Two anticipated titles that will spend a short time in limited release beginning Christmas weekend are making their debuts in theaters. Fans of 70mm film will get their chance to see Quentin Tarantino’s latest, The Hateful Eight exclusively in the format as the title heads out to an initial 44 cities. It will head wider New Year’s Eve. Bowing with a much more exclusive window is Fox and New Regency feature The Revenant, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Only several locations will screen the title ahead of its January wide expansion. Michael Moore’s latest, Where To Invade Next? is getting a limited qualifying run before it heads out for its regular release in February. More traditionally Specialty titles are also heading out in theaters this weekend. Sundance Selects is opening British director Andrew Haigh’s 45 Years starring Charlotte Rampling in a trio of NYC and L.A. locations, while China Lion is launching Mr. Six in under four dozen theaters in North America, simultaneously with the title’s debut at home in China.
The Hateful Eight
Director-writer: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Samuel L. Jackson, Walton Goggins, Demian Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, Channing Tatum, James Parks, Dana Gourrier, Zoë Bell
Distributor: The Weinstein Company
Tarantino’s latest, The Hateful Eight will be released domestically over Christmas weekend exclusively in theaters equipped to project 70mm film.
Set some years after the Civil War, The Hateful Eight opens with a stagecoach making its way through the wintry Wyoming countryside. On board are bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) and his fugitive Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh). They’re headed to the town of Red Rock where Ruth will bring Domergue to justice. Along the road, they encounter two strangers: Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), a black former union soldier turned infamous bounty hunter, and Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), a southern renegade who claims to be the town’s new Sheriff. Losing their lead in the blizzard, Ruth, Domergue, Warren and Mannix seek refuge at Minnie’s Haberdashery, a stagecoach stopover on a mountain pass. When they arrive at Minnie’s, they are greeted not by the proprietor but by four unfamiliar faces. Bob (Demian Bichir), who’s taking care of Minnie’s while she’s visiting her mother, is holed up with Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), the hangman of Red Rock, cow-puncher Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), and Confederate General Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern). As the storm overtakes the mountainside stopover, the eight travelers realize they may not quite make it to Red Rock.
“We’re excited to get it out there,” said TWC’s president of Theatrical Distribution Erik Lomis. “It’s a wonderfully [crafted] film that is also very entertaining. Fans won’t be disappointed.” Lomis said that after The Hateful Eight‘s exclusive 70mm window, the company will continue to show the title in venues capable of showing the format.
Tarantino has had a good run in theaters in recent years. His previous film, Django Unchained opened in just over 3K theaters on Christmas Day in 2012, grossing over $30.12 million its first weekend. It went on to cume $162.8 million domestically — his highest single grosser to date. His previous film, Inglorious Basterds, which TWC opened in 3,165 theaters in August, 2009, grossed just over $38 million its debut weekend in 3,165 theaters. Basterds took in over $120.5 million. Miramax’s 1994 Tarantino classic, Pulp Fiction, grossed over $107.9 million.
The 70mm exclusive will mean a comparatively limited start for The Hateful Eight vs. Tarantino’s recent titles. The Weinstein Company will open the feature in 100 theaters in 44 cities on Christmas day. On New Year’s Eve, the company will open the release up to non-70mm-capable theaters nationwide, but added Lomis: “We’ll keep the 70mm locations as long as possible.”
Director-writer: Alejandro González Iñarritu
Writers: Mark L. Smith, Michael Punke
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Paul Anderson, Duane Howard, Arthur Redcloud, Lukak Haas, Brendan Fletcher, Grace Dove, Kristoffer Joner, Forrest Goodluck
Distributor: Fox, New Regency
Filmmaker Alejandro González Iñarritu was already on board with The Revenant before starting work on Birdman, which won multiple Oscars earlier this year, including Best Picture and Best Director.
