Former Vice President Al Gore was on hand at the 2007 Oscars, where his An Inconvenient Truth won Best Documentary Feature. Bringing climate change to center stage, it was one of the biggest nonfiction films at the box office ever. Now, the former veep is back with An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, which Paramount Pictures is opening in four New York and L.A. locations ahead of an early-August national rollout. The film joins a rather crowded set of specialty newcomers this weekend. Vertical Entertainment is opening A Family Man with Gerard Butler, Gretchen Mol, Alison Brie, Willem Dafoe and Alfred Molina in 10 markets today, while Magnolia Pictures is taking out Person to Person with Michael Cera, Abbi Jacobson and Philip Baker Hall to three New York and L.A. theaters. Oscar winner Marion Cotillard and Louis Garrel are at the center of French romantic drama From the Land of the Moon, opening day-and-date via Sundance Selects. And A24 is rolling out Sundance title Menashe, a Yiddish-language father-son drama set in New York that has been a favorite at festivals worldwide.
Also opening in limited release is doc Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk, which is a rollout tied to Green Day’s tour dates. The feature currently is in over 60 markets and begins today at IFC Center in New York. Other weekend titles include Sony’s Hindi feature Mubarakan, Indican’s 30 Years of Garbage: The Garbage Pail Kids Story, Brainstorm Media’s Strange Weather and Well Go USA’s Wolf Warrior 2.
An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power
Directors: Bonni Cohen, Jon Shenk
Subjects: Al Gore, Barack Obama, Donald Trump
Distributor: Paramount Pictures/Participant Media
More than a decade after An Inconvenient Truth challenged documentary box office records and took the Oscar for Best Documentary, the man at the center of the film, former Vice President Al Gore, returns to the big screen with An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power. While Davis Guggenheim directed An Inconvenient Truth, the follow-up is helmed by Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk. Guggenheim has an executive producer credit for this film, which opens today in limited release in New York and L.A. ahead of a national rollout August 4.
An Inconvenient Truth helped bring climate change into the popular culture. The follow-up is billed as showing “how close we are to a real energy revolution.” Gore continues his seemingly tireless fight, traveling around the world, training an army of climate champions and influencing international climate policy. Cameras follow him behind the scenes – in moments both private and public, funny and poignant — as he pursues the inspirational idea that while the stakes have never been higher, the perils of climate change can be overcome with human ingenuity and passion.
In terms of box office, the latest installment opens under a big shadow of the first. An Inconvenient Truth cumed $24.14M at the box domestic office. In its opening weekend in late-May 2006, the film grossed $281,330 in four theaters ($70,332 per-theater average), which hinted at the scale of its eventual reach. An Inconvenient Truth is the 11th highest-grossing documentary ever stateside.
In the leadup to its bow in theaters this weekend, Participant Media is teaming with a number of NGOs including Climate Reality, Sierra Club, Environment Defense Fund, NRDC, Cool Effect, Indivisible and others for “#BeInconvenient 10 Days of Action,” which started Monday. Through its engagement with related organizations, Participant is spreading the word about An Inconvenient Sequel with the aim of galvanizing members to see the film as it begins its rollout.
Participant’s also hopes to spur action on behalf of participants to combat climate change, which is consistent with the messaging in Truth to Power. The first movie “helped bring about a conversation on climate change awareness,” while the follow-up engages people to “show what they can do,” according to Participant. Participant Media, which produced the film, is eyeing the long tail of the film, taking part in curriculum-related messaging in the fall as well as home entertainment and potentially awards season-related initiatives as the title continues its wider rollout.
Gore has done “hundreds of interviews” and participated in a number of social media opportunities, spreading the word about the film. Since its debut at Sundance in January, President Trump, who is given focus in the film after his election triumph in November, has removed the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accords, which also features prominently in the docu. An Inconvenient Sequel has been updated acknowledging the U.S. withdraw.
A Family Man
Director: Mark Williams
Writer: Bill Dubuque
Cast: Gerard Butler, Gretchen Mol, Alison Brie, Max Jenkins, Willem Dafoe, Alfred Molina
Distributor: Vertical Entertainment
A Family Man had its start through a query letter. Veteran producer Mark Williams has received project proposal letters through his company, Zero Gravity Management. “I was the only person out of 500 query letters [to answer] writer Bill Dubuque,” said Williams, who had his first conversations with Dubuque in 2008. “He had been a headhunter for 15 years. The story is largely based on his life.”
