Five months after his last feature, Noah Baumbach is back with Mistress America. The release comes on the heels of his While We’re Young, released by A24 in March. Mistress America, starring Greta Gerwig (Baumbach’s 2013 France Ha), will be joined by a hefty slate of newcomers this weekend. Music Box Films opens Sundance Audience Award-winning documentary Meru, and Film Arcade will roll out People Places Things in a slew of locations Friday. Orion is opening the summer-centric Fort Tilden in a day-and-date release, and Vice and FilmBuff are teaming on the Berlin premiere Prince. And Fox International Productions bows its Bollywood title Brothers: Blood Against Blood in India, North America and other territories.
Among the other limited-release titles on the docket are Amplify Releasing’s Tom At The Farm, Vertical Entertainment’s Air in 15 theaters and on-demand as well as Cohen Media Group’s Paulette, Stratton Group’s WARx2 and BBC Worldwide North America’s We Come As Friends.
Director-writer: Noah Baumbach
Cast: Greta Gerwig, Lola Kirke, Seth Barrish, Juliett Brett, Andrea Chen, Charlie Gillette, Joel Marsh Garland, Shana Dowdeswell
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
In Mistress America, Gerwig plays Brooke, a Times Square resident and adventurous gal about town, who rescues her soon-to-be stepsister from the disappointment of a boring, unglamorous college life. Lola Kirke costars as Tracy, the lonely student seduced by Brooke’s alluringly mad schemes.
IFC Films opened the Baumbach/Gerwig Frances Ha in four theaters, grossing a solid $137,398 ($34,350 average) its first weekend. The title went on to cume just over $4M. While We’re Young upped the ante, grossing over $227K in four theater and averaging nearly $57K its opening weekend. The title went on to cume $7.59M in theaters. While We’re Young even edged out his previously top-grossing film, The Squid And The Whale (2005), which cumed $7.37M and received an Oscar nomination for original screenplay.
Fox Searchlight picked up Mistress America out of Sundance, where it debuted. It went on to play BAMcinemaFest as well as the recent Sundance Next Festival in L.A. Searchlight’s Frank Rodriguez indicated that the company will open Mistress America on a “platform basis on August 14 in New York and Los Angeles,” at the ArcLight Hollywood and Landmark West L.A. as well as the Sunshine and Lincoln Plaza theaters in New York. The film will roll out over a four-week period across North America, with a national release set for September 4, bringing the theater count to about 300.
Directors: E. Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin
Subjects: Jimmy Chin, Conrad Anker, Renan Ozturk, Grace Chin, Amee Hinkley, Jon Krakauer
Distributor: Music Box Films
Sundance documentary Meru wasn’t imagined as a feature film back in 2008, when the film’s subjects began compiling a treasure-trove of death-defying footage. After veteran documentary filmmaker Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and professional climber, mountaineer and photographer Jimmy Chin met in 2012, things took a different course. “The [photography] was for posterity’s sake,” said Vasarhelyi. “But the idea of a long-format film came to life as the depth of the emotional journey [of the climbers] had become apparent.”
Rising 21,000 feet above the sacred Ganges River in Northern India, Mount Meru’s perversely stacked obstacles make it both a nightmare and an irresistible calling for some of the world’s toughest climbers. In October 2008, Chin, Conrad Anker and Renan Ozturk arrived in India to tackle Meru. Their planned seven-day trip quickly devolved into a 20-day odyssey in sub-zero temperatures with dwindling food rations. Within 100 meters of the elusive summit, their journey — like all previous attempts — fell short. Heartbroken and defeated, the trio returned to their everyday lives, where the siren song of Meru continued to beckon. By September 2011, Anker had convinced his team to reunite and attempt it once more, under even more extraordinary circumstances. Meru is the story of that journey, an expedition through nature’s harshest elements and our complicated inner demons, and ultimately to impossible new heights.
“[The film] is about friendship, and we figured out a structure to show the amazing journey, along with the emotional side of what they went through,” said Vasarhelyi. “Jimmy and I are also married, so the others felt much more safe showing their emotion, and this really brought the [film] to life.”
