Serena, the third feature starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, may be taking some sacking by critics, but it has found zest in its ultra-VOD release where it is nearing $1 million in grosses since its February 26 debut, according to Magnolia Pictures. The distributor is rolling it out in 60 theaters nationwide this weekend. It will be joined on the specialty box office front by Noah Baumbach’s latest While We’re Young. The A24 feature starring Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried should be a heavy-hitter, with Baumbach noting half-jokingly during Monday’s premiere in New York that the Toronto pickup is his “most accessible” film.

Elsewhere this weeeknd, IFC Films will open Welcome To New York, loosely based on the Dominique Strauss-Kahn sexual assault scandal. The controversial title, directed by Abel Ferrara, had been slated to open last May, but will concentrate on a multi-platform release starting Friday amid a public feud between the helmer and IFC over changes made to secure an R rating in the U.S.

Also opening are Sony Pictures Classics’ Oscar-nominated documentary The Salt Of The Earth as well as Gravitas Ventures’ Apartment Troubles and Kino Lorber’s Australian feature 52 Tuesdays. Other limited-release bows this weekend include Strand Releasing’s Cupcakes, Parkside’s A Girl Like Her, Kino Lorber’s Michel Houellebecq, Magnolia’s White God and IFC’s The Riot Club.

Serena PosterSerena
Director: Susanne Bier
Writers: Christopher Kyle, Ron Rash (book)
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Rhys Ifans, Toby Jones, David Dencik, Sean Harris, Ana Ularu
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures

Serena is the third matchup for Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence following Silver Linings Playbook (2012) and American Hustle (2013). It will make its theatrical bow this weekend in limited release following an ultra-VOD bow (as well as iTunes) that began February 26. The digital run has grossed close to $1 million as of earlier this week, according to Magnolia. The film is directed by Oscar winner Susanne Bier (In A Better World) who boarded the project as director after Darren Aronofsky and star Angelina Jolie reportedly bowed out.

Set in the North Carolina mountains in the late 1920s, Serena centers on George and Serena Pemberton, love-struck newlyweds who begin to build a timber empire. Serena soon proves herself equal to any man: overseeing loggers, hunting rattlesnakes, even saving a man’s life in the wilderness. With power and influence now in their hands, the Pembertons refuse to let anyone stand in the way of their inflated love and ambitions. Serena, however, discovers George’s hidden past and faces an unchangeable fate of her own and the passionate marriage begins to unravel.

Magnolia picked up the rights to the title early last fall after the film was shot in eight weeks around Prague in 2012, but the label held off on its theatrical bow until now. “We waited for Jennifer and Bradley’s availability and both came to the premiere [last] Saturday,” said Magnolia Pictures president Eamonn Bowles this week. Serena rolls out in about 60 theaters nationwide today with additional locations added throughout April.

Magnolia will opens Kornél Mundruczó’s White God in theaters today.

While We're YoungWhile We’re Young
Director-writer: Noah Baumbach
Cast: Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver, Amanda Seyfried, Dree Hemingway, Matthew Shear, Quincy Tyler Bernstine, Maria Dizzia, Adam Horovitz, Peter Yarrow
Distributor: A24

“I want to welcome you to what people are calling my ‘most accessible movie.’ This is the happiest I get,” said Noah Baumbach at the Monday night premiere of his latest film, which brought out a tony crowd to the screening at the Paris Theater in Midtown including Wes Anderson, Oren Moverman, Spike Jonze and more.

While We’re Young stars Stiller and Watts as middle-aged couple Josh and Cornelia Srebnick. Josh is struggling over endless edits of his cerebral documentary. He meets Jamie and Darby (Driver and Seyfried), a free-spirited young couple who are spontaneous and passionate, living a hip life in Brooklyn. For Josh, it’s a door back into his youth — or a youth he idealizes. Josh and Cornelia soon cast aside their longtime friends to trail the young hipsters to pursue the uninhibited cool of their newfound crowd. Josh helps Jamie with his own documentary project, and when success appears to be easily coming his way, Josh becomes unhinged.

