Two very different road trip movies are among this weekend’s Specialty theatrical debuts. After its world premiere at SXSW and later festival showings in Seattle as well as Nantucket this weekend, Sony Pictures Classics is opening father-daughter journey, Boundaries by Shana Feste in New York and L.A. Oscilloscope, meanwhile, is bowing doc, The King by Eugene Jarecki in Manhattan. Jarecki takes to the road in Elvis Presley’s 1963 Rolls-Royce on a musical road trip across America, painting a portrait of the current state of the ‘American Dream.’ Cohen Media Group spearheaded fellow non-fiction title Spiral, which examines the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe and the world, opening in two locations in New York and L.A. And Robert Pattinson and Mia Wasikowska star in the Zellner brothers’ comedic Western, Damsel.
Other limited releases headed to theaters this weekend include IFC Films’ The Catcher Was a Spy with Paul Rudd, Jeff Daniels and Paul Giamatti; Izzie Gets The F*ck Across Town from Shout! Studios and Vertical Entertainment’s horror, Incident In a Ghostland.
Director-writer: Shana Feste
Cast: Vera Farmiga, Christopher Plummer, Lewis MacDougall, Bobby Cannavale, Kristen Schaal, Christopher Lloyd, Peter Fonda
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Sony-owned production company, Stage 6, produced Shana Feste’s dramedy Boundaries along with Sony Worldwide Acquisitions Group. The entities then kept it within the family, showing it to Sony Classics, which is spearheading the roll-out. The title had its world premiere at this year’s SXSW, followed by the Seattle International Film Festival, and is screening at the Nantucket Film Festival this weekend, coinciding with its initial theatrical bow in New York and L.A.
“They showed it to us when they finished and we liked it enormously,” said SPC co-president Michael Barker. “We adore Christopher Plummer, having worked with him on The Last Station (2009) and Vera Farming who we worked with on Higher Ground (2011). Plus we’re fans of Shana Feste, the director, so it felt like a very good fit for us. It’s one of those movies that’s enjoyable but still touches on so many bases of human concern.”
Boundaries follows Laura (Vera Farmiga) who is a single mother living in Seattle, who has a constant need to put others & animals before her. When her estranged, criminally-minded father Jack (Christopher Plummer) is kicked out of his retirement home, Laura agrees to drive him down the coast to live with her sister JoJo (Kristen Schaal) in LA. Along for the ride is her bright but troubled son Henry, and an assortment of animal charity cases. Without telling Laura, Jack convinces Henry to help him sell off his copious supply of marijuana at every stop of their journey, resulting in unexpected reunions with old friends and family.
Boundaries received an unwanted spotlight just ahead of its roll-out this weekend following offensive Tweets by Peter Fonda that were widely reported, and who subsequently deleted the comments and issued an apology. Barker spoke for this column ahead of the controversy, but Sony Classics issued a statement yesterday evening:
“Peter Fonda’s comments are abhorrent, reckless and dangerous, and we condemn them completely. It is important to note that Mr. Fonda plays a very minor role in the film. To pull or alter this film at this point would unfairly penalize the filmmaker Shana Feste’s accomplishment, the many actors, crew members and other creative talent that worked hard on the project. We plan to open the film as scheduled this weekend, in a limited release of five theaters.”
Boundaries’ five locations this weekend will be in New York and Los Angeles. The title is slated to expand to other major markets the following week including San Francisco, Chicago and Washington, D.C. before going to other cities. Other upcoming SPC releases this summer include Sundance drama Puzzle in late July and Toronto drama The Wife in August. The company expects current releases The Seagull and The Rider to play well into summer.
Director-writer: Eugene Jarecki
Subjects: Alec Baldwin, Tony Brown, James Carville, Chuck D, Lana Del Rey, Emmylou Harris, Ethan Hawke, Van Jones, Dan Rather, Mike Myers
Oscilloscope picked up two-time Sundance Grand Jury prize-winner Eugene Jarecki’s doc The King ahead of its North American premiere at the festival in January. The company said it jumped at the chance to work with Jarecki on the release.
“Honestly, he could have directed a Powerpoint presentation and we would have tried to figure out how to release it in theaters – we were that excited at the prospect of working with him,” commented Oscilloscope’s Andrew Carlin. “With The King, Eugene isn’t passively musing on America and its problems. He’s very pointedly and incisively asking how we got here, and Elvis Presley is the lens through which he poses that question.”
