More than a dozen new Specialty releases will crowd the fall box office this weekend, adding more heft to an already busy marketplace. Participant Media has two titles opening in theaters today, including Breathe (released with Bleecker Street) starring Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy, as well as Human Flow by Chinese artist/activist/filmmaker Ai Weiwei. The company partnered with Amazon Studios on the documentary hitting theaters in New York and D.C. today. Fox Searchlight is opening Goodbye Christopher Robin starring Domhnall Gleeson and Margot Robbie in five markets. Classic Hitchcock thriller Psycho gets a new look in IFC Midnight’s doc 78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene bowing day and date, while Kino Lorber will open Finland’s Foreign Language Oscar entry Tom of Finland in New York ahead of other markets.

More limited releases include Matson Films’ The Departure in New York followed next week in L.A. Vitagraph’s For Ahkeem will also follow a similar roll-out pattern. Others include Indican’s The Lucky Man, Parade Deck Films’ Man From Earth: Holocene, Vertical Entertainment’s The Secret Picture and Swing Away from Freestyle Releasing.

Bleecker Street/Participant Media

Breathe
Director: Andy Serkis
Writer: William Nicholson
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Claire Foy, Hugh Bonneville, Tom Hollander
Distributor: Bleecker Street/Participant Media

Breathe is the directorial debut of actor Andy Serkis, who is also helming upcoming feature The Jungle Book. The title is based on veteran producer Jonathan Cavendish’s parents. Some years back, Cavendish said he was looking for a story and realized he had a compelling drama close by.

“As a producer you’re always looking for great stories and it dawned on me that I was sitting on this great story that is a triumph over adversity,” said Cavendish. “I saw Shadowlands by Bill Nicholson and asked him to write [the screenplay for Breathe]. We worked on it for several years.”

The feature centers on the love story between Robin and Diana Cavendish, an adventurous couple who refuse to give up in the face of a devastating disease. When Robin is struck down by polio at the age of 28, he is confined to a hospital bed and given only a few months to live. With the help of Diana’s twin brothers and the groundbreaking ideas of inventor Teddy Hall, Robin and Diana dare to escape the hospital ward to seek out a full and passionate life together — raising their young son, traveling and devoting their lives to helping other polio patients.

“Andy Serkis has a background in disability and I knew he’d be a great person to direct,” said Cavendish who runs Imaginarium Productions with Serkis. “Bill [Nicholson] and I started talking about this ten years ago, and then seven or eight years later, Andy became involved. We had critical people come on board once Bill was on.” Among them were actors Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy who play the roles of Diana and Robin Cavendish. Jonathan Cavendish said that Imaginarium and others involved had a narrow period of time to get Breathe underway.

“We were making The Jungle Book, while Andrew and Claire had short windows last year,” he said. “But we had had a long development process, so the script was solid. It was just about getting the best locations. We shot over seven weeks in England and South Africa. Andy and I knew each other very well, so we had a short hand between us. As shoots go it was tight, but relatively easy. The actors were brilliant — all of them were. They came with a strong sense of what they were doing.”

Imaginarium had been working with Bleecker Street and Participant Media for a number of months testing the film in the U.K. and the U.S. Cavendish said women particularly “love it,” adding: “We’re also finding that young people adore it. I think in the world at the moment there is a lot of darkness and confusion, but a story like this shows that one can overcome cataclysmic events. It gives people a lot of hope.”

Breathe will open stateside today at Lincoln Square and the Angelika in New York, followed by the Landmark and Arclight Hollywood in L.A. The feature will open in the U.K. at the end of the month. Bleecker Street and Participant will take the title nationwide in the U.S. November 3.

Goodbye Christopher Robin
Director-writer: Simon Curtis
Cast: Domhnall Gleeson, Margot Robbie, Kelly MacDonald, Will Tilston
Distributor: Fox Searchlight

Searchlight is targeting adults 35-plus and fans of “nostalgia cinema” along with “upscale cinema” as it rolls out with Goodbye Christopher Robin this weekend. The distributor said the film is one of the company’s “highest-scoring with test audiences.”

The film gives a glimpse into the relationship between beloved children’s author A. A. Milne and his son Christopher Robin, whose toys inspired the magical world of Winnie the Pooh. Along with his mother Daphne, and his nanny Olive, Christopher Robin and his family are swept up in the international success of the books. The enchanting tales brought hope and comfort to England after the First World War. But with the eyes of the world on Christopher Robin, there are costs of success.

“It’s a compelling story that’s never been told before on film,” commented Fox Searchlight ahead of the feature’s release this weekend. “It gives background to one of the most beloved authors, and tells the story of how a beloved children’s book helped post-World War I England recover. Searchlight was able to package it with a great ensemble cast, including Margot Robbie and Domhnall Gleason.”

Damien Jones produced the title through his first-look pact with Searchlight along with the late Steve Christian. Searchlight rolled out the trailer in early August, supported simultaneously with talent push on social media. It received over 12M views within 72 hours, according to Searchlight. The film opened in the U.K. last Friday, grossing nearly $2.3M.

Searchlight is also partnering with Amazon’s global, digital “book club” community GoodReads on social media promotion and digital contest in addition to promoting the feature via traditional national print, TV and digital advertising.

Searchlight will open Goodbye Christopher Robin today in five markets including New York, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Washington, D.C. in a total of nine theaters.

Amazon Studios/Participant Media/Magnolia Pictures

Human Flow
Director: Ai Weiwei
Writers: Chin-Chin Yap, Tim Finch, Boris Cheshirkov
Distributors: Amazon Studios/Participant Media

Participant Media heard that Chinese-born artist Ai Weiwei was working on a project tied to the plight of refugees around the world, prompting producer Diane Weyermann to reach out to Ai, who was the subject of a 2012 documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry.

