biggest box office launch at home. South of the border, the title has had an exclusive window with DirecTV since November 13, so theatrical numbers will likely be tempered as it hits theaters this weekend. The psychological thriller stars Ryan Reynolds as Matthew who briefly goes into a diner and comes out to find his young daughter Cassandra has vanished. The mysterious abduction causes havoc in his once blissful marriage with wife Tina (Mireille Enos) who is haunted by the mysterious presence of momentos of her daughter that mysteriously appear. She suspects her husband of foul play. Years later, detectives (Rosario Dawson and Scott Speedman) discover recent images of Cassandra online and Matthew risks everything to ensure her return.

“Something similar happened in my hometown, but it was a child that vanished in a park,” said writer-director Atom Egoyan. “This was about 20 years ago. I then had imagined [the backstory in this tragedy] of a couple who loved each other but couldn’t live together.” Egoyan set out to create a script around the scenario. He rounded it out with three ‘couples.’ Said Egoyan: “There are the parents who should be together, but are not; the detectives who are together but perhaps shouldn’t be; and finally the captor and captive, who should definitely not be together.”

Egoyan handed an early draft of the script to David Fraser who advocated that the story be more genre-centered and, therefore, more “accessible.” “We did 20 more drafts of the story, going back and forth,” said Egoyan. “I then showed the script to my long-time French distributor ARP as well as to Entertainment One.” Both gave the project a thumbs up. Egoyan temporarily put the title aside while he filmed Devil’s Knot which opened in 2013 and then returned to The Captive. “It was a tough shoot,” said Egoyan who picked Sudbury, Ontario as the main location to capitalize on its wintery feel. “We were guaranteed to have snow, which is what I wanted. But it was also hellish because it was so cold. It was very different from Devil’s Knot in Atlanta because it was so hot there. “The cold [in Sudbury] meant that the actors could only be outside for so long,” he said. eOne capitalized on Egoyan’s close relationship with the Toronto International Film Festival and opened the title in Canada at the start of the festival in early September. It grossed $450K at home. For its theatrical bow, A24 will open The Captive in 8 U.S. cities including the Village East Cinemas in New York. It will open at the Laemmle Royal in L.A. December 19, and will be available via iTunes and on-demand December 12.

free the nipple posterFree The Nipple
Director-writer: Lina Esco
Writers: Hunter Richards, Sarabeth Stroller
Cast: Lina Esco, Lola Kirke, Monique Coleman, Casey LaBow, Crystal Lonneberg, Griffin Newman, Jen Ponton, Miriam Weisbecker, Hannah Dunne
Distributor: Sundance Selects

It is illegal in 35 U.S. states for women to be topless — and in many places that includes breast feeding. In Louisiana, one of the least breast-friendly states (Mardi Gras not withstanding), a woman with an exposed nipple faces a possible three-year jail term and $2,500 in fines. In New York City, where going topless in public has actually been legal since 1992, the NYPD nevertheless has harassed women for freeing their breasts. “In 2011 I went topless [with friends] at Occupy Wall Street as a test,” said actress and first-time filmmaker Lina Esco. “[Within] three or four minutes, there were hundreds of people gawking at us. That’s when I realized I had to do this movie.” Esco had been exploring the topic for several years prior. Fellow actress Sarabeth Stroller told Esco a story about her mother who had been expelled from church for breast feeding. “The more I researched, the more I found many [similar] stories,” she said.

Inspired by true events, Free The Nipple follows a group of young women who take to the streets of New York topless to protest “archaic censorship laws” in the U.S. The film revolves around activists Liv and With who set out to start a movement and change the system through publicity stunts and graffiti installations while armed with First Amendment lawyers.

Though the production had film permits and going topless is technically legal in NYC, Free The Nipple did not have free rein in New York. Esco and her cast and crew had to resort to shooting under the radar. “The cops told us that we couldn’t shoot [with topless actors] because people will ‘think you’re doing a porn,'” said Esco. “So the second-half of the movie is all ‘stolen’ shots. We had to go guerilla.” The production had a bit more luck with financing and distribution, however, courtesy of Esco’s celebrity friends and new-found allies. Nipple eventually raised $1 million. The parallel challenge was casting. Esco said that some actresses auditioned for parts, but said they didn’t want to be topless.

Esco, who also stars in Nipple met with [Orange Is The New Black’s] Lola Kirke who thought differently. “She told me that she was going to do this [no matter what],” said Esco. “It was great chemistry.” Shooting took six weeks. Esco said that some festivals had expressed interest in the film but eventually shied away because of the title. Esco did an article for the Huffington Post, which also resulted in celebrity help. Social media went into overdrive courtesy of positive tweets from Miley Cyrus, Lena Dunham and others. Similarly to festivals, Esco noted that distributors were weary of Free The Nipple, but once the public became aware of the film via its social media prowess, companies began inquiring. Sundance Selects came on board and the film will open IFC Center Friday in New York. It will also have a simultaneous on-demand day and date roll out with more cities to follow on the theatrical side. IFC Center will also be the host of a “topless screening” of Free The Nipple Thursday night. Regular showings start Friday.

