Sony Pictures Classics expects summer blockbuster fatigue to help its weekend newcomer The Wife starring Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce, opening New York and Los Angeles Friday. The film is one of a fairly busy slate of limited release newcomers, perhaps hinting at another busy fall as awards season looms. Roadside Attractions/Lionsgate is bowing Juliet, Naked Friday in NYC and L.A., starring Rose Byrne, Ethan Hawke and Chris O’Dowd. Sundance favorite We The Animals by Jeremiah Zagar opens Friday in New York en route to a 100-plus location count by end of September, via The Orchard. Music Box Films is launching French-language Memoir Of War based on the book by Marguerite Duras. And actor Peter Facinelli is making his directorial debut with comedy Breaking & Exiting starring Milo Gibson and Jordan Hinson, making its way to select locations in a day and date roll out via Freestyle Digital Media.
Director: Björn Runge
Writers: Jane Anderson, Meg Wolitzer (book)
Cast: Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce, Christian Slater, Max Irons, Harry Lloyd, Annie Starke, Elizabeth McGovern
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Sony Pictures Classics had been tracking drama The Wife, based on the book of the same title by Meg Wolitzer, prior to its premiere at last year’s Toronto Film Festival. The company said it expected it to be a good fit for their release slate.
“We saw it in Toronto and we were knocked out,” said SPC co-president Michael Barker. “We think it’s Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce’s best performances and there’s a reason this book is a bestseller.”
The Wife centers on the forty years of marriage of Joan and Joe Castleman. Where Joe is casual, Joan is elegant. Where Joe is vain, Joan is self-effacing. And where Joe enjoys his very public role as Great American Novelist, Joan pours her considerable intellect, grace, charm, and diplomacy into the role of Great Man’s Wife. Joe is about to be awarded the Nobel Prize for his acclaimed and prolific body of work. His literary star has blazed since he and Joan first met in the late 1950’s. Their decades-long union includes the couple’s youthful passion and ambition as well as shared compromises, secrets, betrayals, and mutual love.
Barker said that although the film premiered in Toronto last year, the company decided to hold the release to just ahead of the 2018 awards season. “Out of Toronto, there was so much competition for awards last year that it made sense to wait until the following year,” said Barker. “It seemed ideal to do end of summer. We have had a good track record with [releases] at this time, including Junebug (2005, $2.67M), Frozen River (2008, $2.51M) and Blue Jasmine (2013, $33.4M).”
The company is expecting to take advantage of audiences who have had their fill by now with summer studio tentpoles. Added Barker: “People have already seen these Hollywood movies. In our history, we’ve seen that there’s been room in the [end of summer] for an intimate, adult movie. It’s a great respite.”
Barker also noted that though the film was shot well before current social movements such as #MeToo, the feature is relevant to the discussion.
“It really does address the #MeToo movement,” said Barker. “This is by coincidence since it was a book written in 2004 and it was made last year, but the subject of the movie is ‘in the moment’ right now.” Barker concluded: “We think the movie will do well.”
Sony Classics opens The Wife in five New York and Los Angeles locations this weekend. The title will expand to Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Phoenix the following weekend, with an additional eight to ten cities Labor Day weekend. SPC expects it to be at its widest the weekend of September 21.
Director: Jesse Peretz
Writers: Evgenia Peretz, Jim Taylor, Tamara Jenkins, Nick Hornby (novel)
Cast: Rose Byrne, Ethan Hawke, Chris O’Dowd
Distributor: Roadside Attractions/Lionsgate
Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate picked up romantic comedy Juliet, Naked by Jesse Peretz not long after its Sundance premiere last winter. The film, based on the novel by Nick Hornby, is another credit for star Ethan Hawke, who is in the midst of a busy year of roll outs.
The feature follows Annie (Rose Byrne), who is stuck in a longterm relationship with Duncan (Chris O’Dowd), an obsessive fan of obscure rocker Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke). When the acoustic demo of Tucker’s hit record from 25 years ago surfaces, its release leads to a life-changing encounter with the elusive rocker himself.
“We thought it was a reinvention of the romantic comedy when we saw it at Sundance,” said Roadside Attractions co-president Howard Cohen. “It’s sophisticated, which will appeal to upscale, smart audiences. It has a great cast with a fun premise that will [speak to] Gen Xers particularly and [older] millennial.”
