Wes Anderson fans will no doubt scramble to see the filmmaker’s latest, Isle Of Dogs, which heads out to a half-dozen cities this weekend ahead of a wider release. The stop-motion animated film, opening via Fox Searchlight, includes an impressive ensemble cast along with newcomers in a cross-cultural and species amalgam. Isle Of Dogs will be the most tracked of this weekend’s limited releases. Stanley Tucci heads out to theaters with Final Portrait Friday, his fifth big screen directorial. The Sony Pictures Classics bio-drama stars Geoffrey Rush and Armie Hammer. Music Box Films is opening French comedy-drama Back To Burgundy in New York before targeting California wine regions in its second weekend. And Abramorama is taking doc Summer in the Forest to targeted audiences following its run in the U.K.

Abramorama also has fellow doc What We Started in release this weekend following sneak peeks across the U.S. on Thursday, opening at Village East in New York and the Egyptian in L.A. Also in limited runs starting this weekend is Elis about the life of famed Brazilian singer Elis Reign via Cleopatra Entertainment. And Magnolia is opening Arnaud Desplechin’s Ismael’s Ghost in New York.

Fox Searchlight

Isle Of Dogs
Director-writer: Wes Anderson
Writers: Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman, Kunichi Nomura
Cast: Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum, Koyu Rankin, Lief Schreiber, Scrlett Johansson, Bob Balaban, Kunichi Nomura, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Courtney B. Vance, Harvey Keitel, Ken Watanabe, Yoko Ono, Fisher Stevens, Akira Ito, Tilda Swinton
Distributor: Fox Searchlight

Four years after the release of his previous feature, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Oscar-nominee Wes Anderson is heading out with stop-motion animation Isle Of Dogs via Fox Searchlight this weekend in 27 theaters in six North American markets. Though his latest follows a wide period of time from his successful The Grand Budapest Hotel, he had a script for Isle Of Dogs soon after Budapest’s release.

Isle Of Dogs tells the story of Atari Kobayashi, a 12 year-old ward to corrupt Mayor Kobayashi. When by executive decree all canine pets of Megasaki City are exiled to a vast garbage-dump called Trash Island, Atari sets off alone in a miniature junior-turbo prop and flies across the river in search of his bodyguard-dog Spots. There, with the assistance of a pack of newly-found mongrel friends, he begins an epic journey that will decide the fate and future of the entire prefecture.

Anderson teamed with collaborators Indian Paintbrush three years ago on his latest project. “We received the script in spring 2015 and started production in the fall [of that year],” explained producer Steven Rales of production company Indian Paintbrush. “We oversaw the production and pulled the levers to get it going.”

Rales said Anderson took the reins of the casting process, tapping a cross-section of well-known names and newcomers. “Wes is clearly at the helm when selecting the cast, and as is customary, he did a wonderful job. Some of the names are familiar, some are not. The role of Atari (Koyu Rankin) is a great discovery.” Anderson also tapped Courtney B. Vance for narrator. The two had met years ago at the Sundance Labs.

“We didn’t really finish until the end of last year,” said Rales. “Stop-motion animation is very challenging. A good animator doesn’t get more than ten seconds per week.”

Isle Of Dogs debuted at the Berlin International Film Festival last month and had a sneak screening at the recent SXSW Film Festival. It had a premiere at the Metropolitan Museum in New York earlier this week, followed by a screening Thursday night at the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

“The premiere in Berlin went well. The audience wasn’t as ‘animated,’ as in SXSW. In Austin, the audience was very raucous,” said Rales.

Inspired by Japanese cinema, Anderson explained at a Film Society of Lincoln Center Q&A that he “did not want to make” an animated, subtitled movie. The English-speaking canines contrast with the Japanese-speaking villains who exiled them, which has lead to some criticism. “We wanted for the movie to be as Japanese in our foreign way as we could make it, I guess.”

Searchlight is opening Isle Of Dogs in multiple locations in L.A., New York, Washington, D.C., San Francisco/Bay Area, Toronto and Austin Friday. The company, which took in $59.3M for The Grand Budapest Hotel in 2014 (the director’s highest), will expand to nearly two dozen other cities on Wednesday, March 28. The company expects it to be in between 450 – 550 theaters across North America by week 3.

Said Searchlight this week: “Based on the response at the box office, we will be prepared to add theaters if warranted with the print count possibly expanding to 1750 or more locations.”

Sony Pictures Classics

Final Portrait
Director-writer: Stanley Tucci
Cast: Geoffrey Rush, Armie Hammer, Tony Shalhoub, Sylvie Testud, Clémence Poésie
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

Bio-drama Final Portrait is the fifth big-screen directorial for Oscar-nominated actor Stanley Tucci. Producer Gail Egan and Tucci finished work on A Little Chaos (2014), which featured Tucci, when the two spoke about the script for Final Portrait.

“He had already written it… and had Geoffrey Rush attached,” she said. “I loved it. It was clever, witty and fun. We started work on it right away.”

Set in Paris in 1964, the film follows American writer and art-lover James Lord who is asked by his friend, the world-renowned artist Alberto Giacometti, to sit for a portrait. The process, Giacometti assures Lord, will take only a few days. Flattered and intrigued, Lord agrees. So begins not only the story of a touching and offbeat friendship, but, seen through the eyes of Lord, a uniquely revealing insight into the beauty, frustration, profundity and, at times, downright chaos of the artistic process. Final Portrait is a bewitching portrait of genius, and of a friendship between two men who are utterly different, yet increasingly bonded through a single, ever-evolving act of creativity.