The Color Of TimeThe Color Of Time 1
Directors-writers: Edna Luise Biesold, Sarah-Violet Bliss, Gabrielle Demeestere, Alexis Gambis, Brooke Goldfinch, Shripriya Mahesh, Pamela Romanowsky, Bruce Thierry Cheung, Tine Thomasen, Virginia Urreiztieta, Omar Zúñiga Hidalgo
Writer: Shruti Ganguly
Cast: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Jessica Chastain, Zach Braff, Henry Hopper, Bruce Campbell
Distributor: Starz Digital Media

Take a film class with James Franco teaching and one just might get their work on the big screen. At least that’s the case with a dozen first-time filmmakers who took an NYU class with Franco at the helm. The climax of the course is The Color Of Money, which opened via iTunes and all digital platforms December 2 and via VOD December 9. It will open theatrically in limited release Friday. The collaborative feature is a look at the life and work of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet C.K. Williams. Williams (Franco) has a beautiful, adoring wife (Mila Kunis) and a young son. But as he prepares for a reading in New York City and struggles to create new work, he is haunted by memories of his past—from his first sexual encounter to a later tragic loss.

Production for the feature, in which each filmmaker directs an individual part, coincided with Franco’s work on Oz The Great And Powerful in Detroit, MI (initially Color was set to shoot in New York). He worked on the film during respites from the 2013 feature that was directed by Sam Raimi. “We figured the best way we could get money for [The Color Of Time] is for James to act in it and to also ask some of the cast members from Oz to also be in it,” said Vince Jolivette, Franco’s partner in their Rabbit Bandini Productions label.

“The production coincided with Oz, so we shot in Detroit because that’s where James was going to be.” Fellow Oz stars Zach Braff and Mila Kunis joined Color between their commitments on the paying gig. “There were days James would work all day on Oz and then meet us and work either all night or some of the night,” said Jolivette. “We brought the directors and some crews and also hired local crews. Mila and Zach Braff worked on it a couple of days.” The film shot over three weeks with two teams, but post-production took much longer. “We had to coalesce the directors’ visions and make it a cohesive [feature],” noted Jolivette. “It took a lot of patience and trial and error with our editor [Bob Murawski]. “We screened the film a lot and premiered it at the Rome Film Festival in 2012, but that version is nothing like the version we have now.”

Jolivette added that the film that debuted in the Italian capital was still “too disjointed.” “It’s poetry so you can think of it in so many different ways,” he added in our conversation at the NYC premiere this week. The title had a proper theatrical debut with Andrew Saffir’s Cinema Society hosting the event at the Sunshine with an after-party at Omar’s (and movie signature Qui tequila cocktails). Starz Digital picked up rights to distribute (exec Ryan Heller also has an NYU connection).

tip top posterTip Top
Director-writer: Serge Bozon
Writers: Axelle Ropert, Odile Barski, James Tucker (novel)
Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Sandrine Kiberlain, Francois Damiens, Karole Rocher, Aymen Saïdi, Saïda Bekkouche, Elie Lison
Distributor: Kino Lorber

French filmmaker Serge Bozon’s Tip Top received a Special Mention in the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight in 2013. The genre-bending feature stars Isabelle Huppert and Sandrine Kiberlain as two offbeat and sometimes unethical investigators who are brought into a small town to investigate a murder. The deceased is an Algerian-turned-informant for the French police, but his homicide is suspected to have been an inside job. As the investigators delve into their work, a seemingly degenerate cop with a heart of gold acquires an eager, albeit naive Algerian informant. “It’s a delicious concoction,” said Kino Lorber head Richard Lorber. “Tip Top is an odd hybrid of political farce, satire and slapstick comedy.” Lorber noted that the film, which Kino Lorber picked up out of the European Film Market in Berlin earlier this year, had a great response at a popular French film series at the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York and Kino Lorber will return there for the film’s initial theatrical release this weekend. “It had a great response at Rendez-Vous with French Cinema last spring,” he said. “It makes sense to return there.”

In the lead-up to its exclusive run there beginning Friday, Kino Lorber is “cranking up” its social media tools. Lorber said his company recently “expanded its marketing staff,” and is leveraging its past success with “all things Isabelle Huppert.” They are also expecting positive critical response including Variety’s Scott Foundas and a recent review in The Village Voice to drive audiences. Director Serge Bozon is currently working on his next project, but he’s hoping to fly him out for the film’s L.A. roll out which is still being worked out.