Electric Entertainment’s The Book of Love with Jason Sudeikis, Maisie Williams, Jessica Biel and Mary Steenburgen will make its debut in select theaters Friday in a day and date release. The title, directed by Bill Purple, features Justin Timberlake’s first original score, and both Timberlake and wife Biel have also been active in its promotion.

The Book of Love joins a quiet weekend for Specialty newcomers. FIP is going fairly full-throttle for its Indian title OK Jaanu, opening in 121 North American theaters, while Parade Deck Films is opening documentary Saving Banksy, which had very little fest play outside the Nashville Film Festival last year. And China Lion is pushing out its recent pick-up Some Like It Hot (Qing Sheng), which has made a box office splash in China since opening ahead of New Years weekend.

Among other limited release titles bowing this weekend are Vertical Entertainment’s The Crash with Dianna Agron, Minnie Driver, Grank Grillo and John Leguizamo in a day and date roll out as well as Kino Lorber’s Son of Joseph, First Run’s Vincent Giordano: There’s a Future in the Past and FilmRise’s doc Reset.

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Electric Entertainment

The Book of Love
Director-writer: Bill Purple
Writer: Robbie Pickering
Cast: Jason Sudeikis, Maisie Williams, Jessica Biel, Mary Steenburgen, Paul Reiser, Orlando Jones
Distributor: Electric Entertainment

Electric Entertainment caught the debut of The Book of Love at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival, and though the company pursued the title it initially assumed acquiring the feature would prove difficult. “We saw it at Tribeca and really loved it, but we thought it would be a tough one to land because of its amazing cast and the fact Justin Timberlake did the music,” said Electric Entertainment’s head of Domestic Distribution Zac Reeder. “We started talking to agents and the filmmakers and they liked our plan, which is going after audiences Hollywood neglects — outside cities and into the heartland.”

The feature centers on an introverted architect who pursues an unlikely friendship with an independent teenage girl in a quest to fulfill a promise he made to his late wife. The architect uses his expertise to help the teen with her mysterious goal: to build a raft with which she intends to sail across the sea.  Together, they help each other overcome loss and embark on an incredible adventure.

“There’s a big audience out there that doesn’t care about superhero or big action movies or dark and edgy arthouse films,” said Reeder. “I think there’s a big audience that’s in-between that wants a story that’s different and not what you expect. It’s tough to reach that audience and that’s why studios don’t usually deal with them. You can’t spend a huge amount of money on marketing, but you can use the cast.”

Jessica Biel tapped her spouse Justin Timberlake to create the music for The Book of Love — his first for a feature film — and both have participated on promotion tied to the film’s on-demand release, which will coincide day and date with its theatrical roll-out this weekend.

Additionally, other cast have been making the promotional rounds, including Jason Sudeikis, who appeared on Seth Meyers this week. Added Reeder: “Everyone is pitching in to get the word out. It’s a family vibe for the film and that really appealed to us.”

Electric Entertainment will open The Book of Love in 15 cities including New York and Los Angeles as well as Indianapolis, Kansas City and other “heartland” cities. Said Reeder about the roll out: “The theatrical is part of the marketing, but the VOD is where we think it’ll work best.” Electric will open about six to ten films this year.

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FIP

OK Jaanu
Director: Shaad Ali
Writer: Mani Ratnam
Cast: Shraddha Kapoor, Aditya Roy Kapur, and Naseeruddin Shah
Distributor: FIP

Indian drama-romance OK Jaanu is a part of FIP’s slate deal with Mumbai-based production outfit, Dharma Productions, becoming involved with the project ahead of the shoot. Oscar-winner AR Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire) created music for the feature, which stars Shraddha Kapoor and Aditya Roy Kapur, who also worked together on Aashique 2, which was a hit at home in India.

OK Jaanu follows Adi, a young game designer from Lucknow who dreams of emigrating to the US and living the American dream. At a chance encounter during his friend’s wedding, he meets Tara, a recent graduate working in an architecture firm. She dreams of going to Paris to pursue higher education. The cheerful banter soon gives way to a conversation where both Adi and Tara realize that they strongly feel that marriage isn’t for them and move in together until their careers come calling. But, with only 10 days left and parting imminent, Adi and Tara are forced to confront some matters of the heart.

“The music by AR Rahman has become a huge hit and has already created buzz across social platforms,” said Fox Star Studio India’s head of International Sales & Distribution Sales Rohit Sharma. “Also the biggest filmmakers from India — [producer] Karan Johar and Mani Ratnam — [who are working together for] the first time is generating interest from media and audiences. [For promotion], we are targeting the Indian TV channels as well as print, radio and online platforms which are popular with Indian audiences.”

FIP expects to release eight films in North America this year, on par with what it has done in recent years. Four of the titles will roll out on this continent in the first quarter.

OK Jaanu will open in 121 locations across 100 North American cities Friday. Added Sharma: “We are looking forward to a good opening, given the long holiday weekend. We should be across a similar number of [theaters] in week two.”

