Bleecker Street is taking Aaron Guzikowski’s crime-drama Papillon to a fairly wide 500-plus theaters this weekend, aiming the title, starring Charlie Hunnam and Rami Malek, at the adult audience it says are prime moviegoers for the summer wind-down. The feature will easily be the biggest opener among the weekend’s Specialty newcomers. Magnolia Pictures is opening Andrew Bujalski comedy Support The Girls, launching in select cities and starring Regina Hall and Haley Lu Richardson. Oscilloscope is playing doc John McEnroe: In The Realm of Perfection, Julien Faraut’s unique take on the tennis star’s 1984 French Open. And, writer-director Isabel Coixet drama The Bookshop from Greenwich Entertainment, starring Emily Mortimer, Bill Nighy and Patricia Clarkson, rolls out in New York and L.A.
Also opening in limited release is First Run Features title Hot To Trot. The company is targeting fans of dance and LGBT audiences for the Michael Dinner comedy-fantasy, making its bow in New York Friday, followed by L.A. in September.
Director: Michael Noer
Writer: Aaron Guzikowski
Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Rami Malek, Yorick Van Wageningen, Roland Møller, Tommy Flanagan, Eve Hewson
Distributor: Bleecker Street
Crime-drama Papillon debuted at last year’s Toronto Film Festival where distributor Bleecker Street first caught the film, directed by Michael Noer and starring Charlie Hunnam and Rami Malek. The company said it was drawn to the “very contemporary telling” of the story, which distinguishes it from the 1973 Papillon starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman.
“The former Papillon was a bit more romantic, this one is gritty, tense and very realistic,” said Jack Foley, Bleecker Street president of Distribution. “We were much moved by how the narrative worked.”
Based on the international best-selling autobiographical books Papillon and Banco, the film follows the epic story of Henri “Papillon” Charrière (Charlie Hunnam), a safecracker from the Parisian underworld who is framed for murder and condemned to life in the notorious penal colony on Devil’s Island. Determined to regain his freedom, Papillon forms an unlikely alliance with quirky convicted counterfeiter Louis Dega (Rami Malek), who in exchange for protection, agrees to finance Papillon’s escape.
“End of August is ‘adult time’ in my opinion, and that is an opportunity,” said Foley. “At Focus Features, we had a lot of experience releasing films to adult audiences this time of year. A lot of people take time off at the end of summer. At the same time, we’re not just going for adults. We’re also targeting Rami Malek fans.”
Foley, previously president of distribution at Focus, cites other late-summer adult fare such as The Constant Gardener (2005), The American (2010), Eat Pray Love (2010) and The Help (2011).
“Once people see [this film] they realize it stands on its own. At tastemaker screenings, the pleasant response we’ve seen is that people have gone away saying, ‘Wow,’” said Foley. “Word of mouth should play this weekend and into the Labor Day holiday weekend. I think people like me who have seen the original will see it’s a powerful interpretation. This is a great jail movie.”
Bleecker Street is opening Papillon in 500 theaters around North America this weekend. Said Foley, “The one thing about this film is that there’s built-in awareness with the older audience and for this time of year, that is a good thing to have available.”
Support The Girls
Director-writer: Andrew Bujalski
Cast: Regina Hall, Haley Lu Richardson, Shayna McHayle, Brooklyn Decker, Jana Kramer, James Le Gros, Dylan Gelula, AJ Michalka, Lea DeLaria
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
Support The Girls producer Sam Slater has been working with filmmaker Andrew Bujalski for several years, including their 2015 project, Results, which Magnolia Pictures released in May of that year. “[Support The Girls] has been a two-year process and not dissimilar to how Results came about,” said Slater. “Originally, it was a television concept, but then it was decided to adapt it to a feature. I thought the first draft of the script was very strong, but of course I’m biased.”
The film centers on Lisa Conroy (Regina Hall), the unlikely general manager of “sports bar with curves” Double Whammies. An incurable den mother, she nurtures and protects her girls fiercely, but over the course of one trying day, her optimism is battered from every direction.
Casting the main character of Lisa was central to assembling the larger cast and crew, according to Slater. “Finding her was the logical start,” he said. “Regina was always someone I had wanted to work with. I’m close with her agent and he’s a big Bujalski fan. He championed Regina for this and we thought it was [a good fit].”
Somewhat of a departure from past Bujalski films, more financing partners joined the project rather than the bulk resources coming from one party. “This was a bit of a bigger budget,” noted Slater. “We had a restaurant for a full month, which wasn’t inexpensive.”
