Well Go USA is opening Railroad Tigers this weekend, the first of two titles this month from Jackie Chan’s production company. The distributor is hoping to capitalize on what it sees as a paucity of action-adventure titles in the marketplace. And with the Golden Globes looming large, the Specialty market takes something of a breather this weekend after a busy late fall season.

Gkids will screen Japanese animation title The Princess Mononoke on the film’s 20th anniversary, while Gravitas Ventures will open Banking on Bitcoin, its second feature focusing on the online currency.

As of last weekend, Lionsgate’s La La Land and Roadside/Amazon Studios’ Manchester By The Sea became 2016’s first and second highest-grossing Specialty releases, respectively, surpassing Hell or High Water, which lead the field all fall. The two awards contenders should dominate into the first full weekend of 2017.

La La Land heads into Golden Globes weekend with double the number of theaters over last week, officially making it a wide release at 1,515 locations. At the end of New Years weekend, Damien Chazelle’s film starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling had cumed just over $37 million. Additionally, the film has bragging rights as 2016’s best opening weekend per theater average. The title opened December 9 in five locations, grossing over $881K for a $176,221 per theater average. La La Land is nominated for six Golden Globes including Best Musical or Comedy Motion Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Ryan Gosling) and Best Actress (Emma Stone) in the Musical or Comedy categories, Best Original Score and Best Screenplay.

Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester By The Sea debuted mid-November in 4 locations, grossing $256,498, averaging $64,125. At the end of New Years weekend, the title starring Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams had cumed just under $30 million. Amazon Studios said the title will be in 1,051 North American locations this weekend. Golden Globe nominations include Best Drama Motion Picture, Best Director, Best Actor in a Drama (Casey Affleck), Best Supporting Actress (Michelle Williams) and Best Screenplay.

Railroad Tigers
Director: Sheng Ding
Cast: Jackie Chan, Huang Zitao, Wang Kai, Darren Wang, Jaycee Chan
Distributor: Well Go USA

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Well Go USA

Railroad Tigers is the first of Well Go USA’s two titles on this side of the Pacific from Jackie Chan’s production company, Sparkle Roll Media Corp. The distributor will next release Kung Fu Yoga January 27. Well Go CEO Doris Pfardrescher has been tracking the film since pre-production and the company came on board for a number of territories before production wrapped.

The action-comedy follows a railroad worker (Chan) and his ragtag group of freedom fighters who find themselves on the wrong side of the tracks when they decide to ambush a heavily armed military train filled with desperately needed provisions. Unarmed and outnumbered, they must fight back against an entire army using only their wits.

Railroad Tigers is an epic adventure film with huge action set pieces, and most importantly it’s a whole lot of fun. So we’ve focused on those elements in our materials and promotion, making sure the audience knows that they are in for no bummer,” said Well Go USA exec Dylan Marchetti. “We’ve done a combination of outdoor and transit teaser ads to get the word out, and we’ve spent a lot of time hitting up the genre fans online and out of home to let them know a new Jackie Chan film is coming to the big screen. A big advantage on a Jackie Chan film is Jackie’s amazing connection with his fans. He’s always reaching out to his millions of followers and so they’re already primed for this one.”

Marchetti noted that while the market is crowded, there isn’t a lot in the action/adventure genre. He noted that Well Go’s 2016 martial arts action film Ip Man 3 grossed nearly $3M in 100 theaters last January, adding: “We know that the audience is out there and hungry in January, and we plan to feed them well with two big Jackie Chan films.”

Well Go USA will open Railroad Tigers in 40-plus locations in the U.S. and Canada this weekend and expand the title in coming weeks based on results.

Princess Mononoke
Director-writer: Hayao Miyazaki
Voices: Gillian Anderson, Billy Crudup, Claire Danes, Minnie Driver, Jada Pinkett Smith, Billy Bob Thornton (English version)
Distributor: Gkids

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Gkids

Gkids will open Japanese animated feature Princess Mononoke in select theaters to mark the film’s 20th anniversary. Though Japan’s Studio Ghibli is typically known for animation in the family space, the PG-13 Princess Mononoke is one of its “most ambitious and adult-targeted features,” according to Gkids’ Dave Jesteadt. “We are partnering with Fathom Events again for this special two-night engagement, following our extremely successful 10th anniversary screening of Spirited Away in December, which grossed over $1.5M nationwide on three playdates.”

