We are still a little more than a month away from the official start of awards season, but for IFC‘s smash-out-of-the-box indie hit, Boyhood, it already began in earnest on Sunday with back-to-back screenings and Q&As for members of the newly chosen 2000-strong Screen Actors Guild Nominating Committee, and later its official Academy screening at the newly re-opened Samuel Goldwyn Theatre at the Acad’s Beverly Hills headquarters. The SAG nom comm is just beginning its long schedule of these kinds of screenings, and Sunday afternoon’s was the first big one in LA, although I am told there were a couple of smaller films for the nom comm early in June just as the randomly-chosen group of actors was formed for this year’s race. They packed the Pacific Design Center’s screening room and after the Q&A with stars Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke and young Ellar Coltrane along with writer/director Richard Linklater, the SAG crowd gave them all a heartfelt standing ovation. I moderated and there was also much applause when I brought each of them on stage for the 40-minute conversation. The making of the film on 36 shooting days over the course of 12 years has been a well-publicized story this summer, and each of them offered detailed answers on various aspects of a film that is unique in motion picture history, particularly from the point of view of actors making a movie one week a year for a decade. Towards the end of the session, one audience member wanted to know if the group was up for trying this again in some shape or form. Maybe even a sequel? Linklater didn’t dismiss the idea, but Arquette who is in the midst of a promotional blitz just getting this one open, said to big laughs from the audience, “You don’t ask a lady in the middle of childbirth, ‘Hey are you thinking about having another baby?'” Another question about the logistics of getting financial backing for the seemingly risky experiment drew a response from Linklater that he was grateful to IFC for taking the leap of faith with them all those years ago. He said he never worried about any of the cast or principals not finishing the project, but ironically noted that it was especially significant in an industry known for constant executive suite changes that IFC’s Jonathan Sehring, the man who greenlit the film, was also still in that job 12 years later.
The original plan for the release of the film, which has so far earned just under $2M in 10 days for a $35,230 per screen average after jumping from five to 34 theatres, was to go very slowly before hitting a much larger number of screens toward the end of August as students go back to school. But IFC is getting heavy pressure from theatre owners to expand now, particularly with the mounds of publicity it has been getting. Next weekend it should be in north of 125 screens, but Linklater told me they still intend to take it slow, or so he hopes. He knows it not only has the strong support of IFC, but also parent company AMC Networks and its head Josh Sapan. Indeed this one is a marathon, not a sprint. The actors have also been doing in-theatre q&as over both weekends so far. In fact, Hawke told me he did one at the Hollywood Arclight Saturday night where the film is so popular it has been outgrossing Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes there. They moved the prime show into the much larger 900+ seat Cinerama Dome and knocked Apes off that screen for the screening/Hawke Q&A.
As for the Motion Picture Academy screening later Sunday afternoon, I am told by one audience member who attended that it was “packed”. Another told me it was about 70% full although I hear it was more full than that, that the reaction was very strong, and it went over “really well” with the Oscar crowd who seemed pumped to see what all the talk was about this critically acclaimed movie which currently stands at 99% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and is the first film this year to receive the kind of Oscar buzz that translates into Best Picture nominations.
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