After a long delay, the Emma Thompson-scripted feature Effie Gray will have its U.S. theatrical release via Adopt Films in just over 200 theaters this weekend. The film starring Dakota Fanning, Thompson, Tom Sturridge and Julie Walters had been held up because of legal action but survived the hurdle. The Weinstein Company bowed Woman In Gold, a true story, starring Helen Mirren in two dozen locations Wednesday with more set for Friday. Both titles will compete for the art house, older crowd in this weekend’s box office. IFC Films is opening the romantic drama 5 To 7 with Anton Yelchin and Bérénice Marlohe. The New York-set film will have a short theatrical exclusive before going out via VOD later next week. And Bill Plympton’s adult animated film, Cheatin’ will begin a 20- city theatrical tour, starting with an exclusive run in New York this weekend. Also opening in limited release (two theaters) is A24’s Cut Bank. The film has already had a “stung  showing” on DirecTV, according to the distributor, and will be available in theaters and on-demand this weekend.

Woman In Gold
Director: Simon Curtis
Writers: Alexi Kaye Campbell, E. Randol Schoenberg, Maria Altmann
Cast: Helen Mirren, Ryan Reynolds, Daniel Brühl, Tatiana Maslany, Katie Holmes, Max Irons, Elizabeth McGovern, Jonathan Pryce
Distributor: The Weinstein Company

Woman in gold posterFollowing up on their 2011 partnership with filmmaker Simon Curtis (and BBC Films) on My Week With Marilyn ($14.6M domestic cume), The Weinstein Company came on board Woman In Gold early in its production as a financier. Curtis became familiar with the story of Maria Altmann after watching an episode of BBC’s Imagine documentary series, titled Stealing Klimt, recounting the events around the loss of her family’s famous painting and Altmann’s battle to reclaim it.

Woman In GoldThe film chronicles major aspects of the real-life events. Helen Mirren portrays Altmann, an elderly Jewish woman who set out to retrieve family possessions stolen by the Nazis, including artist Gustav Klimt’s famous painting, “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I.” She is joined in her quest by a young inexperienced lawyer, Randy Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds), embarking on a battle that takes them to America and eventually, the U.S. Supreme Court.

“We’ve worked with [Curtis] before and financed the project with BBC. It shot last summer in London, Vienna and Los Angeles,” said TWC’s president of theatrical distribution, Erik Lomis. “It crosses over two different time periods, from [World War II] to now.”

Woman In Gold debuted at the Berlin International Film Festival in February and TWC has given the title a cross-section of word-of-mouth screenings in the U.S. since then, leading up to this weekend’s release. “The film screened well in New York, but that wasn’t unexpected,” said Lomis. “So we took it to Pittsburgh and screened it to a mostly blue collar non-Jewish audience. Only a small percentage of the people there were familiar with the story, but it played through the roof. So we knew we just had to get the word out.” Lomis said the title will predominantly lean mature and female.

TWC opened Woman In Gold in 28 theaters Wednesday, adding more locations Friday. It will expand next week and again April 16 into other top markets.

Effie Gray
Director: Richard Laxton
Writer: Emma Thompson
Cast: Dakota Fanning, Emma Thompson, Greg Wise, Tom Sturridge, David Suchet, Julie Walters, Greg Wise, Claudia Cardinale, Robbie Coltrane, James Fox, Derek Jacobi
Distributor: Adopt Films

Effie Gray posterProducer Donald Rosenfeld returns to the period drama with director Richard Laxton’s Effie Gray, from the first original screenplay written by Oscar-winning screenwriter Emma Thompson. The “original” screenplay credit was the subject of lawsuits by writers claiming Thompson had lifted substantial parallels to their earlier depictions of similar stories. Thompson eventually won the cases, but the suits managed to delay the film’s release (it was completed in 2012). It had also been set to debut in Cannes 2013 and later in the U.S. at the Hamptons and Mill Valley film festivals, according to the UK’s Daily Mail, but dropped out.