The climbers brought cameras that captured unimaginable views under the harshest of conditions. Although the imagery was virtually unprecedented, there was not unlimited material. “They could only bring a finite amount of batteries,” said Vasarhelyi. The 2011 climb “was a bit more luxurious — they had two lenses. I’ve shot films with 400 hours of footage, but there was only 18 hours [of film here] over two years. But the scenes we had were extreme, and they were golden.”
The Meru movie took on its own journey, cutting for two years ahead of its Sundance debut. Private investors helped its completion, but the shooting already had taken place before it was compiled into a feature. “It was bare-bones,” said Vasarhelyi. “As far as docs go, it was a shoestring budget. I’ve never felt this much pressure on a film because it’s my husband’s own story. I didn’t think of the end game as much. I just wanted them to be proud of the film.”
Music Box Films picked up the Sundance Audience Award winner after the festival. The title will open on seven screens in New York, L.A., Seattle, Minneapolis, Denver and Boulder, CO. It will expand to 50 markets in the following weeks, topping 100 locations by Labor Day weekend. On-demand and home video will happen in mid-November.
People Places Things
Director-writer: James C. Strouse
Cast: Jemaine Clement, Regina Hall, Jessica Williams
Distributor: Film Arcade
Filmmaker James Strouse began writing what would become People Places Things in 2012, but put it away a couple of times before sending it to his agent. The feature follows a newly single Brooklyn father whose life has unraveled. Separated, with custody of his twin daughters, the dad navigates new love in the funny, sad way perhaps peculiar to underemployed graphic novelists in Brooklyn.
“It was something I was always thinking about making but never really put it in the forefront of my mind until last year, when I had my agent send it out,” said Strouse. “I connected with producers at Beachside in April of 2014. They signed on to help me make the movie and helped me through the final revisions of the script leading into production.”
Strouse wrote the script with an eye on a modest budget. The script fit the story type and budget model that main financier Beachside was interested in. “We were never in over our heads as far as having expectations that exceeded our funds,” said Strouse. “I feel like we knew what kind of movie we were going to make and how we were going to make it from the ground floor, which was nice.”
People Places Things shot in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island and debuted at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. “You work so hard to make these films, but you never know how they will connect with an audience until you’re with that audience,” said Strouse. “Hearing laughter at the first screening at Sundance was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had. It was clear the movie worked.”
Film Arcade began talking with Beachside about the title after its premiere, closing a deal soon after the festival ended. People Places Things will open at the ArcLight Hollywood and IFC Center in New York in addition to locations in Atlanta, Seattle, Cleveland, Chicago, Phoenix, San Francisco and Minneapolis. The film will add about a dozen theaters in additional cities the following week, with more markets coming into September.
Directors-writers: Sarah-Violet Bliss, Charles Rogers
Cast: Bridey Elliott, Clare McNulty, Neil Casey
Writer-directors Sarah-Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers conceived the idea for Fort Tilden at the end of May 2013, while standing on the bank of the East River in New York City and dreaming up what they wanted to do with their summer. Two and a half months later, Fort Tilden, named after a stretch of beach in New York, was in the can.
Fort Tilden is a seaside haven for Brooklyn’s hip millennial set, who flock there on sweltering summer days. Amidst the vexing stagnation of quarter-life crises, Allie (Clare McNulty) struggles to prepare for the Peace Corps, while Harper (Bridey Elliott) awaits checks from her father to fund her artistic dreams. But the two friends quickly shun responsibilities for the day when a pair of good-looking guys invite them along for a carefree Fort Tilden afternoon. As the two young women board their fixed-gear bicycles and embark on a lengthy journey to the beach, they quickly realize that — as in the rest of their confusing, transitioning lives — they neither know where they’re going now how to get there.