There had been speculation out of Toronto that the relationship between Josh and Jamie loosely mirrored that of Baumbach’s relationship with mumblecore filmmaker Joe Swanberg (Payne produced Swanberg’s Alexander The Last). Other parallels in the film suggest some sort of connection, but regardless, Baumbach is likely right we he notes its one of his most accessible pics.

“We saw While We’re Young in Toronto and really loved the movie. It was something we were unanimously happy in pursuing,” said A24 distribution head Heath Shapiro. “While We’re Young has been extremely well reviewed and an audience is going to be enticed by that. It’s a generational comedy, so it plays to both young and older people.”

On March 4, A24 launched a traveling mini-retrospective dubbed “Growing Up Baumbach” featuring Baumbach films including Kicking And Screaming (1995), The Squid And The Whale (2005) and Frances Ha (2012). It travels to 16 cities across the U.S. through April 23. Theatrically, it will open in New York and L.A. in two theaters each and will platform into six other markets in the top 10 cities next week before going wider April 10.

Welcome To New York PosterWelcome To New York
Director-writer: Abel Ferrara
Writer: Christ Zois
Cast: Jacqueline Bisset, Gérard Depardieu, Drena De Niro, Amy Ferguson, Paul Calderon
Distributor: IFC Films

Welcome To New York roughly mirrors the Dominique Strauss-Kahn sexual assault scandal that dominated headlines in the U.S. and France in 2011, in which the International Monetary Fund chief (and French presidential hopeful) was accused of sexual assault in a New York hotel room. In the film, Gérard Depardieu plays a sex-addicted French financier who spirals out of control during a drug- and sex-fueled trip to America — culminating in a shocking incident involving a hotel maid and his subsequent arrest.

The film itself waded into controversy after Ferrara allegedly protested changes made to the film in order to secure an R rating in the U.S. IFC Films president Jonathan Sehring said the initial plan had been to release Welcome To New York across multiple platforms worldwide last May following its Cannes bow, but a promised R-rated version had not been delivered. (He noted that on-demand platforms have their own standards governing what they’re willing to play, which made getting an R-version of the film for its U.S. bow crucial.)

“We’re going to do a very minimal theatrical release [this weekend],” said Sehring. “We expect minimal [theatrical] box office, but the main push is for [the film’s] multi-platform/digital release.” Theatrically, Sehring said the title will open in single locations in select cities over the next 8-12 weeks.

IFC Films will also open director Lone Scherfig’s The Riot Club in theaters and on-demand today.

Salt Of The EarthThe Salt Of The Earth
Directors-writers: Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, Wim Wenders
Writers: David Rosier, Camille Delafon
Subjects: Sebastião Salgado, Wim Wenders, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

Cannes 2014’s The Salt Of The Earth is the last of this year’s crop of Oscar-nominated documentaries to have its theatrical release in the U.S. The feature is a journey with photographer Sebastião Salgado, who for the past four decades traveled in the footsteps of society worldwide. In that time, he’s witnessed the major events of recent history including international conflict, starvation and exodus. The Salt Of The Earth, however, is a journey of discovery of pristine territories, wild fauna and flora, and grandiose landscapes as part of a huge photographic project that is a tribute to Earth’s beauty.

“Artisitically, it’s one of the finest documentaries in my mind of the last 10 years,” said SPC co-president Michael Barker. “Its visual beauty must be seen in a theater, and bringing that experience in what Sony Pictures Classics is all about. It’s a documentary made for the big screen.”