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Parade Deck Films

Saving Banksy
Director: Colin Day
Writer: Éva Boros
Subjects: Ben Eine, Risk, Revok, Niels ‘Shoe’ Meulman, Blek Le Rat, Anthony Lister, Doze Green, Hera, Glen E Friedman
Distributor: Parade Deck Films

British street artist Bansky caused a stir in San Francisco in 2010 when he traveled to the city and created a project each night while there, resulting in a social media phenomenon. The city government, under its anti-graffiti laws, required property owners to paint over the works. The controversy prompted Brian Greif, who lived in the city at the time and was involved with the local art scene, to try to preserve one of the Banksys and donate it to a museum or another entity for public display. The resulting controversy became the basis for Saving Banksy, which opens theatrically this weekend.

The documentary goes behind the scenes to look at how Banksy works and the secretive world of street art and graffiti. The film explores how street artists’ attempts to share free art is threatened by art dealers who remove paintings from walls and sell them for big money. 

The painting at the center of the film was created by Banksy in April, 2010 and removed in December of that year, and the film chronicles that interim period and through to when Greif, an executive producer of Saving Banksy, attempted to donate the work to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

“It took six months of negotiation with the building owner to take the Banksy off the wall,” said Greif. “During that period, people started to look into Banksy and they started to see dollar signs. The owner wanted $5,000 for access to the property. Then the public became involved and city officials were involved. They threatened to paint over it and fine us. During this whole process, it became clear there was an interesting story to tell.”

Greif began working with Éva Boros, also an E.P., to move the project forward. The duo brought on Colin Day, a top videographer documenting street artists, to direct the project in late 2010. Greif financed the feature.

“We thought the film would have an end when it was donated to SF MOMA, but they rejected it,” said Greif. “We thought the hysteria leading up to the donation would be the end, but then the art collectors came in and it took another year. We had to see how that process would work out.”

He noted that a number of established professionals lent their skills in order to complete the film. Greif, who lives in Nashville, showed a rough cut of the title at the Nashville Film Festival where they were introduced to Parade Deck Films, which came on board for its release. Candy Factory Films will handle non-theatrical.

Saving Banksy will open in New York at Cinema Village as well as Arena Cinelounge in Hollywood and The Roxie in San Francisco on Friday in addition to Portland, OR. The film will then head to five additional cities next week with more markets set for early February.

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China Lion

Some Like It Hot (Qing Sheng)
Directors: Song Xiaofei, Dong Xu
Writers: Yu Miao, Xi Liao
Cast: Xiao Yang, Yan Ni, Xiaoshenyang, Qiao Shan
Distributor: China Lion

Some Like It Hot (Qing Sheng) was a “last minute acquisition from the producers” based on the popularity of the title in China, according to U.S. distributor China Lion. The feature opened on December 30 there and quickly became the number one movie on the mainland, grossing over $50M. Some Like It Hot is currently second in China, behind Rogue One. Noted China Lion’s Robert Lundberg: “We expect it to continue to be a top five box office grosser in the mainland for the next month and we wanted to give our North American audience a chance to see what everyone is talking about.”

Based on the 1976 French film Pardon Mon Affaire – and not Billy Wilder’s 1959 classic comedy – Some Like It Hot follows a man who examines his life after the unexpected death of his best friend. Inspired by an encounter with a beautiful and sexy model, he and three friends embark on a crazy path – and slightly stupid – path towards fulfillment.

Some Like It Hot is being targeted squarely on China Lion’s core audience of expats, with an edge toward males. “We’re emphasizing the star cast and, more importantly, the comedic elements. The trailers have played off the title, though the film itself is more similar to The Hangover, so we’re playing up those elements in all our usual marketing aimed at first-language Chinese speakers.  Xiao Yang was in our January 2016 release Detective Chinatown ($474,252), which did very well for us and Yan Ni was a co-star in our holiday release The Wasted Times (2016, $367,278), which outperformed our expectations. Xiao Sheng-yang and Qiao Shan round out the cast, the latter from the summer 2015 hit Jian Bing Man.”

Lundberg said the title will be a “very limited release,” given the short marketing period. The feature will open in the company’s top 10 locations and will roll out further based on response.

Last year, China Lion released 13 titles, but expects to open at least 15 films in 2017. It will continue to release films featuring Chinese stars and will mostly target it core of first-language Chinese speakers, though Lundberg said the company is drawing more non-Chinese audiences as well. “We found a good slice of Western arthouse audiences with the Zhang Ziyi-starrer The Wasted Times, which we released in December and is still in theaters, and we hope to grab one or more key festival titles in the coming months for that same crossover appeal,” he said, adding, “There’s so much talent still to be discovered by film goers who tend to be more Euro-centric. Having just rounded the corner on six years in business, we do expect 2017 to be our biggest year in company history.”