This is a jam-packed weekend of new releases, many hoping to be the perfect counter-programming pick against Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Magnolia is opening Nymphomaniac: Vol II just weeks after releasing Vol. I in theaters. The film is the continuation of the much talked about Lars von Trier two-parter that has fascinated fans of the Danish filmmaker for well over a year. Documentaries are also on tap this weekend, including Errol Morris’ The Unknown Known and Zeitgeist’s The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came To Eden. CBS Films is bowing Afflicted, a title it became involved with early on, while Magnolia will open comedy Alan Partridge. Cannes Camera d’Or winner Ilo Ilo from Singapore is opening in limited release, while Codeblack/Lionsgate will launch Frankie & Alice in over 150 theaters. Other titles not profiled in depth but also among this weekend’s packed list of theatrical openers include Searchlight’s Dom Hemingway, Anchor Bay’s In The Blood and TWC’s On The Other Side Of The Tracks. And A24 will open Jonathan Glazer’s experimental sci-fi Under The Skin starring Scarlett Johansson in limited release.
Magnolia opened the first part of Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac duo theatrically March 21 (it was available via digital/VOD beginning March 6) and is now following up with the second part of the film, which follows the saga of sex addict Joe (she prefers the term ‘nymphomaniac,’ however). Charlotte Gainsbourg is featured more prominently in Vol. II, depicting the older Joe in the final installment of the film, following up Vol. I in which Stacy Martin is seen primarily as the younger Joe (porn stars are used for Joe’s sex scenes). Though both parts are currently available via digital/VOD (Vol. II launched on demand March 20), there will be some theaters that will screen both films for audiences preferring to see both parts back to back. “It was important for us to treat [both parts] as two distinct releases, but we wanted to open them close together,” said Magnolia exec Matt Cowal. “The film has been performing well on demand. The trend is quite positive and continues to grow.” Nymphomaniac: Vol. I grossed over $158K in 25 theaters ($6,335 PTA) its first weekend and has cumed over $367K theatrically through the end of March. “It hasn’t been just a blast of curiosity,” said Cowal. “I think what’s going to make this film successful at the end of the day is that it’s entertaining and a cinematic experience. The curiosity factor is great, but it delivers in real terms as well.” Nymphomaniac: Vol. II will open in 25 markets Friday and will have a robust expansion in the coming weeks. Noted Cowal: “Vol. I performed theatrically despite VOD and we have a lot of exhibitor support for Vol. II. People who have seen Vol. I just have to see Vol. II.”
Veteran documentarian Errol Morris reached out to former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in a letter, sending him a DVD of The Fog Of War. “People ask me if it was a difficult process to cajole him,” Morris told a small group of people last week at a taste-maker screening of the film, hosted by event PR maven Peggy Siegal in Columbus Circle in New York. “But the answer was it wasn’t. People said there was no way he’d cooperate… He responded to me immediately. He invited me to come to his offices in Washington and one of the first things he told me was how much he hated The Fog Of War. He didn’t say he’d seen it, he just told me he hated it.” The 103-minute doc covers Rumsfeld’s career – including his two stints as the U.S. Defense chief — spanning his early days from the ’60s through the invasion of Iraq. While it’s comprehensive, the film spends the bulk of the time covering the controversial Iraq war. “He came to Boston five separate times gave me over 30 hours of interview material to work with,” said Morris. “Gave me access to almost all the declassified ‘snowflakes’ (memos) he had written. He’s charming and well spoken and yet I’m left with this very strange interview. It’s an interview I’m still very much puzzled by.” The Unknown Known debuted at Telluride and Venice and curiously screened at Fantastic Fest, before heading to Chicago, AFI Fest and Doc NYC. Morris wrote a three-part article for The New York Times, published in the lead-up to this week’s theatrical debut titled “The Certainty Of Donald Rumsfeld.” “The question I’m asked most often is why and the hell is he speaking to you?” said Morris. “I asked him that and his answer is, ‘That’s a vicious question’ and the second part is ‘I’ll be darned if I know’ and that is the same theme that runs through everything.” The Unknown Known will open day and date limited release including the Sundance Sunset Cinemas and Laemmle Monica in LA, Laemmle Playhouse in Pasadena as well as the Angelika and Lincoln Plaza in New York.
The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came To Eden
Director-writers: Daniel Geller, Dayna Goldfine
Narration: Cate Blanchett, Sebastian Koch, Thomas Kretschmann, Diane Kruger, Connie Nielsen, Josh Radnor
Distributor: Zeitgeist Films
Zeitgeist released filmmakers Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldfine’s doc Ballets Russes in 2005 and heard plans for The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came To Eden back then. The film centers on the little known tale about an unsolved 1930s murder mystery set amidst a handful of Europeans, Americans and Ecuadorians who settled in the islands in the 1930s. It follows the search for paradise and what happens when a group of individualists settle on the same small island “seeking their own clashing ideas of Eden.” “They’re terrific filmmakers and so we acquired it prior to their premiere in Telluride,” said Zeitgeist co-president Emily Russo. “They really scored with an incredible cast of voiceover artists.” Bay area residents, the filmmakers met Cate Blanchett while she was filming Blue Jasmine and directly asked her to take part, according to Russo. “The Galapagos is an area of fascination and many people have been there and want to go there so playing off the travel/adventure crowd and naturalists,” said Russo. “It’s such an unknown story so we’re getting people intrigued in that murder/mystery kind of way that allow people to get into this ‘who done it’ fascination.” Zeitgeist will open The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came To Eden at Lincoln Plaza in New York this weekend and will head to the Shattuck Theatre in Berkeley before playing The Royal in Los Angeles April 18. It will head to about 50 markets through spring.
