A-listers pack this weekend’s bounty of new Specialty theatrical titles. Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate are jointly opening Genius with Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman, Jude Law, Laura Linney and Guy Pearce in over a dozen locations, while distribution newcomer Electric Entertainment is heading out with its first release Blackway, which it produced, starring Anthony Hopkins and Julia Stiles. And narratives don’t have a monopoly on Hollywood notables. A24 is opening De Palma, a documentary from Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow spotlighting their friend Brian De Palma. Another non-fiction debut is The Orchard’s The Music of Strangers featuring Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble by Oscar-winning documentarian Morgan Neville (Twenty Feet from Stardom). And Kino Lorber is taking its Locarno Film Festival ’15 acquisition, the Israeli Tikkun, to two New York City locations.

Also opening in limited release is Zeitgeist’s doc Call her Applebrook, Starz Media’s thriller Careful What You Wish For, Cohen Media Group’s Diary of a Chambermaid, Focus World’s Puerto Ricans in Paris and Reliance Film’s Te3n in over a hundred locations.

Roadside Attractions/Lionsgate

Director: Michael Grandage
Writers: John Logan, A. Scott Berg (book)
Cast: Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman, Jude Law, Laura Linney, Guy Pearce, Dominic West
Distributor: Roadside Attractions/Lionsgate

Lionsgate picked up Genius starring Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman, Jude Law and Laura Linney ahead of last year’s Cannes Film Festival, though the title didn’t debut until the Berlinale this past February.

The drama centers on the complex friendship and transformative professional relationship between the world-renowned book editor Maxwell Perkins — who discovered F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway — and the larger-than-life literary giant Thomas Wolfe. Based on the biography Max Perkins: Editor of Genius by A. Scott Berg, the film also includes a costume designer (Kidman) sharing a tumultuous relationship with Wolfe (Law).

“This is for an upscale, older audience that’s interested in great books and great writers,” explained Roadside co-president Howard Cohen. “Thomas Wolfe will be a discovery for some who see the movie. There are lots of fans of [Berg’s] book, but beyond that, there are fans of Hemingway and Fitzgerald who will like the film.” Cohen noted that the 1978 book has been re-issued utilizing art from the movie.

Roadside and Lionsgate have teamed on a number of films with well known casts, opening in a few hundred theaters. For this title, the initial release plan will be 16 locations in Los Angeles, New York, Washington, D.C. and San Francisco. “We didn’t want to do our usual three hundred or so screens,” added Cohen. “For this, it’s a hybrid similar to what we did with The Skeleton Twins.” Roadside opened that film starring Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader and Luke Wilson in 15 theaters in September 2014, eventually grossing over $5.28 million.
Cohen said he expects the film to crossover as it heads into further expansion June 17 into the top 50 markets, adding: “The core is a literary audience, but outside of that there is the [sophisticated movie-going] audience. We’re doing well with Love & Friendship, but not all that are going to see that film are Jane Austen fans.”

Blackway Poster_reduced
Electric Entertainment

Director: Daniel Alfredson
Writers: Joe Gangemi, Gregory Jacobs, Castle Freeman, Jr. (novel)
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Julia Stiles, Alexander Ludwig, Steve Bacic, Lochlyn Munro, Ray Liotta, Hal Holbrook
Distributor: Electric Entertainment

Blackway is the first theatrical release from Electric Entertainment, the independent film and television production company headed by veteran producer Dean Devlin. Originally titled Go With Me, the feature, which had its debut at last year’s Venice Film Festival, was co-financed and produced by Electric.

Set in the Pacific Northwest, Blackway follows a logger (Anthony Hopkins) grieving over the loss of his daughter. As he deals with that, he comes to the aid of a young woman (Julia Stiles) who is being harassed by a local crime lord, and helps hunt down her stalker (Ray Liotta).

“The film is a really good, old-school thriller,” said Zac Reeder who joined the company as Head of Domestic Distribution in February. “The cast is the biggest selling point and they cover all the quadrants.” Reeder said the company plans to release films it produces as well as acquires, with new roll-outs coming between once per quarter and once per month.

Electric is expecting Blackway to have a significant presence on-demand. “I think it’ll play for a week or two in theaters, but will have most of its life on VOD,” said Reeder. “Because of its [cast] I think people will buy on impulse. It’s a very commercial movie.” Theatrically, Blackway will open in 11 cities Friday in the U.S. It will also go to an additional 10-20 locations in Canada as part of its day and date bow. “We’re excited for our first release,” he added. “We’ve had a great team on this. It was always [Dean Delvin’s] dream to both produce and release film.”

music of strangers
The Orchard

The Music Of Strangers
Director: Morgan Neville
Subjects Yo-Yo Ma, Kinan Azmeh, Keyhan Kalhor, Cristina Pato, Wu Man
Distributor: The Orchard

The Music Of Strangers is the latest from Morgan Neville, who won the Oscar for Best Documentary in 2014 for Twenty Feet From Stardom. Fully titled The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble tells the story of an international musical collective created by legendary cellist Yo-Yo Ma. The film follows the group of instrumentalists, vocalists, composers, arrangers, visual artists and storytellers as they explore the power of music to preserve tradition, shape cultural evolution and inspire hope.