The feature follows young warrior Ashitaka, who while defending his village from a demonic boar-god, becomes afflicted with a curse that grants him super-human power in battle but will eventually take his life. Traveling west to find a cure or meet his destiny, he journeys deep into the sacred Great Forest where he meets San (Princess Mononoke), a girl raised by wolf-gods who is waging battle against the human outpost of Iron Town on the edge of the forest. Mononoke is a force of nature – with blood smeared lips, riding bareback on a great white wolf, doing battle with both gods and humans.

“We are continuing a marketing partnership with the Hot Topic clothing chain, which has been an official merchandise partner of Studio Ghibli, and they have been integral in helping to reach Ghibli fans as effectively as possible in stores and online,” said Jesteadt. “The great thing about releasing a classic film like Princess Mononoke is that there is already so much awareness and love for the film itself, growing year-on-year since its original release in 1997. So our primary focus is just letting people know about the engagements, and the film sells itself.”

Jesteadt added that Studio Ghibli has become one of the most “revered” animation studios in the world, calling Princess Mononoke’s original North American 1997 release via Miramax (over $2.37M domestic gross) as a “watershed moment” for Ghibli, followed by Spirited Away from Disney in 2001. That release grossed over $10M and an Oscar win in 2003 for Best Animated Feature.

Gkids will screen the subtitled version of Princess Mononoke in over 400 theaters Thursday, January 5, followed by screening the dubbed version on Monday, January 9. The screenings will be accompanied with music video ‘On Your Mark,’ by Hayao Miyazaki. After the screenings, the title will return to the theatrical catalog with Gkids occasionally touring the film to theaters nationwide for Studio Ghibli retrospectives and midnight screenings.

Added Jesteadt: “One of the most satisfying things about handling the theatrical rights for their catalog is providing fans who have only experienced these epic films on a small TV screen to finally see them properly exhibited in a theatrical setting.”

Banking on Bitcoin
Director-writer: Christopher Cannucciari
Writer: Prichard Smith
Subjects: Wences Casares, Nathanial Popper, Gavin Andersen, Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler Winklevoss, Michael Casey, David Chaum
Distributor: Gravitas Ventures

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Gravitas Ventures

Filmmaker Christopher Cannucciari began picking up his camera to record events surrounding global digital currency Bitcoin in the fall of 2013. By 2014 he had teamed with producer David Guy Levy to formally launch a documentary project.

Bitcoin is one of the most disruptive inventions since the dawn of the internet. Banking on Bitcoin follows what it sees as an “ideological battle between fringe utopists and mainstream capitalism.” The feature follows the players who are defining how this technology will influence the lives of many.

“There were four of us who came together as a small team,” said Levy. “Downtown Community Television Center (DCTV) in New York came aboard to help counsel us as we embarked on the medium. It is my first documentary.” Levy’s Periscope Entertainment financed the project.

“We wanted to get everyone we recognized from interviews, books, etc. in the financial tech space to be interviewed for this,” said Levy. “Even when we were cutting, we’d get more people we’d have to do interviews with. We spent three years flying around the country getting everyone.” Levy added that most of those they reached out to were willing to participate, though it took some convincing to get the Winklevoss twins — made famous by their portrayal in the 2010 film The Social Network.

The twins appeared in the 2014 doc The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin by Nicholas Mross, which Gravitas Ventures also released. “We were still shooting when [that film] came out, but we felt the story was just getting started and there would be a fuller picture once we came in,” said Levy. “There’s been enough time since that last one. And once we found so many in the Bitcoin industry, it lit a fire under us.”

The filmmaking team screened the doc for Gravitas last March. Banking on Bitcoin will open theatrically in New York and several other cities today in addition to being on-demand day and date. Said Levy about the digital rollout: “Bitcoiners are always on their computers.”