This year’s crop of 15 Oscar-nominated short films heads to North American theaters Friday via Shorts International and Magnolia Pictures. The annual showcase has grown since first rolling out in 2006, reaching hundreds of theaters and grossing seven figures at the box office. The Weinstein Company, meanwhile, will open Jane Got A Gun starring Natalie Portman and Joel Edgerton. The title had initially been planned for an early September release via Relativity. Lazer Team, directed by Matt Hullum, heads for its regular theatrical run through Amplify Releasing starting Friday after luring big crowds to screenings via TUGG totaling over $1 million — the largest initial figure for the theatrical on-demand platform. And Wolfe Releasing will begin an L.A. exclusive run for Canadian rom-com Portrait Of A Serial Monogamist.
The 2016 Oscar Nominated Short Films
Distributors: Shorts International, Magnolia Pictures
The annual theatrical showcase of Oscar shorts has grown tremendously since its initial run nine years ago. Every year since, Shorts International and Magnolia have released all 15 live-action, animated and documentary shorts in theaters. The program has increased both its gross and its total number of engagements every year since the initial showcase in 2006, grossing $157,415 that year and reaching just a dozen theaters.
“I’ve found that the success of the Oscar Shorts is inversely proportional to current trends,” said Magnolia’s Neal Block. “In an economy where theatrical revenue is becoming a smaller piece of the overall pie, this program consistently brings audiences to movie theaters. It’s become an anticipated part of dedicated moviegoers’ annual Oscar-time treks to the theater.”
In 2015, the Oscar Shorts program grossed over $2.41 million and reached 280 theaters at its widest point. This year’s groupings include an animated program, which includes a “selection of highly commended shorts” totaling 91 minutes, according to Shorts International CEO Carter Pilcher. The live-action program is 107 minutes, while “Documentary Program A” (including Body Team 12, A Girl in the River: The Price Of Forgiveness and Last Day Of Freedom) is 87 minutes, with “Documentary Program B” (Chau, Beyond The Lines and Claude Lanzmann: Spectres Of The Shoah) running 76 minutes.
“We’ve had trailers running in theaters since Christmas and have released posters in theaters and via social media on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram,” said Pilcher. “We’ve also implemented aggressive national and regional publicity and digital media campaigns.”
Added Block: “Demographics are a total mix. Older patrons, little kids, animation nerds, doc aficionados – it runs the gamut. And that makes sense. There are so many different kinds of filmmaking represented across the three programs so it’s no surprise that the draw is always diverse.”
VOD platforms for The 2016 Oscar Nominated Short Films are planned for February 23.
Jane Got A Gun
Director: Gaving O’Connor
Writers: Brian Duffield, Anthony Tambakis, Joel Edgerton
Cast: Natalie Portman, Joel Edgerton, Ewan McGregor, Rodrigo Santoro, Noah Emmerich, Boyd Holbrook
Distributor: The Weinstein Company
The feature centers on Jane Hammond (Portman), who has built a new life with her husband Bill “Ham” Hammond (Emmerich) after being tormented by the ultra-violent Bishop Boys outlaw gang. She finds herself in the gang’s cross-hairs once again when Ham stumbles home riddled with bullets after dueling with the Boys and their relentless mastermind Colin (McGregor). With the vengeful crew hot on Ham’s trail, Jane has nowhere to turn but former fiancé Dan Frost (Edgerton) for help in defending her family against certain destruction. Haunted by old memories, Jane’s past meets the present in a battle for survival.
“We came to the rescue after the producers got it out of the morass that is Relativity,” said TWC’s president of Theatrical Distribution Erik Lomis. “We were involved originally as co-producer, but they were going to [spearhead] the marketing and distribution.”
The original deal was for Relativity and The Weinstein Company to distribute together, with Relativity releasing September 4, noted Deadline last summer, but attorney and main financier David Boies worked to untangle the picture from Relativity’s bankruptcy proceedings. That wasn’t the first challenge for Jane Got A Gun: original director Lynne Ramsay exited just before its shoot in Santa Fe, but producers were able to tap Warrior director Gavin O’Connor.
“We like the film and think Natalie Portman and Joel Edgerton are great in the film,” said Lomis. “This is for people who like Westerns, but it has a female theme, so older women will like that. Older men who like Westerns will like it too.”
Lomis said that Relativity is handling P&A for the feature, while TWC will spearhead its distribution. Jane Got A Gun will open in 1,200 theaters this weekend, with concentrations in the South and Southwest.
