Brian Brooks is a Deadline contributor.

boxoffice-specialty__111212022432-200x150 (1)The first weekend of 2014 will usher in some new specialty releases and see the expansion of some high-profile late-2013 rollouts. Interior. Leather Bar., Travis Mathews and James Franco’s interpretation of the lost 40 minutes of 1980 feature Cruising, will begin a limited run that will likely find a core though limited audience given its leather sex bar backdrop. Magnolia Pictures will open the follow-up to Takeshi Kitano’s Outrage with Beyond Outrage, which had an ultra-VOD run beginning in late November. Late-December titles August: Osage County and The Invisible Woman will have small expansions this weekend on their way to wider release in the coming weeks. Also opening this weekend are crime drama The Best Offer from IFC Films, In No Great Hurry: 13 Lessons In Life With Saul Leiter from mTuckman Media and Tribeca Film’s thriller Open Grave.

interior1Interior. Leather Bar.
Directors: Travis Mathews, James Franco
Writer: Travis Mathews (screenplay)
Cast: Val Lauren, Christian Patrick, James Franco, Brenden Gregory, Brad Roberge, Robbie Acklen, Osbaldo Daniel Alvarez

Filmmaker Travis Mathews first feature I Want Your Love was playing festivals and caught the eye of James Franco, who asked to collaborate on a project an idea he had been considering. “James wanted to revisit (William Friedkin’s Cruising starring Al Pacino) in some capacity, and he wanted to explore sex as a storytelling tool,” said Mathews. “I was already familiar with both the film and its controversy, but neither of us were aware of these 40 minutes that were shaved off the original in order to secure an R rating.” Interior. Leather Bar. re-imagines the lost 40 minutes from Cruising, using it as a starting point to a broader exploration of sexual and creative freedom. Set in what looks like a leather bar replete with carnal indulgence, Mathews reached out to friends in L.A. as well as Brenden Gregory, who he worked with on I Want Your Love. Franco brought in Val Lauren, who is both a friend and someone who he had recently worked with on Sal. Lauren also had some resemblance to Pacino. “The rest of the cast was primarily chosen from a casting call at Playhouse West were a lot of actors were asked to decide in real time if they wanted to be part of experimental film that had gay sexuality floating around,” added Mathews.

“The reaction has evolved over the year, I think as more people realize that we didn’t remake Cruising and it’s not a movie with 40 minutes of S&M footage that may include a naked James Franco. I knew from the moment James and started talking that it would be a polarizing project, and that’s pretty much how it’s played out internationally.” The Sundance ’13 and Berlinale film was picked up by Strand in April. It will begin a limited theatrical run this weekend.

13799Beyond Outrage
Director-writer: Takeshi Kitano
Cast: Toshiyuki Nishida, Tomokazu Miura, Takeshi Kitano, Hideo Nakano, Yutaka Matshushige
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures

The sequel to Kitano’s Outrage centers on a police crackdown on organized crime that ignites a national yakuza struggle between rivals. The film played the Toronto, Venice, Austin and New York Film Festivals and picked up a Best Director win at the 2013 Asian Film Awards. “This film delivers even more all throughout than the first film,” said Magnolia’s Matt Cowal. “Anyone who liked the first film will definitely love this one.” The company also released the first film to limited theatrical grosses, though Cowal said that the first film had a fairly healthy response via VOD. Beyond Outrage came out via Ultra-VOD November 28 and has “done nicely” so far, according to Cowal. Magnolia will open Beyond Outrage at the Sunshine in New York this weekend, followed by other regional markets throughout January. Added Cowal, “Just like the first, it’s very violent and very entertaining.”

August Osage CountyAugust: Osage County
Director: John Wells
Writer: Tracy Letts (screenplay, play)
Cast: Meryl Streep, Dermot Mulroney, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, Ewan McGregor, Sam Shepard, Margo Martindale, Julianne Nicholson, Juliette Lewis
Distributor: The Weinstein Company

The feature opened December 27 in five theaters to the tune of $180K and a nearly $36K PSA. The dark comedic play, which won a 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, premiered in Chicago in June 2007 and on Broadway in December 2007. August: Osage County looks at the lives of a family of strong-willed women whose paths have diverged. A family crisis brings the clan back together at the Oklahoma house where they grew up and in shouting distance with their dysfunctional mother (Meryl Streep). “Harvey [Weinstein] loved the play and has been involved with the film [version] since before I arrived [at TWC],” said TWC president of Theatrical Distribution Erik Lomis ahead of the film’s rollout. August won five Tony Awards in 2008 including Best Play. The film has received two Golden Globe and SAG nominations for Streep andJulia Roberts as well as an ensemble cast nom by SAG. “When Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts came on board, you couldn’t ask for a better cast than that,” added Lomis. TWC noted after it opened last week that the film had an A- CinemaScore and said its exit polls were “through the roof.” Lomis said that TWC will expand August: Osage County into San Francisco and Chicago in five additional runs this weekend. It will open nationwide January 10.

Related: Meryl Streep, Margo Martindale & Abigail Breslin Talk ‘August: Osage County’: Video

The Invisible Woman posterThe Invisible Woman
Director: Ralph Fiennes
Writers: Abi Morgan (screenplay), Claire Tomalin (book)
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Felicity Jones, Kristin Scott Thomas, John Kavanagh, Tom Attwood, Tom Burke
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

SPC’s The Invisible Woman began its theatrical rollout Christmas Day after premieres in Telluride, Toronto, NYFF, Hamptons and AFI Fest. Directed by Ralph Fiennes, the film depicts Charles Dickens at the height of his career. He meets a woman who becomes his secret lover until his death. “We [opened] on Christmas Day because it’s so associated with Charles Dickens,” said Sony Classics co-president Michael Barker. “Ralph Fiennes stars and directs, and we’re thrilled with the reviews. We’re looking forward to a successful run.” The Invisible Woman opened in three locations, grossing $37K for a $12,383 per-screen average. Fiennes’ previous directorial effort, Coriolanus, opened in 9 theaters, grossing $61K for a $6,793 average. The title is a co-production spearheaded by Headline Pictures and Magnolia Mae Films. Development and production funding came from BBC Films and the BFI Film Fund as well as through U.S. financing. The Invisible Woman was shot over 10 weeks in the early summer of 2012. Fiennes initially didn’t intend to play Dickens, and UK film and theater actress Felicity Jones was cast as Ellen Ternan before he decided to star as well as direct. As it heads into its second weekend, SPC will expand the film into five additional runs in L.A. and will add New York locations. It will add more runs this month before heading into most major markets in February.