CBS Films boarded Canadian-produced thriller Afflicted while it was still in production. It is written, directed and stars Clif Prowse and Derek Lee in a story about two best friends who see their trip of a lifetime take a dark turn when one of them is struck by a mysterious condition. In a foreign land, they race to uncover the source before it’s too late. A person knowledgeable about the projects said that CBS Films committed a production budget of under a half million dollars. Afflicted had a limited but notable festival run in the lead-up to this weekend’s release. It bowed at the Toronto International Film Festival last September, taking a Special Jury Citation for Best Canadian First Feature Film followed by a trio of wins at Fantastic Fest soon after TIFF, winning Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay in the Horror Features category. CBS Films then took it to Halloween Fest at Lincoln Center and the Hollywood Horror Fest to drum up word-of-mouth. “Afflicted is a great movie that cost very little, which we picked up while they were still shooting,” said CBS Films’ VP of Communications Grey Munford. “Derek [Lee] and Clif [Prowse] went on Carson Daly and spoke to pretty much every single genre blogger. They’ve done everything. They are talking with mainstream press as the roll out continues.” CBS Films will target its release to areas where it sees the film gathering momentum. It will have an initial 44-theater open in the top ten markets in the U.S. It will also open day and date/VOD. “The tail is pretty long for VOD,” added Munford. “With the low cost of this, we’re very confident we’ll make money through the life of the film.”
Director: Declan Lowney
Writers: Peter Baynham, Steve Coogan, Neil Gibbons, Rob Gibbons, Armando Iannucci
Cast: Steve Coogan, Colm Meaney, Tim Key, Karl Theobald, Nigel Lindsay, Felicity Montagu, Dustin Demri-Burns
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
Magnolia Pictures picked up rights to comedy Alan Partridge after viewing scenes from what would become the feature at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. Coogan plays the fictional DJ Alan Partridge, whose radio station is taken over by a new media conglomerate, setting in motion a chain of events in which Partridge must work with police to defuse a potentially violent siege. “We knew right away it was incredibly funny,” said Magnolia exec Matt Cowal. “It was a broad commercial release in the UK last fall where it did quite well.” The movie has already grossed over $9.57 million in various territories. It had its U.S. debut at the New York Film Festival, followed by the Chicago International Film Festival and played Rotterdam in January. “Alan is a beloved well known character that has been around for twenty years,” said Cowal. “We’ve been screening the film for film clubs and other word-of-mouth [events]. Familiarity of the character is not a requirement, but there are a lot of die-hard Alan Partridge fans in the U.S. Magnolia will open Alan Partridge at the Angelika in New York and the Royal and Sundance Sunset Cinema in LA as well as The Mayfair in Ontario. It will head to New Orleans and Albuquerque the following two weeks and then head to Berkeley, Denver, San Diego, Scottsdale, AZ and Waterloo, ON mid-April, later continuing on to all major markets.
Ilo Ilo took last year’s Camera d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, the first Singapore film to win a major prize at the French event. The win immediately upped the profile of the film at home and around the world. Set in the city-state in the late ’90s around the time of the Asian financial crisis, Ilo Ilo (named after a province in the Philippines) centers on the burgeoning relationship between a Filipino maid and the young son of middle class parents who struggle with finances. “I was very adamant about keeping the budget low,” said writer-director-producer Anthony Chen. “I wanted autonomy and full cutting rights, so I kept it low in order to maintain that control. We made it for about $500K U.S. That’s not a lot I guess.” Chen spent two years writing the family drama. Casting also was a lengthy effort. The role of the adolescent son was a ten-month search. Chen and crew visited over 20 schools in Singapore, meeting 8,000 children, eventually formally auditioning 2,000 before short-listing 150. Professional actors were cast for the parents as well as the maid. Chen traveled to the Philippines, meeting 40 actresses before deciding on Angeli Bayani. “Every first feature is very hard,” said Chen. “I didn’t just write and direct, but I also produced, cast and raise financing, buy the props, borrow props, etc. There was a lot of blood, sweat and tears.” Film Movement picked up the title, which is in Mandarin, English and some Tagalog, out of Cannes last year where the film received a 15-minute standing ovation. It will open with a limited theatrical run this weekend at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center and Cinema Village in New York this weekend, followed by the Laemmle Royal in LA and Scottsdale, AZ next week. It will head to more cities through April and May.
Lionsgate label Codeblack picked up Halle Berry starrer Frankie & Alice last September after tracking the film, which had its world premiere at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival and at AFI Fest later that year. Berry received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture-Drama in 2011, but the film stalled after that. The drama-thriller centers on a woman with multiple personality disorder and struggles to cope with her disease. “We didn’t have any prior history with the film before we picked it up last September,” said Codeblack president Jeffery Clanagan. “We’re positioning the film with female audiences and have teamed with organizations that focus on multiple personality disorders to spread the word.” Clanagan said this weekend is a good fit for Frankie & Alice as counter-programming to the male-heavy Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which opens wide. “We’re doing heavy online marketing and have gone out to BET and others,” said Clanagan. “The [movie] was also a top trending topic on Twitter.” Berry has also gone out to promote the film with appearances on Extra and E News. Similarly to the February release of Forest Whitaker starrer Repentance, the film will open in a moderate number of theaters, capitalizing on its media attention in a fell swoop. Frankie & Alice will bow in 162 theaters in the top 15 markets and will expand based on performance. Repentance opened in 152 theaters February 28, grossing just over $501K ($3,298 average). It has cumed nearly $1.19 million domestically to date.