Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara will add sizzle to the indie box office this weekend with the theatrical roll out of Todd Haynes’ Carol, based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Price of Salt. The Weinstein Company release should add momentum to the field of limited releases out in theaters that have gained traction this month, including Open Road’s Spotlight and Fox Searchlight’s Brooklyn. France’s submission for mustang 3Best Foreign Language Oscar consideration, Mustang, rolls out in three New York and L.A. locations this weekend from Cohen Media, while Sundance Selects’ timely Mediterranea will bow exclusively in New York in a day and date release. TheatriCast actually debuted Hitting The Apex in a one-night ‘eventised’ evening of screenings at a few dozen theaters Tuesday, using a model it believes is a template for maximizing a big-screen life for indie titles. FilmBuff’s sci-fi documentary Skyline will have a digital bow Friday in addition to limited event screenings in the wake of its DOC NYC premiere this past week. And Music Box Films is opening Ophir Award-winning doc, Censored Voices in a qualifying run ahead of a wider roll out. Other limited release roll outs include Indican’s On War, Strand’s The Summer of Sangaile and IFC’s #Horror.

Director: Todd Haynes
Writers: Phyllis Nagy, Patricia Highsmith (novel)
Cast: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Kyle Chandler, Jake Lacy, Sarah Paulson, John Magaro, Cory Michael Smith, Kevin Crowley
Distributor: The Weinstein Company
No. of theaters: Four in NY and LA. The Paris and Angelika in NYC, Arclight and Landmark on Pico in LA.

CarolTodd Haynes’ anticipated Carol should be a winner at the box office this weekend and potentially a potent competitor as awards season marches on. Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara star in the feature about forbidden yearning. The film, which made its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival earning a 10 minute-plus standing ovation, also scored a Best Actress win for Rooney Mara at the fest (tied with Emmanuelle Bercot for Mon Roi). Carol is also nominated for three Gotham Awards including Best Film, Best Actress for Cate Blanchett and the Writer Award.

The feature adaptation of Highsmith’s novel (later re-published as Carol) follows two women from very different backgrounds who find themselves in an unexpected love affair in 1950s New York. A young woman in her 20s, Therese Belivet (Mara), is a clerk working in a Manhattan department store and dreaming of a more fulfilling life when she meets Carol (Blanchett), an alluring woman trapped in a loveless, convenient marriage. As an immediate connection sparks between them, the innocence of their first encounter dims and their connection deepens. While Carol breaks free from the confines of marriage, her husband (Kyle Chandler) begins to question her competence as a mother, particularly as her previous with her best friend Abby (Sarah Paulson) come to light.

“It’s really well-done and shot beautifully. Starting in Cannes earlier this year, Carol blew the roof off,” said The Weinstein Company’s president of Theatrical Distribution, Erik Lomis. “We have a lot of confidence in this movie and we’re going out in a very deliberate slow release. Harvey [Weinstein] is famous for that. We’re going to handle this with kid gloves as should be the case.”

“We obviously have a lot of experience hitting this market,” said Lomis. “We’ve had the trailer up for a considerable amount of time and our social media and usual outlets have been targeting the upscale audience. We think we’ll see a very solid performance this weekend.”

This is the first big screen feature for Haynes since 2007’s I’m Not There (he had spent time on television projects in the years after that, including the HBO mini-series Mildred Pierce).

Director-writer: Deniz Gamze Ergüven
Writer: Alice Winocour
Cast: Günes Sensoy, Doga Zeynep Doguslu, Elit Iscan, Tugba Sunguroglu, Ilayda Akdogan, Nihal G. Koldas
Distributor: Cohen Media Group
Theaters: Royal in Los Angeles, Lincoln Plaza and IFC Center theaters in NYC

Cohen Media Group’s Turkish-language feature, Mustang, heads into release this weekend with some festival momentum. Director Deniz Gamze Ergüven won the New Auteurs Audience Award at the recent AFI Fest on the heels of winning an Audience prize at the Chicago International Film Festival last month. It debuted in Cannes Directors Fortnight where it won the Europa Cinemas Award.

mustangSet in a village in northern Turkey, the story revolves around Lale and her four sisters, who are seen walking home from school, playing innocently with some boys. The immorality of their play sets off a scandal that has unexpected consequences. The family home is progressively transformed into a prison; instruction in homemaking replaces school and marriages start being arranged. The five sisters who share a common passion for freedom, find ways of getting around the constraints imposed on them.

“I saw the movie in Cannes at one of the 8am screenings that could go one of many ways, but this was love at first sight,” said Cohen Media Group president Daniel Battsek. “It’s one of those movies that was a real discovery.”

Mustang‘s festival run including other events in Mill Valley, Philadelphia and more were the film’s primary awareness-building conduits ahead of its release stateside. Ergüven and the feature’s five actresses have also been traveling with the film in this country to capitalize on word-of-mouth and local media.

Added Battsek: “We’re trying to sustain the roll out over a fairly long time. We’re hopeful it will make the short list in mid-December, and if it does, we’ll be working for the nomination. But we’ll stay as flexible as possible.”

Director-writer: Jonas Carpignano
Cast: Koudous Seihon, Alassane Sy, Pio Amato, Paolo Sciarretta, Sinka Bourehima, Francesco Papasergio
Distributor: Sundance Selects

mediterraneaProducer Ryan Zacarias joined the Mediterranea filmmaking team about a year into the project. He came on board with additional financing for the feature through a private investor ahead of the start of the title’s principal photography in Italy at the end of April, 2014. Mediterranea is based on the short A Chjàna, which won a prize at the 2011 Venice Film Festival.