Barker said the company decided to hold off until after the Oscars to release Salt Of The Earth — aside from its qualifying run last fall — to avoid the onslaught of year-end competition in the nonfiction category. “Because of the rules the Academy has and because of the attention this category gets, there are so many documentaries opening at the end of the year,” said Barker. “I don’t think opening the film after the Oscars is going to hurt it. By opening afterward, there is a heightened profile for the film and it won’t be in such a crowded field.” Barker noted that SPC’s 2001 nominee Winged Migration ($10.76M cume) was released in April of that year, well after the Oscars race.

Salt Of The Earth will open at the Lincoln Plaza and Angelika theaters in New York as well as the Arclight and Landmark in Los Angeles today. The film will head to more cities next week with a further expansion afterward.

Apartment Troubles PosterApartment Troubles
Directors-writers: Jennifer Prediger, Jess Weixler
Cast: Jess Weixler, Jennifer Prediger, Megan Mullally, Will Forte, Jeffrey Tambor, Bob Byington, Lance Bass
Distributor: Gravitas Ventures

Jennifer Prediger and Jess Weixler joined together as first-time co-directors and stars for their latest film. They play Olivia and Nicole, who are co-dependent roommates hell-bent on “making it,” though unsure how. When they are evicted from their tiny Manhattan apartment, they take off to L.A. As one door slams shut, another opens, and a tarot card reading later, the duo decide to take their performance art sensibilities to the mainstream by auditioning for a reality TV talent show.

“Jenny and Jess had a very specific vision for the film and a limited time to develop and shoot it (14 days) as Jess had a hard out to shoot The Good Wife,” said producers Kim Leadford and Charles Bonan of StarStream Entertainment, which financed the pic. “They pitched Charles and me in mid-March and had a script by May and we were shooting in June.”

The production was “blessed” with some unexpected windfall in the form of an expensive camera and lens package (Arri Alexa with Panavision lenses) for “practically nothing,” according to the producers, in addition to some unexpected stealth shots previously unplanned. “Somehow we were able to get these subway dancers to incorporate their act into the film. We paid them some cash and they were game and brilliant. This sort of thing happened daily and, oftentimes, multiple times a day.”

Gravitas came on board to spearhead distribution last fall. It will open in limited release today in addition to on-demand platforms.

52 Tuesdays Poster52 Tuesdays
Director-writer: Sophie Hyde
Writer: Matthew Cormack
Cast: Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Del Herbert-Jane, Mario Späte, Beau Travis Williams, Imogen Archer, Sam Althuizen, Danica Moors
Distributor: Kino Lorber Films

Hyde and Cormack wanted to see characters they were “familiar with in life, but rarely saw on the big screen.” The result was the Australian-produced 52 Tuesdays. In the film, 16-year-old Billie’s reluctant path to independence is accelerated when her mother reveals plans for gender transition and their time together becomes limited to Tuesday afternoons.

52 Tuesdays was filmed over the course of a year, once a week, every week only on Tuesdays,” said Hyde. “Matt raised the concept, ‘Let’s make a film where every Tuesday, two people meet, and we film it on Tuesdays for a whole year, or 52 Tuesdays.’ ” The duo began working on pitches in 2009 for local initiative FILMLAB, run by the South Australian Film Corporation. Its development program is designed to “inspire short form filmmakers into long form,” according to Hyde. SAFC provided $350K AUS, with additional investment coming from the Adelaide Film Festival, which invests in work that will premiere at their October fest.

“Our cast were all local to our hometown Adelaide and we needed that,” said Hyde, who also produced. “They all had to be available every Tuesday for a year, and we knew we wanted our teenagers — and everyone — to be the age of their characters…” 52 Tuesdays shot in Adelaide between August 2011 and August 2012 every Tuesday — in addition to a Tuesday in San Francisco. “It was by no means efficient but it was satisfying,” said Hyde. “Our cast aged as we went, we explored things in depth during the week and could throw them out on Tuesdays just to shoot.”

Kino Lorber will open the film at The Quad Cinema in New York today in addition to on-demand via Fandor. It will head to additional major markets over the next month or two.