EXCLUSIVE: In an effort to spur word of mouth among older male audiences, and to draw a sizable Hispanic and African American demo, The Weinstein Company will release its biopic Hands Of Stone about famed boxer Roberto Duran in about 800 theaters this Friday. That’s before going wide in 2,500 locations on August 31, the Wednesday before Labor Day weekend.
Hands Of Stone, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in conjunction with a tribute to the film’s star Robert De Niro, is one of TWC’s highest-testing movies in the company’s history, and one of the strongest with adult audiences. The pic toplined by Robert De Niro and Edgar Ramirez even tested higher with women over men; the only way to get female audiences in the door is for them to sample the movie via limited release this weekend. “Hands Of Stone has politics, pride, boxing — it looks very boyish, but women love it because of the complicated relationships between Sugar Ray Leonard and his wife, and Roberto Duran and his wife,” TWC chief Harvey Weinstein told Deadline this morning.
With Sony/Screen Gems’ Don’t Breathe and Lionsgate’s Mechanic: Resurrection cornering Hispanic and African American crowds this weekend, Hands Of Stone will have the advantage of catering to those demographics during the Labor Day weekend stretch. In addition, as we saw last year with A Walk In The Woods ($13M five-day opening), adults had to the theater during the final weekend of summer.
Adult audiences respond greatly to word of mouth, but come to the theater at their own pace. Theater chains aren’t quick to recognize that, and often times respond too quickly to booking a big studio film which has the likelihood of lasting only two weeks in the theater, boxing out an adult film with significant legs potential. When TWC had Silver Linings Playbook during the 2012-2013 awards season, rather than just blast the film wide in theaters, it grew it slowly and held the pic in under 1,000 locations, adding a few hundred theaters each couple of weeks for nine weeks despite demands from exhibitors. The goal was to create an even greater demand among moviegoers. The plan worked, with Silver Linings Playbook ending its domestic run with $132.1M.
Hands Of Stone‘s release pattern is an innovative one, and responds to adults’ moviegoing habits in a Netflix-Hulu universe that can sideline that crowd at home. In regards to distributing adult demo fare in the current moviegoing era, “We have to come up with different ways,” Weinsetein said. “I’m excited that I’m doing this again, putting our imprint on this. We’ll be doing the same thing on Lion. We have to adjust distribution and reinvigorate it.” TWC’s Lion will be premiering at the Toronto Film Festival before opening November 25.
Mike Fleming Jr. had the exclusive back in May 2015 about TWC landing the distribution rights to Hands Of Stone at the Cannes Film Festival. Directed by Jonathan Jakubowicz, the movie follows the rags-to-riches story of Duran (Ramirez), who made his professional boxing debut in 1968 as a 16-year‐old and retired in 2002 at the age of 50. Duran defeated Leonard (Usher) in June 1980, capturing the WBC welterweight title. However, Duran shocked the boxing world by returning to his corner in their November rematch after Leonard outclassed him in the rematch — the famous “no mas” moment.
The title Hands Of Stone came from Duran’s nickname. During the course of his career he had 103 victories in 119 fights. De Niro stars as Duran’s mentor and trainer Ray Arcel, while Ana de Armas plays Duran’s wife Felicidad.