Back in March, Roadside announced that they acquired U.S. rights. For Emmerich and screenwriter Jon Robin Baitz, Stonewall is a passion project, and its release arrives at a time when the LGBT community has made great strides toward equality: SCOTUS legalized same-sex marriage, the Boy Scouts of America lifted its ban on gay leaders and the Pentagon recently allowed transgender people to serve openly in the military.
“It was the first time gay people said ‘Enough!'” said Emmerich in statement about the Stonewall Riots. “They didn’t do it with leaflets or meetings, they took beer bottles and threw them at cops. Many pivotal political moments have been born by violence. If you look at the civil rights movement, at Selma and other events of that kind, it’s always the same thing. Stonewall was the first time gay people stood up and they did it in their own way. Something that really affected me when I read about Stonewall was that when the riot police showed up in their long line, these kids formed their own long line and sang a raunchy song. That, for me, was a gay riot, a gay rebellion.”
The film, which stars Jeremy Irvine, Jonny Beauchamp, Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Ron Perlman, is set against the riots at the Stonewall Inn. At the time, it was illegal for gay people to congregate, and police brutality against gays went unchecked. Irvine plays Danny Winters, who flees to New York City after being kicked out of his parents’ house. Homeless and destitute, he befriends a group of street kids who soon introduce him to the local watering hole The Stonewall Inn; however, this shady, mafia-run club is far from a safe haven. As Danny and his friends experience discrimination, endure atrocities and are repeatedly harassed by the police, a rage begins to build.
Roadside Attractions has been having a notable summer, crossing over arthouse hits to the multiplexes. Bill Pohlad’s Brian Wilson biopic Love & Mercy has grossed $11.8M through this weekend, becoming Roadside’s third highest grossing film in its history behind Mud ($21.6M) and A Most Wanted Man ($17.2M). Last weekend, Roadside bowed Mr. Holmes in 361 theaters, grossing $2.4M with a per theater of $6,745.