A Family Man centers on Dane Jensen (Gerard Butler), a hard-driven Chicago-based headhunter working at a cutthroat job-placement firm. When Dane’s boss (Willem Dafoe) announces his retirement, he pits Dane against Lynn Vogel (Alison Brie), Dane’s equally driven but polar-opposite rival at the firm, in a battle for control of the company. As Dane gears up for the professional battle of his life, he learns his 10-year-old son, Ryan (Max Jenkins), has been diagnosed with cancer. Suddenly, Dane is pulled between achieving his professional dream and spending time with his wife (Gretchen Mol) and Ryan, who need him now more than ever.
“We developed the script for a few years. In 2009 we started shopping it around to other directors,” said Williams. “I ran into wall after wall, but then my agent suggested that I direct it. It had never occurred to me to direct. I spoke to Bill about it, and he thought it was a solid idea. I then began pursuing it, but it also meant finding an actor who would accept me.”
Williams met with Gerard Butler who “loved” the script. Butler, however, had a number of other projects on his docket, so moving forward was put off for two years.
“Once I had a slot with [Butler] along with a window to shoot the movie, I took it to CAA and financiers,” said Williams. “Voltage came on board with financing. We also targeted [more cast] including Willem Dafoe, who has a ‘feisty boss role,’ while Alfred Molina has the role of a 59-year-old who doesn’t have a job.”
The project shot over 38 days in fall 2015, primarily in Toronto along with a week in Chicago, which is somewhat on the lengthy side by today’s standards for indie films. “Performance is important, so I chose to have more time to be able to get what I wanted in terms of performance,” said Williams. “The actors and especially Jerry showed up to give it their all. He’s one of the hardest-working actors I know. He found something interesting in every scene.”
A Family Man debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, where Williams said they had “numerous suitors” who eyed the film for release. They partnered with Vertical Entertainment primarily through their relationship with Voltage.
Said Williams: “[The debut] had 2,600 people in the cinema. I’m used to being the producer behind the camera, so doing a speech was surreal — especially with a standing ovation at the end. Emotionally it was very satisfying, and the audience connected to the movie.”
A Family Man opens today in 10 markets including Cinema Village in New York and AMC Burbank Town Center, with further rollouts set for the coming weeks.
Person to Person
Director-writer: Dustin Guy Defa
Cast: Michael Cera, Abbi Jacobson, Philip Baker Hall
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
Producer Sara Murphy met Dustin Guy Defa at a birthday party in spring 2015. Defa told her about a script he had been developing, and the two hit it off. “He’s an incredible writer,” she said. “The language and dialogue [in the script] is organic to who he is. It hadn’t quite found its structure yet, but everything he had was very authentic and very New York. [Producers Toby Halbrooks and James M. Johnston], Dustin and I went through a couple of drafts. The base storylines don’t necessarily intersect, so there was freedom to bounce around. It was about balancing the tone because there are darker storylines and some comedic ones.”
In the film, a record collector hustles for a big score while his heartbroken roommate tries to erase a terrible mistake, a teenager bears witness to her best friend’s new relationship, and a rookie reporter — alongside her demanding supervisor — chases the clues of a murder case involving a life-weary clock shop owner.
The filmmaking team worked with casting directors Avy Kaufman and Eleonore Hendricks to assemble its actors, while turning to UTA, which found a group of independent investors including Bow and Arrow as well as filmmaker Joe Swanberg. “Avy introduced us to New York talent, while Eleonore had an understanding of blending seasoned talent with nonprofessional actors. We had a cast of 50, so they divided and conquered.”
Person to Person shot over 22 days in New York plus a pickup day. Murphy said the production was far from cookie-cutter. There were 70 locations and dozens of actors who were moving all the time. “Sometimes, a location would fall out,” said Murphy. “Our locations people were on high alert at all times. There were a lot of changes, so it was very intense. … We had to be small and nimble, and we called in a lot of favors. It was very challenging but ultimately impressive in how the production ran.”
Person to Person debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, but it seemed to find its real footing at SXSW, according to Murphy. The Austin fest ended up adding another screening of the film. It will have its international premiere at the Locarno Film Festival next month.
Talks began soon after Sundance with Magnolia Pictures, which picked up the title prior to its screening at SXSW. Person to Person opens today at the Nuart in L.A. and Film Society of Lincoln Center and Metrograph in New York. It will add seven cities the following week with further rollouts set throughout August and into September.
From the Land of the Moon
Director-writer: Nicole Garcia
Writers: Milena Agus (novel), Natalie Carter, Jacques Fieschi
Cast: Marion Cotillard, Louis Garrel, Álex Brendemühl
Distributor: Sundance Selects
IFC Films picked up rights to French drama From the Land of the Moon, starring Oscar winner Marion Cotillard and Louis Garrel, based on early footage they viewed prior to its premiere at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. It is opening under IFC’s Sundance Selects label.
