Brian Brooks is a Deadline contributor.
Oscilloscope may have the weekend’s biggest Specialty newcomer with 12 O’Clock Boys. The SXSW competition feature was a hit with audiences at the Austin, TX festival and played well there. It will have a fairly sizable opening for a documentary Friday. Anchor Bay’s At Middleton will play over a dozen runs. The Seattle International Film Festival premiere stars Andy Garcia and Vera Farmiga in the romantic comedy. Other roll outs will be much more niche with First Run’s Peter Brook: The Tightrope targeting a New York theater/actor audience. Magnet’s Best Night Ever is an Ultra-VOD release that will have only one run outside the major markets before adding some playdates in the coming weeks.
Documentary 12 O’Clock Boys was an in-demand choice at the 2013 SXSW Film Festival where it premiered in competition. The feature is a stylish look at the 12 O’Clock Boys, a group of teens from West Baltimore who illegally ride their bikes en masse through the streets. The film follows story of impressionable young Pug, who aspires to join them. “I hired [director] Lotfy Nathan based on a short film he did,” said producer Eric Blair of Mission Film. “The short film did not have the same characters. I asked him to continue shooting footage and see about turning it into a feature.” Blair also grew up in the neighborhoods where he saw the 12 O’Clock Boys ride. Blair was aware of their mantra “living free by riding free” and used that as inspiration to inject lush slow-motion scenes into Nathan’s feature. It is also complemented with a score by the Baltimore Boys Choir. “That gave it this other-worldly feeling,” said Blair. “We’re very proud of it.” Blair initially kicked in the first round of financing, followed up by two Kickstarter campaigns as well as a private investor who brought additional funds. “As footage got more exciting and dynamic we got more people willing to put resources into it,” said Blair. “Lotfy was living with characters in the film. He put in an enormous amount of time living it.”
Nathan joined the riders as they rode the streets of Baltimore, gaining the trust of its members who often run from the police (as seen in the film). Noted Blair: “The riders have a history enjoying seeing themselves on camera so they were certainly excited to see themselves on camera. Lofty to his credit spent a lot of time gaining their trust. I don’t want to say he’s invisible but performing the work of a journalist and gaining their trust. He rode on the back of their motorcycles to get footage and therefore carved out a place for himself as a trusted person to tell their story. Some of the footage would go on YouTube and they got immediate feedback and satisfaction.” Oscilloscope approached the filmmakers at SXSW about distribution and won over Nathan and Blair. “Lotfy and I felt they had best pulse on it. I also was a fan of a lot of the films in their roster. I respected the films they were willing to take a chance on. Others made offers, but they understood how this film was born.” 12 O’Clock Boys will open in Austin, Baltimore, New York, L.A., Toronto and about two dozen cities Friday. It will add markets in November.
Peter Brook: The Tightrope
Director-writer: Simon Brook
Co-writer: Peter Brook
Subjects: Peter Brook, Hayley Carmichael, Jos Houben, Gauderic Kaiser, Micha Lescot, Marcello Magni
Distributor: First Run Features
English theater, film director and innovator Peter Brook gets the documentary treatment in a new film by Simon Brook out this weekend. The Tightrope is a total immersion into the creative process behind Brook’s work, which is billed as “deeply personal” and shows what it takes to “make theater real.” “We’re fans of Peter Brook,” said First Run’s Marc Mauceri. “We were excited to be involved with one of the biggest theater directors of the time.” Brook’s son Simon Brook directed the feature, which debuted at the Venice Film Festival in 2012. Mauceri said the film’s limited festival run (it played a handful of other events after Venice) is being augmented by a New York Times event taking place in New York, the main market First Run will focus on for now. “They’re advertising their [event] both on their site and in print, raising awareness of Peter and the film,” added Mauceri. In addition to its NYT event, the film had “pre-screenings” at BAM in Brooklyn ahead of its theatrical run exclusively at the Film Society of Lincoln Center beginning Friday. First Run has also reached out to various acting groups as well as Juilliard (located in proximity to Film Society venues in NYC) to spread the word.
“We’re going to focus ourselves on the [New York run] and make it as successful as possible,” added Mauceri. “If it proves successful as we hope and expect it will, we’ll take it out further. It is a London, Paris, New York kind of film, it won’t necessarily play in Des Moines.” Mauceri noted that Brook has a new play titled The Suit, which will go to a half-dozen cities or so later this year and the distributor plans to trail the show with The Tightrope as it opens.”
Director-writer: Adam Rodgers
Writer: Glenn German
Cast: Andy Garcia, Vera Farmiga, Taissa Farmiga, Spencer Lafranco, Nicholas Braun, Tom Skerritt, Peter Riegert
Distributor: Anchor Bay Films
A world premiere at last year’s Seattle International Film Festival, At Middleton screened throughout the summer and fall at a host of festivals including Maui, Woodstock, Mill Valley, Austin, Denver as well as the New York Film Critics Series. The romantic-comedy is straightforward enough. Two parents fall in love over the course of a single day after they ditch their children’s college tour. Anchor Bay, however, boarded the project at the script stage. “Anchor Bay Films was sent the script with Andy Garcia attached and we were thrilled to commit to it early on,” said the distributor’s president Bill Clark. “We had a great working relationship with Andy on his other film City Island so this was a good fit for us.” The filmmakers and cast have taken a hands on approach to getting the word out in the lead up to this weekend’s release, attending many of the festivals it played through the end of 2013. Anchor Bay will open At Middleton in over 20 theaters and will be available on demand and iTunes.
Following in the tradition of other bachelorette features, Best Night Ever takes the antics to Las Vegas where Claire goes with her sister and two friends. And, perhaps not surprisingly, things get out of control. “The story was inspired by hearing stories over the years from our wives and female friends of crazy, debaucherous, out of control bachelorette parties they’ve attended,” said co-director Jason Friedberg. “We thought it would make for a good comedy. All the stories usually started at some genteel spa and then went horribly wrong shortly thereafter.” The pre-wedding party genre has had some cache at the box office. Universal’s Bridesmaids made over $169.1 million in the U.S., but of course this will hardly scratch those kind of numbers. RADiUS-TWC’s 2012 Sundance feature Bachelorette was much more down to earth with a half million dollar or so domestic box office take, though the film was rumored to be a much bigger hit in VOD, eclipsing its big screen gross. Best Night Ever was released on demand December 26 and will likely see most of its cash via that route. The feature was independently financed by Blumhouse Prod. and the Safran Co. Production began eight months after Friedberg and fellow director-writer Aaron Seltzer completed the script.
“We were looking for complete unknown actors and we cast through the traditional means – our casting directors were Lauren and Jordan Bass who were recommended by Jason Blum,” noted Friedberg. “The shoot was fast and hard but very fun. Shooting on Fremont Street in downtown Vegas at all hours of the night was crazy – oftentimes our fearless actresses had to fend off the drunken advances of passersby as the cameras rolled.”
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