Brian Brooks is a Deadline contributor.
After co-writing last summer’s animated box office hit Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, Noah Baumbach returns to the Specialty realm with Frances Ha, which debuts this weekend theatrically. Baumbach co-wrote with Greta Gerwig, who also stars in the film. Also opening is veteran TV director Craig Zisk’s The English Teacher, starring Julianne Moore. French period drama Augustine joins Friday’s newcomers, starring Chiara Mastroianni, while Sundance Midnight thriller Black Rock also joins the fray along with Venice Golden Lion winner Pieta and Guy Pearce starter, 33 Postcards.
The feature, directed by Craig Zisk had its World Premiere at the recent Tribeca Film Festival, though distributor Cinedigm caught a private sneak of the film last fall in New York. “We fell in love with the playful wit of the screenplay, the polished direction by Craig Zisk and the terrific performances by the stellar cast, including Julianne Moore, Greg Kinnear, Nathan Lane, Michael Angarano and Lilly Collins”, noted Cinedigm’s co-president entertainment Susan Margolins. “We chose this weekend to follow closely on the heels of the film’s premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival.” The comedy-drama stars Moore as a high school English teacher who lives in a small town living a simple existence. A former pupil (Angarano) returns after failing to succeed as a playwright in New York, and she convinces him to produce his play at the school. But his overbearing father has other plans.
“The core audience is women 18-49, but the film appeals to a broad audience including men as well,” said Margolins. “It’s a great date movie and has an appealing cast. We are deploying an integrated Pre-Theatrical VOD release strategy using Tribeca as a midpoint of the campaign.” Cinedigm is using targeted publicity hits throughout the film’s pre-theatrical VOD window and is augmenting that with a grassroots outreach to teachers, libraries and bookstores. The distributor will open The English Teacher in Los Angeles and Pasadena where the filmmakers live and built-in support is in place. It will then head to additional markets including New York the following weekend.
Star Greta Gerwig, who also wrote Frances Ha with filmmaker Noah Baumbach, impressed the crew at IFC Films when they caught the film at Toronto and Telluride last year. The distributor formally picked up the title during its U.S. debut at the New York Film Festival. “Frances appealed to us on so many different levels [including] Greta’s superb performance; a female buddy movie; a breakout discovery performance by Mickey Sumner; a superb comedy from Noah Baumbach, a love letter to New York and specifically Brooklyn; the music and cinematography — pretty much everything,” said Jonathan Sehring, president Sundance Selects and IFC Films. “There is always a broad audience for great films which this is.” The feature revolves around a New York woman who doesn’t really have an apartment and apprentices for a dance company (though she’s not really a dancer), and throws herself full thrust into her dreams, even as their possibilities slowly disappear.
“It’s a comedy so the best way to get the word out about the movie is to screen it for as many as possible,” said Sehring. “It is a great word-of-mouth movie that leaves audiences with a smile on their faces.” Frances Ha will open in four locations in New York and Los Angeles including Lincoln Plaza and IFC Center as well as the ArcLight and Landmark. Over Memorial Day weekend it will expand to over 50 theaters in the top 25 markets. Added Sehring: “This is a traditional theatrical release, so the VOD/DVD release date won’t happen until several months after the theatrical release.”
Music Box Films picked up French period drama Augustine by debut director Alice Winocour who created the story after “reading between the lines” of voluminous notes on an actual case study by pioneering neurologist Jean Martin Charcot. The period drama, described as “superficially a French Dangerous Method, revolves around the relationship between Dr. Charcot and his teen patient who is a kitchen maid left partially paralyzed following a seizure. “We think this darkly sensual period drama will appeal strongly to the traditional art-house crowd, particularly a female audience that will respond to the empowering story of a young woman struggling to overcome the conventions and sexual politics of her day,” said Music Box head of marketing Brian Andreotti. “We also believe the fascinating true story that inspired the film will intrigue a larger group of people interested in psychology, and the mysteries of the mind and body.” Music Box has targeted natural constituents of this story including psychological organizations, university women/gender studies programs, feminist groups and the French community, according to Andreotti. “We are publicizing the fact that Augustine is the feature film debut of a promising new female director, starring a multi-talented young actress, through feature stories in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and other publications.”
Music Box will launch Augustine in a traditional platform release, opening five theaters – the Film Forum and Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center in New York and the Royal Theatre in L.A., along with Laemmle’s Town Center (Encino) and Playhouse (Pasadena) locations followed by further locations in a “methodical roll out” to the rest of the country. “We anticipate being in the top 25 markets by July 4 weekend,” added Andreotti.
As fans of Korean filmmaker Kim Ki-duk, Drafthouse Films had been tracking Pieta, which won the Golden Lion at last year’s Venice Film Festival. The drama centers on a loan shark who is forced to reconsider his violent lifestyle after the arrival of a mysterious woman claiming to be his long-lost mother. “[Kim] is one of those directors we will see anything he does until the end of time and we saw it in conjunction with our Fantastic Fest partners,” said Drafthouse Films’ James Shapiro. “After it won, we quickly moved in to close with [Seoul-based sales agency] Finecut during Toronto.” Drafthouse is in the midst of releasing a movie per month and admitted that there are no great weekends to release a film in May, but saw Pieta as a “strange way” they can connect to Mother’s Day. “Art-house audiences, fans of auteur-driven cinema, lovers of Asian/Korean cinema and those who like movies with an edge are core groups,” said Shapiro, describing Pieta‘s likely audiences. Added Shapiro: “We’re opening in 10 markets this weekend to qualify for ultra VOD status and we’ll hit some secondary markets in the coming weeks.”
On a quest at Sundance to find “the perfect film” that could be launched as a multi-platform release, distributor LD Entertainment felt it found the right title after screening thriller Black Rock at a Midnight screening at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012. The feature centers on three childhood friends who set aside their personal issues and head off for a girls’ weekend on a remote island off Maine. One wrong move turns their weekend, however, into a deadly fight for survival. “The deal was sealed when we saw people cheering in the audience,” said LD Entertainment president David Dinerstein. “It is rare to see a movie with three strong heroines and also a female filmmaking team led by the talented Katie Aselton.” Dinerstein said the film plays “extremely well” to men and women ages 18 – 34 and Aselton, along with Bosworth and Bell have been on the promotion circuit, with Bosworth slated for Chelsea Lately Thursday.
“We have had a great presence online utilizing exclusive clips, photos and interviews on both fanboy and movie sites,” added Dinerstein. “Katie Aselton and Mark Duplass will participate in Q&A’s in Los Angeles this weekend and Lake Bell will be in New York. In addition, our trailer has gotten tremendous exposure in theaters.” Black Rock will open in 15 markets theatrically Friday in addition to VOD and iTunes.
Gravitas’ Melanie Miller met Arclight Films VP Sales & Acqusitions during AFM in 2012 where he told her about 33 Postcards. Starring Guy Pearce, the film centers on a man who sponsors a Chinese orphan over many years who later arrives in Sydney out of the blue to thank him, and their lives change forever. “Gravitas is always looking to acquire English language films that have international appeal because we are often doing Video on Demand releases across many countries at once,” said Miller. “And not only did 33 Postcards have accolades and impressive production values, but it also stars Guy Pearce and personally I’ve been a fan since The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert.” Women will be the driving-force going to see 33 Postcards, according to Miller. “
Gravitas released 33 Postcards via VOD in April, which has built awareness leading up to its Friday release. Pearce also appears in Iron Man 3, currently in wide release. The company will open 33 Postcards in limited release in 10 markets that will include New York’s AMC Village and the Laemmle NoHo in North Hollywood. It will expand based on performance.