Based on the book by Michael Punke of the same name, The Revenant is an epic story of survival on the American frontier. While on an expedition into the uncharted wilderness, legendary explorer Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is brutally mauled by a bear, then abandoned by members of his own hunting team. Alone and near death, Glass refuses to succumb. Driven by sheer will and his love for his Native American wife and son, he undertakes a 200-mile odyssey through the vast and untamed West on the trail of the man who betrayed him: John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy).
The shoot began in October, 2014 and wasn’t completed until the following spring. Alberta, Canada and Argentina portray the harsh American wilderness, though the weather did not quite cooperate up north. “As was reported at the time, the winter was the warmest ever in Alberta,” said Brad Weston, president and CEO of New Regency, which produced and co-financed the feature. Fox is releasing through their distribution deal with New Regency. “The conditions weren’t ideal and that made for challenges during the shoot, but everyone was ready for it.”
During a conversation hosted by the Producers Guild of America in New York in October, Deadline quoted Weston as saying that the original budget was $60 million, but that soon grew. “We went out with a different line producer and the budget came in at almost double that. As he was (in post-production) on Birdman, we were in prep on Revenant.” The plan was also to shoot in sequence using only natural light.
Fox is opening The Revenant in a very limited four theaters Christmas weekend, but it will only stay in exclusive runs until January 8 when it expands nationwide.
Director-writer: Andrew Haigh
Writer: David Constantine (short story)
Cast: Charlotte Rampling, Tom Courtenay, Dolly Wells, Geraldine James, Hannah Chalmers, Richard Cunningham, Michelle Finch
Distributor: Sundance Selects
Andrew Haigh read short story In Another Country by David Constantine while editing his previous film, Weekend. Haigh said the story fed into his obsessiveness about relationships and how they evolve and it served as a companion piece to Weekend.
45 Years stars Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay as Kate and Geoff, a couple preparing to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary. But a stunning revelation—the body of Geoff’s former lover has been discovered fifty years after she fell from a mountain in the Swiss Alps—suddenly changes everything. Consumed with questions about her husband’s past, Kate reconsiders everything she’s known about her entire marriage and, as the anniversary party draws nearer, finds herself at a potentially life-changing crossroads.
“I do see it as a bookend to Weekend. One is a relationship looking forward and the other is about a relationship looking back,” said Haigh. “It was important for us when we did our casting to have the [two main parts] with actors who have strong cinematic histories. Charlotte has always chosen work with a powerful female strength. We didn’t give the script to anyone else until Charlotte said, ‘yes,’ and when that happened, we gave it to Tom.”
45 Years shot linearly, which Haigh wanted in order to build up to the title’s climax. We had no idea what Kate was going to do in that last scene, and it was important we were able to tell the story leading up to that last scene,” said Rampling during an event in New York hosted by publicist Peggy Siegal earlier this month. Added Haigh at the same event, “I like shooting with long takes, I don’t like cutting much. I like seeing actors in a scene without having to cut to reaction shots…Acting is mysterious and amazing and I don’t fully understand it, but all I know is when I see something amazing, I want to focus on that and build on it.” The title was financed by the BFI, Film4 and Creative England and co-developed by Film4 and the BFI.
Sundance Selects picked up North American rights to 45 Years out of Berlin where it had its World Premiere. 45 Years will open at IFC Center, Lincoln Plaza and the Royal in Los Angeles this weekend before adding additional locations in the coming weeks. On-demand is slated for next year.
Where To Invade Next?
Director: Michael Moore
Distributor: The distribution team of Tom Quinn, Jason Janego and Tim League
At times dubbed Michael Moore’s “Happy Film” since its debut earlier this year at the Toronto and New York film festivals, Oscar shortlisted documentary Where To Invade Next? is rolling out for a qualifying run starting Christmas weekend ahead of its wider roll out in early 2016.