Support The Girls shot over 22 days in Austin last summer in hot, muggy weather, with the location standing in for Houston. “I think we lucked out in finding a restaurant that had just gone out of business shortly before we arrived, so it still had all of the interiors,” said Slater. “It was like a custom soundstage for a restaurant.”
Rights for Support The Girls were negotiated ahead of the film’s SXSW debut last spring. Said Slater: “They are the perfect partner for Andrew’s films. They get him and do a great job. Results had great theatrical and is still doing well on-demand and it received a Spirit Awards nomination. We have a chance to do similarly for this film. It was a no-brainer to go with them.”
Magnolia Pictures will open the title in select cities Friday including L.A.’s Nuart and Alamo Drafthouse in Brooklyn, NY.
John McEnroe: In The Realm of Perfection
Director: Julien Faraut
Subjects: John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl, Mathieu Amalric (narrator)
Oscilloscope caught Julien Faraut’s doc John McEnroe: In The Realm of Perfection at its Berlinale premiere in February. The company was attracted by its unconventionality using 16mm footage shot courtside by Gil de Kermadec in the early 1980s.
“Faraut constructs this very poetic cinematic essay about, in the most basic sense, tennis technique, and McEnroe is his main subject,” commented Oscilloscope’s Andrew Carlin. “While that may sound dull or academic, it’s not. It’s gonzo as hell. Throughout the film, Faraut employs Sonic Youth, Raging Bull clips, computer animation and somehow it all totally works. It’s truly unlike any sports doc ever made and it’s thrilling.”
Ranked the world’s top tennis player, McEnroe competes in the French Open at Paris’s Roland Garros Stadium in 1984. Close-ups and slow motion sequences of McEnroe competing, as well as instances of his notorious temper tantrums, highlight a ”man who played on the edge of his senses.” The documentary probes the archival film to unpack both McEnroe’s attention to the sport and the footage itself, creating a lively and immersive look at a driven athlete, a study on the sport of tennis and the human body and movement, and finally how these all intersect with cinema itself.
“Even if you watched McEnroe compete live in 1984, you definitely didn’t see it like this,” said Carlin. “In fact, much of the footage Faraut is working with has never been seen before — that grainy speck everyone remembers shouting inaudibly to the umpire at Roland Garros? We’re now literally on the court with him, listening to crystal clear audio of those interactions and finally have a deeper understanding of what the hell made him so frustrated. Tennis fans are going to gobble it up.”
Oscilloscope is running ads on the Tennis Channel and pushing the title in tennis publications in addition to mainstream newspapers. The company is also hoping positive reviews in The New York Times and Village Voice propel the title as it heads to theaters. Oscilloscope, not surprisingly, chose the start of the doc’s launch with the upcoming U.S. Open.
John McEnroe: In The Realm of Perfection opened exclusively at Film Forum in New York on Wednesday. Oscilloscope will take it to the top 25 markets by August 31.
Director-writer: Isabel Coixet
Cast: Emily Mortimer, Bill Nighy, Patricia Clarkson
Distributor: Greenwich Entertainment
Greenwich Entertainment saw The Bookshop, based on the novel by Penelope Fitzgerald, at a distributor screening last fall in New York. The company was drawn to the period drama as well as the cast and story, according to Greewich’s Ed Arentz. “Happily, the execution delivered and we were able to secure the rights.”
Set in England in 1959, the film follows free-spirited widow Florence Green (Emily Mortimer), who risks everything to open a bookshop in a conservative East Anglian coastal town. While bringing about a surprising cultural awakening through works by Ray Bradbury and Vladimir Nabokov, she earns the polite but ruthless opposition of a local grand dame (Patricia Clarkson) and the support and affection of a reclusive book loving widower (Bill Nighy). As Florence’s obstacles amass and bear suspicious signs of a local power struggle, she is forced to ask: Is there a place for a bookshop in a town that may not want one?
“Late summer into September is traditionally a lean period in terms of number and quality of releases,” commented Arentz. “This is particularly the case in the older arthouse world where the onset of school is not a major distraction.”
Similar to other late summer roll outs, Greenwich Entertainment is targeting older adults, primarily women 55-plus for The Bookshop.
“Given the target audience we will have a traditional print presence abetted by NPR and social media,” noted Arentz. And given the film’s celebration of reading and independent bookstores, we are doing considerable outreach to independent booksellers and libraries, and they have proven very receptive displaying bookmarks and mini-posters while endorsing on their email lists and social media.”
Greenwich Entertainment begins The Bookshop’s theatrical roll out at three New York locations including AMC, Landmark 57 West and Cinemas 1,2,3 as well as exclusively in Los Angeles at The Landmark. The Bookshop will then head to 65 theaters in its second frame before reaching 100 locations by week three.