Director-writer: Matt Hullum
Writers: Burnie Burns, Chris Demarais, Joshua Flanagan
Cast: Burnie Burns, Gavin Free, Michael Jones, Colton Dunn, Allie DeBerry, Alan Ritchson
Sci-fi comedy Lazer Team had a box office head start before its roll out Wednesday and regular theatrical bow on Friday. The first feature film created by Fullscreen’s production company Rooster Teeth has sold over 100,000 tickets in pre-sale, grossing over $1 million worldwide to date, according to the company. Lazer Team’s pre-sales were facilitated through TUGG, the cinema on-demand platform that lets audiences organize screenings in their local theaters.
Lazer Team follows four small-town losers who stumble across an alien crash site containing an incredible battle suit and soon find themselves responsible for the fate of the planet. With this new alien equipment genetically bound to them, and the government hot on their heels, the foursome work to save humanity.
“[Writer-star] Burnie Burns and I started working together quite a long time ago,” said director Matt Hullum. Both Hullum and Burns work at online video production company and network Rooster Teeth, which has been producing online content for 13 years. “We originally wanted to make movies, then this whole internet thing blew up. We did Red v. Blue, but eventually looked up and decided now is time to make a movie.”
Despite producing 40 shows per week through Rooster Fish, Hullum and Burns found time to crowd fund through Indiegogo in the summer of 2014. “We had a rough draft of the script,” said Hullum, “and we did think it would do well raising [money], but it did even better than we thought.” The crowd-funding campaign ended in July 2014, raising nearly $2.5 million from over 37K backers.
The title shot in Austin, TX in October, with a mix of Hollywood actors and Rooster Teeth regulars in the cast. “We have so much other stuff going on that it was both fortunate and unfortunate that it was late-night shoots,” said Hullum. “In the morning when the sun would come up I’d go to work at the office for a few hours before going home for a short nap.” Lazer Team shot over 40 days with three days of pick-ups.
Hullum and Burns spread the word about the feature through their YouTube channel (20 million-plus subscribers) and their main Rooster Teeth channel (8.5 million). “One of the things we want to accomplish is to find new audiences,” added Hullum. “Our Amplify screenings will be a way of getting to them. We’re targeting theaters in more suburban areas and malls where our fan base tends to skew.”
Lazer Team‘s TUGG screenings (January 27 and 28) represent the largest to date for the platform. Its previous theatrical release record was set by Touch the Wall, the documentary about Olympic swimmer Missy Franklin. The documentary’s first seven months of theatrical release saw a total of 371 screenings and 47,100 tickets sold.
In the U.K. and Ireland, Lazer Team expanded into over 60 theaters through a collaboration with exhibitors. In the U.S., the filmmakers are working with distributor Amplify Releasing in which week-long runs are scheduled in cities where TUGG events sold out. The company will handle regular distribution for Lazer Team Friday in 35-plus cities.
Portrait Of A Serial Monogamist
Directors-writers: John Mitchell, Christina Zeidler
Cast: Diane Flacks, Carolyn Taylor, Vanessa Dunn, Robin Duke, Gavin Crawford, Sabrina Jalees, Elvira Kurt
Distributor: Wolfe Releasing
Wolfe Releasing will open Canadian lesbian romantic-comedy Portrait Of A Serial Monogamist exclusively in L.A.
The feature centers on Elsie, a smart, successful and charming forty-something Toronto TV producer. The self-proclaimed serial monogamist seems to have slept with everyone in town. When Elsie breaks up with her long-term girlfriend, her friends challenge her to stay single for five months. When gorgeous DJ Lolli enters her life, things get complicated as Elsie faces her mother’s disapproval, conflicting advice from friends, and the nagging suspicion that she may have made a big mistake.
“[Portrait Of A Serial Monogamist] is made by and starring top performers and talents in Toronto’s vibrant comedy scene. We got a screener of the film before its premiere at [Toronto’s LGBT film festival] Inside Out,” said Wolfe Releasing’s Jim Stephens. “[The festival] reached out to see if we’d be interested. There are so many dramas out there so it was refreshing to see a well-acted and executed romantic comedy. It played very well at the festival with three sold-out screenings and continued to play well at [San Francisco’s LGBT festival] Frameline and Outfest in Los Angeles.”
Wolfe, which caters to LGBT audiences, is targeting young women in their 20s and 30s for the film, says Stephens, though he feels the film has crossover potential if word gets out. “The characters happen to be lesbians, but the story is more universal than that,” he said. “The filmmaker calls it a coming-of-middle-age comedy, but I think they’re younger than that.”
Portrait Of A Serial Monogamist opens theatrically in LA this Friday at the Arena Cinema, followed by a February 9 debut across all digital platforms including iTunes, Vimeo On Demand, and WolfeOnDemand.com.