Captured over the course of an eventful year in 23 countries, the film follows a chain of urgent human stories that stretches across the globe in countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, France, Greece, Germany, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, and Turkey. Human Flow is a witness to its subjects and their desperate search for safety, shelter and justice. From teeming refugee camps to perilous ocean crossings to barbed-wire borders; from dislocation and disillusionment to courage, endurance and adaptation; from the haunting lure of lives left behind to the unknown potential of the future.

“After a period of getting to know each other, we realized fairly quickly we all connected and we came onto the project,” said Participant Media CEO David Linde. “It’s an epic story about the unparalleled displacement of individuals. It’s the largest displacement since World War II and that’s just simple fact. It is continuing now and it will continue unless we do something about it.”

Along with the broad reach of the film spotlighting refugee worldwide, Linde said Participant and distribution partner Amazon Studios have engaged in a “carefully orchestrated campaign” with NGOs that work with refugees around the world.

“The campaigns not only bring the film to audiences, but it gives them an opportunity to engage around the issue itself,” said Linde. “It’s very complementary. This is an audience that includes film lovers, activists and art lovers. It’s ultimately a very galvanizing experience.”

The U.S. will be the title’s first release, with Ai Weiwei taking part in select Q&As this weekend. Human Flow will open theatrically at the new Landmark 57 West as well as the Angelika Film Center in New York as well as in Washington, D.C. at the E Street Cinema. The doc will then head to over twenty additional cities including L.A. at the Royal and Bay Area locations. Additional markets will be added throughout the rest of 2017.

IFC Midnight

78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene
Director-writer: Alexander O. Philippe
Subjects: Jamie Lee Curtis, Guillermo del Toro, Peter Bogdanovich, Danny Elfman, Elijah Wood, Bret Easton Ellis, Eli Roth, Karyn Kusama
Distributor: IFC Midnight

In 1960, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho changed film history forever with its taboo-shattering shower scene. With 78 camera set-ups and 52 edits over the course of 3 minutes, Psycho redefined screen violence, set the stage for decades of slasher films to come, and introduced a new element of danger to the moviegoing experience. Aided by a roster of filmmakers, critics, and fans – including Guillermo del Toro, Bret Easton Ellis, Jamie Lee Curtis, Eli Roth, and Peter Bogdanovich – director Alexandre O. Philippe pulls back the curtain on the making and influence of this cinematic game changer, breaking it down frame by frame and unpacking Hitchcock’s dense web of allusions and double meanings.

“We saw it at Sundance and we flipped for it. It definitely fits in our wheelhouse,” said IFC Films EVP Acquisitions and Production Arianna Bocco. “The director is really passionate and knows his stuff. You can see that in the film. We’re very optimistic about [the film’s] potential.”

Since picking up the title, IFC Films has taken 78/52 to a number of festivals including the recent Fantastic Fest to build momentum. The company is also expecting its positive reviews coming out of festivals to propel the film as it heads into its day and date release this weekend.

“The reviews we see coming in are very strong,” said Bocco. “It’s been a concerted effort to raise [the feature’s] profile through festivals. It’s a unique film and there’s nothing like it out there now. We believe it’s going to hit its core audience of [Hitchcock, genre and doc fans], but will also appeal to a broader audience.”

Released via its IFC Midnight label, 78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene will open in New York today along with its on-demand release. It will head to L.A. theatrically next weekend.

Kino Lorber

Tom of Finland
Director-writer: Dome Karukoski
Writers: Aleksi Bardy, Mark Alton
Cast: Pekka Strang, Lauri Tilkanen, Jessica Grabowsky, Werner Daehn
Distributor: Kino Lorber

Kino Lorber first caught Tom of Finland at the European Film Market, coinciding with the Berlinale earlier this year. Because the artist, best known by his monicker, Tom of Finland, found notoriety after moving to California, the distributor is expecting the U.S. as the “other big market” for the film, which is also Finland’s submission for foreign language Oscar consideration.

The film centers on artist Touko Laaksonen, known to the world as Tom of Finland, shaped the fantasies of a generation of gay men, influencing art and fashion before crossing over into the wider cultural consciousness. But who was the man behind the leather? Dome Karukoski’s biopic follows his life from the trenches of WWII and repressive Finnish society of the 1950s through his struggle to get his work published in California, where he and his art were finally embraced amid the sexual revolution of the 1970s. Tom’s story is one of love, courage and perseverance, mirroring the gay liberation movement for which his leather-clad studs served as a defiant emblem.

We planned for a fall release so we could have a robust life at the gay film festivals,” said Kino Lorber’s Wendy Lidell. “It has played most of the gay festivals, and that’s clearly the target audience. But it’s also a film you can take your mother to. It’s sexy, but it’s not pornographic. It’s about an artist who became the lynchpin of the gay revolution at a perfect time in the U.S.”

Targeting the gay audience, and more specifically, the leather crowd, Kino Lorber is doing heavy promotion in bars that cater to the core community of fans of Tom of Finland. A number of big city gay bars are also giving away Tom of Finland condoms. There will also be a themed night at The Eagle bar in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood this weekend, not far from where the film will begin its theatrical run Friday.

“We’ve been collaborating with gay — and in particular, leather – bars,” said Lidell. “The film will appeal to older gay men who will remember that era when Tom of Finland was popularized. For the younger gay crowd, Tom of Finland has been a part of the fabric of their lives. Some of them may not have known where [the aesthetics originated], but it is a great piece of history.”

Tom of Finland will open at the Quad theater in downtown Manhattan with an exclusive run this weekend before heading to locations in Los Angeles and San Francisco on October 20. Liddell said the title will be in a dozen Landmark theaters over the next two months.