“We have both had difficult experiences getting to Fort Tilden at one point or another,” said Rogers. “One time I had a birthday at the beach and half of my guests never showed up because everyone loses signal out there.” Fort Tilden actually became Bliss and Rogers’ NYU graduate film, so the pair took out student loans, which they combined with money from private investors, a Kickstarter campaign and grants to pull together a budget. “We knew that if we didn’t stick to our guns about shooting it by the end of the summer, then the film would be pushed to some later date and then who knows what would happen,” said Rogers. “We had seen good ideas you think up with friends on an excited day fizzle and die, and we didn’t want it to happen to this story, so we peer- pressured each other into sticking to a regimented schedule. Making the film that summer became a full-time job.”
Principal actor McNulty was a close friend of Bliss’ from Oberlin and had collaborated on previous short films. Bliss and Rogers wrote the Allie character with McNulty’s voice in mind. Both filmmakers were familiar with Elliott’s work in comedy and short films, and she was brought on as Harper. “We had one bonding dinner and one rehearsal prior to the shoot, and their immediate chemistry was kind of magical,” said Rogers. “[But] we were a very low-budget production and faced a lot of restrictions. It wasn’t like we could close down a street or had enough hands to stop passersby from walking through the background. There is one moment in the film when Allie declares a street the ‘most beautiful street in all of Brooklyn’ and the day that we arrived to shoot that scene, the area was undergoing massive construction. We had to choose the second-most beautiful street two streets down. “
Orion picked up the title shortly after its 2014 SXSW premiere, though it continued to play at festivals throughout the year. Since it is set in summer, Orion held its release for August. Fort Tilden will have a day-and-date release, opening in 10 markets theatrically Friday including IFC Center in New York, with availability on all major VOD platforms.
Brothers: Blood Against Blood
Director-writer: Karan Malhotra
Cast: Aksay Kumar, Jackie Shroff, Sidharth Malhotra, Jacqueline Fernandez, Meghan Jadhav
Distributor: Fox International Productions (FIP)/Fox Star Studios
Bollywood title Brothers: Blood Against Blood likely will be this weekend’s biggest specialty release in theater count. It follows a former alcoholic and street-fighter who returns home after serving a prison sentence to find his past stills haunt his family. The man’s two grown sons, who parted ways as kids, remain bitterly estranged. When the biggest event in mixed martial arts in India is announced, the brothers face off against each other.
“Action films tend to do well during the Indian Independence Day holiday,” said Rohit Sharma, head of international sales and distribution at Fox Star Studios India. The company is releasing the title on the subcontinent. “There are 30 million nonresident Indians across the world who are the target audience, apart from the Pakistani and Bangladesh nonresidents who also happen to follow Indian movies. The big Indian films always release across 40-50 countries day-and-date with India due to the demand and interest for these films and to counter the online piracy issues. UK, U.S. and Middle East [markets] account for 70 % of the international theatrical box office revenues.”
Fox Star Studios boarded the project after the film was completed. Brothers: Blood Against Blood will open in 164 North American theaters, which Sharma said is “the optimum release plan for a film of this scale,” adding, “The film is first exploited theatrically across the North American market, and then it will be available on Indian pay TV, which generally happens 90 days after theatrical release.”
One & Two
Directors-writers: Andrew Droz Palermo, Neima Shahdadi
Cast: Kernan Shipka, Tomothée Chalamat, Grant Bowler, Elizabeth Reaser
Distributor: IFC Films
Producer Kimberly Sherman had been working at the True/False Film Festival in Columbia, MO, when her friend Andrew Palermo moved back to the area and the two began working on some projects. After throwing around ideas for a feature in Missouri, Sherman applied to the Sundance Creative Producing Labs and invited Palermo to write a screenlay and apply with her. “After coming up with a basic concept, central characters, themes and a basic outline, Andrew enlisted his childhood friend Neima Shahdadi to help him write the screenplay, and we were off,” said Sherman. “The film came together through the generous support from the Sundance Institute and WME.”