The film is a look at the real-life marriage between Victorian art critic John Ruskin (Greg Wise), Effie Gray (Dakota Fanning) and her subsequent involvement with pre-Raphaelite artist John Everett Millais (Tom Sturridge). Ruskin, in spite of himself, struggles with his own deep sexual inhibitions and repression, and cannot or will not consummate the marriage. In spite of the isolation and oppression that Effie endures in her marriage to Ruskin, she battles the Victorian notion that there is no way out – neither legally or socially. After falling in love with Millais, she finds a loophole in the law that suggests a remote possibility of escape, while Ruskin grapples with his continued search for sexual identity.

Thompson “started the script eight years ago,” said Rosenfeld, adding that the late Mike Nichols had expressed an interest in being a part of the project. “The era is very close to ours. They’re obsessed with invention, obsessed with material wealth and they want the best. I think Mr. Ruskin and Mrs. Ruskin want to create the perfect beast, and sexual dysfunction is also there. Emma had written the script and we got the point to where I said, ‘Let’s do it.’ ” The film was shot in the Scottish Highlands, London and in Venice, Italy, with an $11 million budget, “a fraction of what a studio would make it for,” added Rosenfeld.

The ensuing legal drama meant the title didn’t get released in the UK until October (nearly $550K UK cume as of early January), “though the summer isn’t conducive to a movie like this,” said Rosenfeld. “In the process, Emma Thompson became detached.” Universal is handling the film’s worldwide release, while Adopt Films will open Effie Gray theatrically Friday stateside in a little over 200 theaters.

Lambert & Stamp
Director: James D. Cooper
Subjects: Kit Lambert, Chris Stamp, Roger Daltrey, Heather Daltrey, Richard Barnes, Robert Fearnly-Whittingstall, John Hemming
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

Lambert & StampSony Classics first caught Lambert & Stamp at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. The film follows Chris Stamp and Kit Lambert, aspiring filmmakers from opposite sides of the tracks, who set out to find a subject for their underground movie, leading them to discover, mentor and manage a band that would become known as The Who. Inspired by the burgeoning 1960s youth culture, they scrapped the idea of making a movie and through the process of their unusual chemistry, fueled the band’s artistic development and shaping one of the most revered bands of all time.

“It’s not only for fans of The Who, but also fans of documentary. It’s very inventive in how they tell this story through archival footage,” said SPC co-president Michael Barker. “We believe in the [documentary] genre especially when they are made to be in a movie theater first [and] I think this is a good time to open a film like this.” Similarly to its Oscar-nominated doc, The Salt Of The Earth, which it opened March 27 ($57K as of Sunday), Sony Classics eyed this time of the year to give Lambert & Stamp breathing room away from the awards-season crush.

Additionally, the distributor will open the documentary following a somewhat different trajectory than their typical template. “We waited to open Lambert & Stamp because The Who are touring America, and it’s unique [for us] in positioning its [ongoing] rollout in parts of the country right before or right after they play.” Similar to most of its theatrical debuts, however, SPC will open the film in New York and Los Angeles this weekend, and will add additional cities including Chicago, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. this month.

5 To 7
Director-writer: Victor Levin
Cast: Anton Yelchin, Bérénice Marlohe, Lambert Wilson, Olivia Thirlby, Eric Stoltz, Glenn Close, Frank Langella
Distributor: IFC Films

5 To 7Veteran television producer Victor Levin waited several years before finding the right actor to play the male lead in his feature film directorial debut 5 To 7. Also written by Levin, the feature centers on 20-something aspiring writer Brian (Anton Yelchin), who after a chance encounter on a street in Manhattan, begins a passionate affair with a glamorous French woman (Bérénice Marlohe). There is a challenge, however. She’s married, and can only meet him for hotel room trysts between 5 and 7 p.m. Brian, of course, longs for more than two hours per day, but along the way, learns hard lessons about life and love.