Cohen added that reviews of the film have noted some parallels between Ethan Hawke’s character in the film, Tucker Crowe, and Hawke himself. “Reality Bites came out when he was still early in his career, and now he’s in a new phase as an [actor and director]. The character in the film goes through an obscure phase though Ethan has not. We think this film is unique in the marketplace. We are up against Crazy Rich Asians, which is also not a standard romantic comedy.”
Cohen said that they’re tapping the Gen Xers and millennials via online campaigns on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube along with traditional PR. “All the stars have done various talk shows, but there’s been a lot of press because people are saying this is Ethan Hawke’s year.”
In addition to Juliet, Naked, Hawke starred in Paul Schrader’s First Reformed, which opened in mid-May via A24, grossing $3.44M. He also wrote and directed bio-drama Blaze, which IFC Films is opening this weekend in Austin, TX. It will have a national rollout in September. Added Cohen: “GQ profiled him and he’s been doing a lot of press. He’s having an amazing, creative year.”
Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate will open Juliet, Naked in four New York and Los Angeles theaters this weekend. The title will head to an additional five markets the following week. Cohen said he expects the film to have a “national footprint” in time for Labor Day weekend.
We the Animals
Director-writer: Jeremiah Zagar
Writer: Daniel Kitrosser, Justin Torres (novel)
Cast: Evan Rosado, Isaiah Kristian, Josiah Gabriel, Raúl Castillo, Sheila Vand
Distributor: The Orchard
Coming of age story We The Animals is based on the novel by Justin Torres, which in turn is based on his personal experiences growing up in upstate New York. Jeremiah Zagar happened on the book when he visited a McNally Jackson bookstore in New York’s SoHo neighborhood, spotting the book on the “We Recommend” display. Zagar read the whole book in the store’s café, and then reached out to Torres and gave his vision for how to make a film version of the story.
Three young first-time actors star as brothers. The three boys tear through their childhood in the midst of their young parents’ volatile love that makes and unmakes the family many times over. While Manny and Joel grow into versions of their loving and unpredictable father, Jonah, the youngest, is sheltered by Ma in the cocoon of home. More sensitive than his older siblings, Jonah increasingly embraces an imagined world all his own.
“We saw We The Animals at Sundance and we were taken by the film,” said The Orchard’s Paul Davidson. “The filmmaking and craft that Jeremiah brought to the table was amazing. I had not read the book when we [saw the film] but the story was very soulful. Plus the performances, style of filmmaking and animation made for a compelling watch.”
We The Animals has played a slate of film festivals post-Sundance where it won the NEXT Innovator Award, picking up prizes in Montclair as well as the Grand Jury Prize at L.A. Outfest. The Orchard has worked with non-profit LGBT group PFLAG for screenings ahead of the title’s release. PFLAG had done similar word of mouth screenings for the successful release of Love, Simon earlier in the year.
“We’ve been waiting for the right time for this film after playing festivals,” said Davidson about this weekend’s release. “There has been a lot of outreach to university groups, LGBT and Latino groups, and there’s been a new print of the book with new poster art as well as a conversation with Justin Torres and Jeremiah Zagar.”
Promotions for the new book print have tied in with the film – patrons in New York and L.A. have received tickets for We The Animals’ opening weekend.
“August is a good month in the summer to bring a quieter film to audiences,” added Davidson. “This book is taught in schools, so through September we’re going to expand the film. As people are going back to school, it helps to further the conversation. Also there are fewer ‘larger’ indie films in the August timeframe.”
The Orchard is opening We The Animals at the Landmark 57 West and Angelika theaters in New York with select Q&As set with the actors as well as Zagar and Torres. The company expects the feature will expand to 100-plus locations through the month of September.
Memoir Of War
Director-writer: Emmanuel Finkiel
Cast: Mélanie Thierry, Benoît Magimel, Benjamin Biolay, Shulamit Adar, Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet
Distributor: Music Box Films
Music Box Films attended a private screening of Emmanuel Finkiel’s French-language Memoir Of War coinciding with the 2017 Toronto Film Festival. The film is based on author Marguerite Duras’ The War: A Memoir (1985), which has been published in over twenty countries. That book was based on her own experiences as a member of the French Resistance during World War II.