One & Two is a look at the bond between siblings growing up in a world of dark secrets, with little knowledge of life outside their reclusive family farm. Within their isolated world, Zac (Timothée Chalamet) and Eva (Kiernan Shipka) live under the constant watch of a strict, disciplinarian father, awaiting nightfall, escape and moments of levity. When their mother’s long-dormant illness returns, the once joyous mom struggles to unite the family in an increasingly somber home. As their father searches for a divine answer to these heartbreaking circumstances, Zac and Eva steal moments to explore their otherworldly abilities, dreaming of a life free of limitations.
“[While participating] in the 2011 Sundance Institute Creative Producing Labs, I met with WME,” said Sherman. “We [later] met with Protagonist Pictures at IFP Film Week as participants in No Borders and actively kept in touch with them over the next several years. They were very early supporters of the project and watched as the script developed, and in 2014, a newer film fund, Bow & Arrow, came on as partners after Andrew’s documentary Rich Hill won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.”
One & Two shot over 26 days in July and August 2014 in Winston-Salem, NC, locations the production found through the Piedmont-Triad Film Commission and the State Film Commission. A good portion of the crew came from UNC School of the Arts. “We shot on Horne Creek Farm — a living museum dedicated to agricultural practices of North Carolina from the late 1800s,” Sherman added. “It was the perfect setting for a film that has an ambiguous time setting.” The location also had its share of animals, including a loud mule who “broke up many scenes with his louder-than-bombs whinny hee-haw,” as well as chickens the crew would coax into naps. “We learned how to hypnotize chickens,” recalled Sherman. “You can see it in the movie.”
One & Two premiered at Berlin and played SXSW in March, and IFC Midnight took the title following its U.S. debut at the Austin fest. The feature will open day-and-date Friday in select theaters and VOD.
Director-writer: Sam de Jong
Cast: Oussama Addi, Elsie de Brauw, Ayoub Elasri, Olivia Lonsdale, Achraf Meziani
Distributor: Vice, FilmBuff
Dutch filmmaker Sam de Jong grew up under circumstances similar to those faced by his protagonist in his Berlinale title Prince. Set in summer, boys hang out on a street cracking pumpkin seeds and talking about motorbikes, Rolexes and how to kiss girls. Seventeen-year-old Ayoub is in love with Laura, whose inviting smiles have turned into a cold shoulder: she has a tough-guy boyfriend, putting Ayoub, who shares a tiny room with his sister at his poor parents’ home, at a disadvantage. Ayoub thinks he’s found a possible ally in a strange dude with a violet Lamborghini, but what results is a long nightmare of a night.
“I worked with kids that had similar parental situations as [Ayoub] in the film,” said writer-director de Jong. “Growing up deprived of opportunities like a decent education and a stable home, it can scar you for life, and even at a young age, you are not allowed to dream. You have to walk the walk and talk the talk in order to survive.”
Initial funding for the project came via the Dutch Film Fund, which supports upcoming directors with their first and future films. After securing their support, de Jong and producer Gijs Kerbosch from 100% Halal went to Vice Amsterdam and pitched Prince, which also signed on. De Jong skirted the typical casting process.
“I found the actors on the street,” said de Jong. “Together we made several short films. By doing so we gradually grew closer, and finally we decided to embark on a feature adventure. But the story gradually grew from social realism into an urban fairytale, and things became very dynamic and eclectic. We then set out to cast all different types of people — from harbor workers to rappers and theater divas.”
Shooting took place in what de Jong described as a “rapidly changing neighborhood in Amsterdam, blending old and new on the city’s edges. Some of his cast, however, brought up challenges not typical of most productions. “I came on set and found out our actors had stolen our production vehicles to joy ride in. Stressful moments. We shot a lot with a very rare purple Lamborghini, and the second day we broke one of the windows, which was a very costly error.”
Vice and FilmBuff open Prince day-and-date Friday, including L.A. at the Arena Cinema and AMC in New York in addition to locations in Chicago, San Francisco, Tampa and Seattle. It will also play Alamo Drafthouse cinemas in Austin, Dallas, Kansas City, Denver and Yonkers, NY.