Based on an international bestseller, From the Land of the Moon is the story of a free-spirited woman fighting for passionate dreams of true love against all odds. Gabrielle (Cotillard) comes from a small village in the South of France at a time when her dream of true love is considered scandalous, even a sign of insanity. Her parents marry her to José (Àlex Brendemühl), an honest and loving Spanish farm worker who they think will make a respectable woman of her. Despite José’s devotion to her, Gabrielle vows that she will never love José and lives like a prisoner bound by the constraints of conventional post-World War II society until the day she is sent away to a hospital in the Alps to heal her kidney stones. There she meets André Sauvage (Louis Garrel), a dashing injured veteran of the Indochinese War, who rekindles the passion buried inside her. She promises they will run away together, and André seems to share her desire.
“It opened in France at the end of the year,” said IFC Films’ Arianna Bocco. “We were waiting a little because we wanted to have the right screens at the right time. It’s a foreign-language film with a high-profile cast, and we think it has real potential in terms of its playability.”
The film “played very well” in April at the annual film series Rendez Vous with French Cinema in New York, which the company is hoping will help propel fans of French cinema to see the title as it begins its day-and-date release today. “Our [expectation] is that it will find its audience and that word-of-mouth will kick in,” said Bocco. “There are very few love stories out there right now with that level of cast. It is summer counterprogramming.”
Bocco said there will not be a “rush” to get it out in theaters, so while it will be on-demand, it will add theaters slowly. From the Land of the Moon opens today at IFC Center and Lincoln Plaza in New York, followed by Los Angeles next week along with a few additional markets.
Director-writer: Joshua Z Weinstein
Writers: Alex Lipschultz, Musa Syeed
Cast: Menashe Lustig, Yoel Falkowitz
One of the only films performed in Yiddish in 70 years, Sundance and Berlin debut Menashe was shot secretly within the Hasidic community in the Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn. It is based on the real life of its star, Menashe Lustig.
The father-son drama by debut director Joshua Z Weinstein follows a kind but hapless grocery store clerk trying to maintain custody of his son Rieven after his wife passes away. Since they live in a tradition-bound culture that requires a mother present in every home, Rieven is supposed to be adopted by the boy’s strict, married uncle, but Menashe’s rabbi decides to grant him one week to spend with Rieven prior to Lea’s memorial. Their time together creates an emotional moment of father-son bonding as well as offering Menashe a final chance to prove to his skeptical community that he can be a capable parent.
Weinstein, who lives in the Crown Heights area of Brooklyn, which also has a significant Hasidic community, was fascinated how this sizable group of people kept to themselves within such an otherwise diverse neighborhood. Over a year, he went to their events and prayer meetings, though he’s not particularly religious, according to producer Alex Lipschultz. There, he met Menashe, who became a vehicle for a big-screen story he wanted to make set within the community.
“Josh and I started working on this together in early 2015 after Sundance. There was no script yet, but I agreed to come on as a producer and co-wrote it,” said Lipschultz. “Josh, [Musa Syeed] and I banged out a draft quickly, and then we were constantly rewriting. We made this sort of like a documentary in which we’d shoot, then write and shoot again.”
Both Weinstein and Lipschultz had other projects taking place over the course of working on Menashe. Although Lipschultz had “trepidation” going in about how they would be received by the Hasidic population filming within their neighborhoods, they didn’t encounter hostilities. “The camera and boom would come out and we’d get a lot of curious onlookers,” he said. “In most parts of New York, most people are used to seeing camera crews, so they don’t care.”
Many of the actors in Menashe were nonprofessional. Lipschultz said some would “get cold feet” and not show up, so there was significant amount of last-minute casting. “It’s trickier than when you’re working with SAG-AFTRA, agents and everyone knowing their call times,” said Lipschultz. “We knew there would be complex and unique challenges, so we set about making it at a leisurely pace so we could adjust to working with their rhythms.”
Autumn Productions became involved with the project, though Lipschultz said many potential financiers asked why they were “wasting their time” working on a “niche story with no stars.”
“Menashe is still a universal tale,” said Lipschultz. “At festivals from Shanghai, Karlovy Vary and Edinburgh, all audiences responded to this movie. They can relate to the family dynamic.”
A24 picked up the title after its Sundance premiere. Lipschultz said the film had not initially “been on their radar,” but they were “super into it” after seeing Menashe. “Josh and I thought, ‘This isn’t going to happen,’” Lipschultz said. “But they came in with strong interest and followed up with a fantastic deal. They’re great partners.”
Menashe opens today at Lincoln Plaza and Angelika in New York, followed by the Laemmle Royal in L.A. with additional cities set for the following weeks.