The doc-comedy has Moore back in the center as he plays the role of an “invader” in mostly European countries where he attempts to “take” their ideas back home on a host of socio-political issues such as education, healthcare, vacation time and even prisons. “I wanted to make a film about the United States without shooting a single frame in the U.S.,” Moore said after the film’s U.S. debut at NYFF earlier this fall. “Each of the countries I visit have their own problems they need to fix and they don’t need me to tell them how to do it. But I went there to look at ‘the flowers,’ and not ‘the weeds.'”
Moore told Deadline’s Pete Hammond that the idea is to have the title launch with a “50-state strategy,” with the Oscar-winning filmmaker heading off on a “rock ‘n’ roll-style tour of every state” via a specially designed Where To Invade Next? bus tour, which will begin January 4. Moore told Hammond he came up with the idea after seeing test scores from cities like Pittsburgh and Yonkers which had recommends coming into the 90s. “What it has shown us is the film not only plays well as just a movie, but the issues raised in the film deeply affect people,” Moore told Hammond. “So I said to Tom and Jason before we go wide why not give me a month or so to barnstorm the country, me personally, in a big rock ‘n roll tour bus, and we will crisscross the country showing the film for free, leading up to the New Hampshire primary because the issues in the film are the issues, the real issues, people want being discussed in this election year.”
Moore said during the post-screening Q&A he made Where To Invade Next? with “one-third of the budget” of his last film, Capitalism: A Love Story. The 2009 release grossed $14.36 million domestically, while his previous feature, Sicko (2007) from Lionsgate grossed over $24.5 million. His all-time highest grosser was 2004 release, Fahrenheit 9/11, which totaled nearly $119.2 million domestically.
Director-writer: Hu Guan
Writer: Dong Runnian
Cast: Feng Xiaogang, Kris Wu, Li Yifeng, Xu Qing, Zhang Hanyu
Distributor: China Lion
China Lion first caught wind of Mr. Six after its cast was announced. Actor Kris Wu had appeared in the niche distributor’s 2014 release, Somewhere Only We Know, which bowed Valentine’s earlier this year, grossing nearly $305K in 46 theaters over the weekend. “Kris was added to a cast that included genuine legend Feng Xiaogang, so it was already on our radar,” said China Lion’s Robert Lundberg. “With this pair of stars, we knew it would be amazing. With the addition of Li Yifeng — whose Forever Young and Fall In Love Like A Star we released this year — we were sold.”
The feature centers on a once notorious but now lonely hoodlum named Mr. Six (Feng Xiaogang), who discovers his estranged son, Bobby (Li Yifeng), has been kidnapped after damaging the car of a government official’s son (Kris Wu). When he tries to fix the situation using traditional methods and is humiliated, he summons his retired gang to apply old school tactics to get his son back.
“Because the film was the closing feature at the Venice film festival as well as a special presentation in Toronto, we’re expecting crossover to arthouse audiences; additionally, Kris Wu and Li Yifeng have very strong fan-bases in first-language English speakers in North America due to their music careers,” said Lundberg. “We expect they’ll drive a lot of the non-Chinese speaking audience to our subtitled thriller.”
China Lion will open the film in the U.S. and Canada on the same day as its Mainland China roll out, continuing its recent strategy to open in North America on or near a title’s release at home. “We’re always limited by the number of theaters we’re able to obtain, given the competition for holiday blockbusters, but with the strength of this film’s stars, the advance word-of-mouth, and the Chinese film-centric locations we’ve built up over our five year history, we’ve been able to secure nearly 30 screens for Mr. Six, an all-time high for any of our Christmas releases,” added Lundberg. “Our previous best Christmas opening was limited to 9 screens, the Feng Xiaogang-directed Personal Tailor, which had a solid $12,500 per screen average opening weekend.”
China Lion will open Mr. Six December 24 in the U.S. and Canada with locations opening December 26 in the UK. Said Lundberg: “We’re expecting to expand on strong word-of-mouth, which was already present from the festival plays in Venice and Toronto. We’re hoping critics embrace it and our crossover audience will allow us to play well into Chinese New Year (early February) through a platform release.”