The Music of Strangers represented what I call The Avengers of documentary filmmaking teams,’” said The Orchard EVP Paul Davidson whose company saw the film in Toronto, picking up worldwide rights. “Participant, HBO, Morgan Neville — who doesn’t want to work with them and also experience the trip with Yo-Yo and Silk Road…The movie and music are inspiring. Their message is elevating music above all conflicts and giving hope.”

While the company is selling rights to some territories abroad, it is partnering on the release in those countries, though The Orchard will directly handle theatrical and ancillary in North America and the U.K., with the latter set for November. “Between now and November, you’ll see it roll out across the world,” said Davidson. “HBO will carry the film near the end of the year, while on-demand [will follow] likely in December.”

Yo-Yo is appearing on Charlie Rose and All Things Considered while key press including Vanity Fair are bringing attention to the doc. “There is a grassroots push also going through musical and educational groups,” added Davidson. “Also, Yo-Yo has a huge social following. Immediately after mentioning the trailer, it received one million views.”

The Music of Strangers will open at the Angelika and Lincoln Plaza in New York as well as the Landmark in Los Angeles. It will expand to key suburban areas of both cities the following week. Neville and Silk Road’s Ko Umezaki will do select Q&As this weekend in L.A., while Kiman Azmeh will do the same in New York. Added Davidson: “We’re currently booked in over 100 theaters. On June 24 we will go wider.”


De Palma
Directors: Noah Baumbach, Jake Paltrow
Subject: Brian De Palma
Distributor: A24

Filmmakers Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow had an idea to do a film about acclaimed director Brian De Palma as a “conversation with a friend,” though the two wanted to remove their own voices. Baumbach looked to Lillian Ross’ book The Player — which includes a series of as-told-to style interviews with actors — as a template for De Palma.

The film, of course, centers on Brian De Palma, whose career since the ‘60s has spanned films such as Carrie, Scarface, The Untouchables, Carlito’s Way and Mission: Impossible. The documentary engages in a candid discussion with De Palma, exploring not only his life and work but also his singular approach to the craft of filmmaking and his experiences navigating the film business, from his early days as the bad boy of New Hollywood to his more recent years as respected veteran. The title is a portrait and behind-the-scenes look at the last 50 years of the film industry through the eyes of someone who has seen it all.

“De Palma is a film for not only lovers of his work, but for anyone who loves a well-made movie revolving around such intriguing subject matter,” commented A24 exec Heath Shapiro. “Noah and Jake created a special, unique and intimate portrait of an icon that also gives incredible insight into the wild ride of making movies, the politics of making movies, and the hilarious stories that occur from the process of making movies.”

This is the first feature documentary for Baumbach and Paltrow. Baumbach had a busy year in 2015 with two films, While We’re Young, also an A24 release ($7.58M) and Fox Searchlight’s Mistress America ($2.5M) both out in theaters within several months of each other.

A24 will open De Palma in New York and Los Angeles this weekend, continuing on to the top 50 markets and beyond in the coming weeks.

Tikkun us_poster
Kino Lorber

Director-writer: Avishai Sivan
Cast: Aharon Traitel, Khalifa Natour, Riki Blich, Gur Sheinberg, Omri Fuhrer, David Ben-Avraham
Distributor: Kino Lorber

Kino Lorber’s Richard Lorber picked up Israeli film Tikkun out of last year’s Locarno Film Festival. Set in Jerusalem, the feature follows a young ultra-Orthodox Yeshiva student’s journey from devotion to doubt. When Haim-Aaron experiences his crisis of faith alongside earthly “delights,” his father brings him back from the brink of death. The question is: was the young man’s improbable survival a violation of God’s will, or was it “tikkun,” a way toward enlightenment and redemption?

“It is an adventurous film that pushes aesthetic and philosophical boundaries, making it a perfect fit for Kino Lorber which never shrinks from taking up the challenge of an art film we believe in,” lauded Kino Lorber exec Wendy Lidell.  “Happily, Richard’s instinct was borne out by the film’s selection by Telluride and New Directors/New Films.”

Though the film has the obvious Jewish tie-in, Kino Lorber expects to break the title out. Lidell also likened Tikkun to a certain David Lynch classic. “Though the film is Israeli and takes place within a Jewish milieu, its exploration of spiritual angst is universal, and the approach of a filmmaker who is first and foremost a graphic artist, makes it a film that is not strictly for Jewish audiences,” said Lidell. “I called it the Hasidic Eraserhead when I first saw it, and we are making every prudent effort to market the film to both Jewish and young art-savvy audiences.”

Kino Lorber will open Tikkun at the Film Society of Lincoln Center and IFC Center in New York, followed by roll outs in Dallas and San Francisco. The feature will head to Los Angeles and Cleveland in July.