“We thought the story offered enough wartime intrigue and absorbing drama to expand the audience beyond lovers of French cinema and literature,” commented Music Box Films’ Brian Andreotti. “While the film’s main hook is that of Marguerite Duras and her life and work as an influential literary and cultural figure, we are also positioning the film as a unique female-led WWII drama with relevance to today, highlighting Duras’ role as a progressive figure resisting in a time of fascism.”
In 1944 Nazi-occupied France, Marguerite Duras (Mélanie Thierry) is an active Resistance member along with her husband Robert Antelme. When he is deported to Dachau by the Gestapo, she begins a desperate struggle to save him, entering a high-risk game of psychological cat and mouse with French Nazi collaborator Rabier (Benoît Magimel). As the months wear on without word of the man she loves, Marguerite must begin the process of confronting the unimaginable.
In the lead-up to the film’s stateside release, Music Box is tapping groups it sees as the title’s obvious core audience of arthouse and French cinema fans, as well as the Jewish community; it’s partnering with cultural organizations, university History and English departments and also tying in with the Everyman’s Library, the publisher of a collection of Duras’ work — including The Lover and Practicalities — to promote the film to their top booksellers with in-store promotional materials. Music Box is also working with a number of literary publications on a digital advertising and social media campaign.
“We think there’s pent-up demand for an engrossing subtitled film,” noted Andreotti. “We picked late August because it offered the opportunity to expand in a quiet corridor as students return to school. September is usually a dead zone for quality films theatrically. Fall festivals dominate the conversation among cinephiles, but exhibitors need new product now—not three months hence.”
Memoir Of War will platform in New York at Film Forum and the Film Society of Lincoln Center. It will expand to L.A., San Francisco, Chicago and Miami on August 24 with other major markets slated by late September.
Added Andreotti: “Given the subject matter and heightened interest among Jewish audiences, we are urging exhibitors to avoid opening the film between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Consequently, some major markets, such as Palm Beach County, will be opening on Sept. 21 after the High Holidays.”
Breaking & Exiting
Director: Peter Facinelli
Writer: Jordan Hinson
Cast: Milo Gibson, Jordan Hinson, Adam Huber, Lily Anne Harrison
Distributor: Freestyle Digital Media
Breaking & Exiting writer-star Jordan Hinson met producer Martine Melloul as a cast member on Melloul’s previous project, Beyond The Sky (set to open next month). While working on that project, Hinson told Melloul about a script she had been working on.
“I said, ‘let’s do this,’” said Melloul. “I found financing and built a three-woman producing team with Hinson and Cecile Cubilo.”
The comedy follows Harry (Milo Gibson), a charming house thief who gets more than he bargains for during an attempted burglary. He stumbles upon Daisy (Jordan Hinson) and decides to save her from herself, sending both of them into a darkly comedic journey of self-discovery and love.
Hinson was set for the female lead. Initially another person was slated to direct, but it “didn’t work out,” said Melloul. Then actor Peter Facinelli came on board by way of Breaking & Exiting cast member Lily Anne Harrison.
“Jordan Hinson met with Peter and liked him very much,” said Melloul. “We then spoke with the financiers and they liked his vision of the script. He then joined us to finish casting.” Equity financiers funded the project.
The male lead, played by Milo Gibson, came to the filmmaking team’s attention via Facinelli’s manager. “All of this happened very fast,” explained Melloul. “Within three months, we had financing and cast. We shot in a house in L.A. we rented for 14 days. Peter was on schedule and I know the actors loved working with him because of his acting background and he knows how to speak to them.” Hinson had initially approached Melloul with her script at the end of 2016.
A lengthy editing process followed the shoot, taking some time to get to an agreed upon cut. “We had to re-think the story through the editing process, so that was a longer process and took a while to get to the point with a cut we liked,” said Melloul. “There was some voiceover added. I show [Facinelli’s] vision of the film, which was important. I think if you pick a director, you have to let that person express themselves.”
The filmmaking team worked with executive producer Andrew van den Houten who provided entrée with distribution outfit Freestyle Digital Media, which will open Breaking & Exiting in 10 cities including New York’s Village East and Laemmle North Hollywood this weekend, with select Q&As set for both locations. The title will also be available day and date with a DVD set for late September.