Forty years after the death of Elvis Presley, Jarecki’s new film takes the King’s 1963 Rolls-Royce on a musical road trip across America. From Memphis to New York, Las Vegas, and beyond, the journey traces the rise and fall of Elvis as a metaphor for the country he left behind. In the film, Jarecki paints a visionary portrait of the state of the American Dream and a penetrating look at “how the hell we got here.”
The company said the film is not “geared for or targeted” at Elvis fans as it is not a retelling of his life. Building on its festival run, the distributor has partnered with organizations to host word-of-mouth screenings including NPR’s Person Place Thing, the Media Educators Association, the Stax Music Academy, and the Smithsonian.
Added Carlin: “Eugene has also been incredibly involved and supportive throughout the process. He’ll be making in-person appearances all across the country, including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Memphis, Nashville, Chicago, Boston, and Washington, D.C.”
Oscilloscope is opening The King exclusively in Manhattan this weekend at IFC Center and the Landmark 57 West. The title will then travel to the Nuart Theater in L.A. The company said the title will be nationwide by July 20.
Directors-writers: David Zellner, Nathan Zellner
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Mia Wasikowska, Robert Forster, David Zellner, Nathan Zellner, Joseph Biligiere
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures/Great Point Media
Magnolia Pictures picked up David and Nathan Zellner’s Sundance debut Western Damsel in a pact with Great Point Media in March ahead of its SXSW screening.
The title centers on Samuel Alabaster (Robert Pattinson), an affluent pioneer, ventures across the American Frontier to marry the love of his life, Penelope (Mia Wasikowska). As Samuel traverses the Wild West with a drunkard named Parson Henry (David Zellner) and a miniature horse called Butterscotch, their once-simple journey grows treacherous, blurring the lines between hero, villain and damsel.
“Damsel has benefitted from support from Robert Pattinson and Mia Wasikowska at an L.A. premiere and press day, and an appearance from Rob on Jimmy Fallon this week,” noted Magnolia’s Matt Cowal. “The Zellner brothers have a strong following in the arthouse film world and have been conducting press on behalf of the film as well.”
Magnolia is directly marketing the offbeat Western to fans of the talent in the film and the genre as well as arthouse film-goers generally through what the company says is a “robust push on digital media.”
“It was a great opportunity for us to work with a premiere, established independent distributor with a great track record for releasing smart, independent films from celebrated filmmakers,” commented Great Point Media’s Matt Stevens. “We knew they would help us give the film the best release possible and we’ve had a great experience working with them.”
Damsel is headed to theaters at IFC Center and Landmark 57 West in New York as well as an exclusive showing at the Nuart in L.A. in a traditional release. Other locations will be added in both cities, while adding additional markets on June 29 with an additional expansion planned for July 6.
Director: Laura Fairrie
Distributor: Cohen Media Group
Cohen Media Group head Charles Cohen was inspired to make a documentary about the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe after reading a piece in Vanity Fair by Marie Brenner. He approached producer John Battsek to collaborate, while tapping filmmaker Laura Fairrie.
“It took two years to make the film,” noted Cohen. “Cohen Media Group has released a number of films centered around Jewish themes and this film was a natural fit for our company, given our experience with outreach to the community.”
Over the last two decades, a rise in physical attacks and verbal assaults on Jews has been recorded in many countries across Europe. At the same time an increasingly fractured world has exposed deep political, social, and racial division, especially in France. Spiral is the story of how a cycle of fear, hatred, and violence has taken hold. In portraying the resurgence of anti-Semitism in France and in the wider world, the film trains its gaze on individuals, witnesses on all sides of the conflicts that have fueled this escalation.
“It is our mission to share this film widely with the Jewish community here in New York, and around the country,” explained Cohen. “We have partnered with groups such as the JCC of Manhattan and rely on the support of community leaders and rabbis to bring the film to their congregations. We have also made an effort to connect with museums, foundations, and other groups dedicated to education around the vital and timely topics of the film.”
Cohen noted that summer is a good time to release documentaries since they offer, “Strong alternatives to the traditional summer blockbuster fare, particularly to older audiences.”
Spiral will open in New York this weekend at the Quad Cinema and in Beverly Hills at the Laemmle Music Hall. Added Cohen: “We will handle subsequent bookings in the weeks that follow, while continuing our outreach to the community.”