The next steps in getting the project together was getting Armie Hammer to star opposite Rush and to secure financing. Tucci took care of the first step, visiting the actor on the set of another project. “Stanley went down to persuade him to be in the film,” said Egan. “But if you ask Armie, he’d say that he just said, ‘Yes.’ It all came together pretty quickly and easily.” Riverstone Pictures in the U.K. provided financing.

Final Portrait shot over four weeks in London. “We shot two-and-a-half weeks [at a studio] that we built, the rest of the shoot were exteriors in London,” said Egan. “There was a fantastic team behind the camera and there’s a pretty small cast, so it was just a pleasure.” Tucci worked with Camilla Toniolo on the edit.

The feature debuted at the 2017 Berlin International Film Festival. Sony Classics announced it had acquired the feature out of Cannes. “They’re perfect for the picture,” added Egan. “I had always said so, so it was a pleasure when they came on.”

SPC will open Final Portrait in three theaters in New York and L.A. this weekend.

Music Box Films

Back To Burgundy
Director-writer: Cédric Klapisch
Writer: Santiago Amigorena
Cast: Pio Marmaï, Ana Girardot, François Civil, Jean-Marc Roulot
Distributor: Music Box Films

Music Box Films president Bill Schopf caught Back to Burgundy at last year’s European Film Market in Berlin. Schopf found the film to be, “a good fit for our upscale, subtitled catalog,” according to Kyle Westphal, Theatrical Sales coordinator at Music Box. “We acquired Burgundy last summer, but held it back until we could open in the spring and position it for long runs.”

The feature centers on Jean who left his native Burgundy and the family wine business a decade ago to travel around the world. The black sheep of the family, he unexpectedly returns home to reconnect with his ailing father. When Jean’s father dies, his sister Juliette takes over the reins of the “domaine” together with their younger brother Jérémie who has recently married into one of the region’s more prestigious wine families. As the business is transferred to the children, a prohibitive inheritance tax must be dealt with. As four seasons and two harvests unfold, emotional and work-related conflicts erupt which will force the siblings to reinvent their relationships and their own life choices if they are to survive as a family and a business.

“Like many distributors, we felt that the post-Oscar corridor would be fertile territory for Burgundy,” explained Westphal. “Several key theaters are still holding onto Lady Bird and The Shape of Water, but we think audiences need fresh product, especially after a season of Foreign Language Oscar nominees with tough subject matter. Audiences are ready for lighter fare that goes down easily.”

Music Box is doing outreach with Francophone and Francophile groups as well as preview screenings for local chapters of Alliance Française along with festival screenings at Seattle’s French Cinema Now and the New Orleans French Film Festival, among others.

“Director Cédric Klapisch’s name is still a major enticement for exhibitors, who remember the fond audience response to L’Auberge Espagnole and its follow-ups, Russian Dolls and Chinese Puzzle,” noted Westphal. “We’re treating Back to Burgundy as a wine movie as much as a French one. We’ve partnered with La Paulée, America’s premier Burgundy festival, which hosted previews for wine influencers in New York and San Francisco and has been spreading the word among wine retailers in key markets.”

Additionally, Back To Burgundy opened the Sonoma International Film Festival, currently underway.

This weekend, Music Box will open Back to Burgundy at the Angelika Film Center in New York. Instead of a traditional New York and L.A. bow, the company is opening the title in three Northern California theaters to “capitalize on wine country interest,” according to Westphal. The feature will also open in Seattle.

Back to Burgundy will head to L.A., Washington, D.C., New Orleans, Dallas, and New York and New Jersey suburbs in the second week. Other major markets including Chicago, Philadelphia, San Diego, and Austin will be joining in early April. Added Westphal: “We have over sixty dates on the books already, which is terrific for a subtitled films in this day and age. We’re seeing strong interest from suburban theaters and encouraging venues with liquor licenses to set up Burgundy tastings in conjunction with their openings.”

Abramorama

Summer in the Forest
Director: Randall Wright
Distributor: Abramorama/Mangusta

Abramorama head Richard Abramowitz saw Summer In the Forest last year and was immediately drawn to the documentary. In the lead-up to its release this weekend stateside, the distributor has done outreach to both faith and disability communities. Catholic Churches and organizations have “been very receptive,” according to Abramowitz, engaging on the group sales front. “Tim Shriver and the Special Olympics have offered support on the disability side,” noted Abramowitz. “It’s a great opportunity for both of these groups to show the most positive perspectives of their worlds.

The doc focuses on several individuals. Like countless others Philippe, Michel, Andre and Patrick were labeled ‘idiots’, locked away and forgotten in violent asylums, until the 1960s, when the young philosopher Jean Vanier took a stand and secured their release – the first time in history that anyone had beaten the system. Together they created L’Arche, a commune at the edge of a beautiful forest near Paris and a quiet revolution was born.  Now in his 80s and still at L’Arche, Jean has discovered  something that most of us have forgotten: what it is to be human, to be foolish….and to be happy.

“It’s a deeply beautiful film about a movement to deal humanely with an often ignored community, and Jean Vanier, who founded this organization that now numbers 150 centers around the world, is the living embodiment of a humble, generous spirit,” commented Abramowitz. “The film’s success in the U.K., both critically and commercially, confirmed our belief in the film’s ability to engage audiences.”

Abramorama will release between 15 and 20 non-fiction films this year. Many will fall in the company’s core docket of music-themed releases. “[It’s] more manageable than it might seem because quite a few will be what’s really become our specialty, music-themed event releases, and they tend to have more concentrated availabilities,” noted Abramowitz.

Summer In the Forest will open exclusively in New York this weekend. It will head to L.A. April 6 as well as “a few other markets,” according to Abramowitz, adding: “The rest of the country and Canada will follow throughout April and into May. We expect the film to stay alive in theaters for a while because it’s that rare documentary where audiences feel better leaving the theater than they do going in.”