The timely feature is an eye-opening look at an all-too-real issue that charts the death-defying struggle of African migrants as they risk everything to start a new life in Europe. Ayiva and Abas are close friends from Burkina Faso determined to make it to Italy in order to find work and provide for their families back home. But even after surviving the harrowing journey—desert bandits, a treacherous sea voyage, arrest—nothing can prepare the two men for the hostility and violence that awaits them.

Hitting The Apex
Director-writer: Mark Neale
Subjects: Jorge Lorenzo, Jose Manuel Lorenzo, Marc Marquez, Dani Pedrosa, Brad Pitt (narrator)
Distribution: TheatricCast

hitting the apexDocumentary Hitting The Apex is only somewhat of a preview, since the title already had its one-night eventised screenings in 32 locations across the country organized via TheatriCast. The company produces simultaneous, single-night nationwide theatrical events around original programming, new releases, and repertory films, working with partner marketing wing Different Drummer and utilizing the cinema-on-demand technology of Tugg. Hitting The Apex, which boasts Brad Pitt as a producer (as well as the film’s narrator) will have other event screenings coming up.

Hitting The Apex is the story of six of the fastest motorcycle racers the world has ever seen – and of the fates that awaited them at the peak of the sport.

“We were approached by director Mark Neale who has done several of these racing films and is experienced in making eventised cinema for an audience he knows,” said Erik Lokkesmoe, who is a founder of Different Drummer and a partner in TheatriCast. “There’s an audience that knows him. I think he was looking for a cinema experience for his fans that would be unique. They’re a fan base that’s dispersed across the country. Mark did a pre-recorded introduction of the movie, and I would say 99% of the people in the theaters were his super fans.”

Hitting The Apex screened at 32 locations across the country Tuesday night grossing about $70K from 5,200 attendees with an average of about 163 people per theater, according to Lokkesmoe, who said the title currently has about 79 additional events planned over the next two months as well as a planned one-night set of screenings November 30 in nine Canadian cities. “I’d say he’s potentially going to gross $150K-plus,” said  Lokkesmoe. “We also booked it day and date on iTunes. It’s currently (as of Wednesday afternoon) number 5 in the documentary category and number 46 overall.”

“We think this is the new way to launch Specialty films that deserve a big screen release, but could never sustain a traditional release,” said Lokkesmoe who added that the model will only work for titles that have a filmmaker, subject or star with a built-in base that will motivate fans to come out. “There’s a check list of about 25 different questions that you have to pass to get considered by TheatriCast. We’re spending a tiny amount of money — the P&A is just a few thousand dollars.”

The label’s previous release, Unbranded, sold 10,000 tickets from just over 50 screens, which translated to over $100K in box office, according to Lokkesmoe. He added that TheatriCast will do up to 20 films next year, both documentary and fiction. Hitting The Apex‘s next events in the U.S. will follow Tugg’s traditional model in which fans organize individual screenings.

Directors: Miguel Drake-McLaughlin, Jonny Leahan
Distributor: FilmBuff

Filmmakers Miguel Drake-McLaughlin and Jonny Leahan along with producer Rob Wood became fascinated with the concept of a “Space skylineElevator,” and over time, the group decided to pick up a camera and head to a Space Elevator conference at Microsoft in Seattle. “It seemed preposterous, but also magical,” said Leahan about the concept. “We thought, ‘what better subject for a film considering it’s an idea that has been in the zeitgeist for 70 – 80 years and yet, this [would be] the first feature film ever made about the subject?'”

In 1979, Arthur C. Clarke wrote a novel about an elevator that goes to outer space. Skyline is the story of the people who intend to build it. From scientific gatherings to NASA’s high-stakes “Space Elevator Games”, the film follows the major players working to make the concept a reality. Some believe it will solve the energy crisis; some want easier access to raw materials in space; some just want to gaze down upon the Earth. For all of them, the space elevator is more than just science fiction: it’s an achievable goal.

The filmmaking team financed the project themselves, but turned to a Kickstarter campaign to finish the feature. After completing the title, the filmmaking team was introduced to FilmBuff, which they had heard was interested in “science-based material,” showing the primarily digital distribution label an early cut last summer. “We felt they were the perfect partner because a film of this subject matter lends itself to a broad digital distribution strategy,” added Leahan. “It will also be released on BitTorrent, which is controversial, but to us, it’s a no brainer.” The film, which had its debut at DOC NYC last weekend, will also be promoted through Reddit.

Censored Voices
Director-writer: Mor Loushy
Writers: Daniel Sivan, Ran Tal
Subject: Amos Oz
Distributor: Music Box Films

Music Box picked up doc Censored Voices out of Sundance last year from sales outfit Dogwoof. The feature presents the uncensored censored voicesrecordings of intimate conversations between Israeli soldiers and renowned author Amos Oz immediately following the 1967 Six Day War, in which Israel captured the West Bank (including East Jerusalem,) the Sinai Peninsula, and the Golan Heights. But drowned out by the euphoria, other voices – many of those who fought the war – had something different to say. Oz and editor Avraham Shapira recorded the intimate conversations with soldiers returning from the battlefield. Originally censored by the Israeli army, the recordings provide an unfiltered lens into the Israeli zeitgeist.

“In addition to advance showings at prominent Jewish film festivals, advertising and social media outreach has focused on Jewish media outlets and organizations,” said Music Box’s Ed Arentz about the title’s U.S. release beginning this weekend in New York followed by L.A. November 27. “It is a qualifying run, but is also the start of our release which will reach out to the top 25 markets and beyond over the course of the next 12 weeks.” Censored Voices won the Ophir Award for Best Documentary — Israel’s Oscar equivalent.