“I wrote a draft in March, 2007 and my agent at WME gave it to [producer] Julie Lynn and we continued working on the script,” Levin said. “By October [of that year] we were ready to take it out to actors.” The project, however, hit a temporary wall with the casting process. Levin, Lynn and fellow producer Bonnie Curtis, did not find the right Brian to move production to the next level. “You could go after someone and just get [the role filled], but we waited until we were struck by lightning,” which came a few years later after Levin saw Yelchin in Like Crazy (2011).

“I called my producers and asked if he could get the script,” said Levin. Yelchin joined the cast and later, Bérénice Marlohe was in place as the female lead. “Bérénice was [a Bond girl] in Skyfall. The list of beautiful and ‘authentically French’ actresses isn’t all that long. So, with the two leads [cast], the others tend to fall into place.” The film shot in May 2013 in New York. Principal financing came via Demarest Films with additional financing from private investors.

“You shoot at your own peril in New York, but for every siren, airplane or bike messenger [that interrupts production], you get a vibrancy you can’t get anywhere else,” said Levin. “We were very lucky to get some great locations [including] some I wouldn’t have imagined like the Guggenheim Museum, St. Regis Hotel, Central Park and huge stretches of Fifth Avenue. We also had a gorgeous townhouse in the exact [Upper East Side] neighborhood it was meant to be in.”

5 To 7 debuted at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival, and IFC Films nabbed the title in June. It continued to screen at a number of festivals including Traverse City, Hamptons, Savannah, Key West, Palm Springs and Cinequest. The film will open at IFC Center in New York and the Landmark in L.A. this weekend, with additional cities added April 10. 5 To 7 will launch VOD availability the same date.

Cheatin’
Director-writer: Bill Plympton
Voices: Sophia Takal, Jeremy Baumann, Alex Markowitz, Sita Steele, Jacob Steele
Distributor: Plymptoons/Self-distribution

Cheatin Bill Plympton movieAcademy Award nominee Bill Plympton began working on adult animated feature Cheatin’ in 2009 with a French producer who eventually dropped out. Cut forward to a Comic-Con event in 2011 where producer James Hancock saw a pencil test of a bumper car sequence that caught his attention.

The film begins with a fateful collision between two bumper cars, which results in chacters Jake and Ella meeting and becoming the “most loving couple in the long history of romance.” The happy pairing has foes, however. A scheming “other” woman drives a wedge of jealousy into their once blissful courtship. Enter a disgraced magician, whose forbidden “soul machine” allows Ella to take the form of Jake’s now numerous lovers. She desperately fights through malfunction and deceit in a bid to reclaim their destiny as a loving couple.

“I began a company with Matthew Modine and we collaborated on short projects with Bill Plympton,” said fellow producer Adam Rackoff. “When he mentioned this project, we proposed doing a crowd-funding campaign with the goal of raising $75K.” The Kickstarter campaign was a success, raising over $100K. The response also built non-monetary momentum. “It showed us that [Plympton] has a significant fan base. He is the truest of true independent artists,” said Rackoff. Production wrapped in 2013.

Working on Cheatin’ also brought Rackoff and Hancock into a long-term professional relationship, creating Rackoff/Hancock Animated Productions. The duo teased that they have “exciting projects in the works” including new Plympton projects.

Following a sneak of Cheatin’ at the 2013 Ain’t It Cool News Butt-Numb-A-Thon in Austin, it opened the 2014 Slamdance Film Festival and later picked up festival nods around the world along with distribution in various European territories including France where it had 15,000 entries, according to Rackoff and Hancock. “We weren’t getting what we wanted here” with distribution, said Rackoff. “So we’ve used some of the revenues from France and festival winnings to do a DIY [theatrical] release.” Vimeo has the exclusive on-demand release, which will take place starting April 21. The producers said Vimeo has undertaken an aggressive marketing campaign.

Theatrically, the feature will bow at the Village East in New York this weekend, kicking off a 20-city tour where Plympton will take part in Q&As. “He will also draw original sketches for audience members,” added Hancock, who noted Plympton in the past “resisted the digital revolution but now he’s embraced it.”