The heavy roster of Specialties heading to theaters in the post-Labor Day period is ebbing a bit this weekend. Cuba Gooding, Jr. makes his debut as writer-director with thriller Bayou Caviar, in which he stars with Famke Janssen and Richard Dreyfuss in a day and date bow this weekend via Gravitas Ventures. Sundance fest debut documentary Studio 54 is the second recent theatrical feature by Matt Tyrnauer, following this summer’s Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood. Zeitgeist opens the title about the legendary New York nightclub in, of course, New York, before heading West next week. Vertical Entertainment is opening drama-thriller A Crooked Somebody directed by Trevor White and starring Rich Sommer, while Music Box is spearheading SXSW’s Finnish metal music-comedy, Heavy Trip.

A couple of studios are also giving their movies a limited start, including Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz starrer, Loving Pablo from Universal, while Fox is opening The Hate U Give with Amanda Stenberg and Regina Hall.

Other limited releases include Peter Bogdanovich’s The Great Buster: A Celebration from Cohen Media Group, spotlighting the work of Buster Keaton in New York Friday, heading to L.A. October 19. Ammo Content is opening dark indie comedy, Chasing the Blues by Scott Smith in nine cities including L.A., followed by further expansion in the coming weeks. And Saban Films is launching Viking Destiny with Terence Stamp in select locations.

Bayou Caviar
Director-writer: Cuba Gooding, Jr.
Writer: Eitan Gorlin
Cast: Cuba Gooding, Jr., Famke Janssen, Richard Dreyfuss, Lia Marie Johnson, Katharine McPhee, Gregg Bello, Ken Lerner, Sam Shakur
Distributor: Gravitas Ventures

Thriller Bayou Caviar is the directorial debut for Oscar-winner Cuba Gooding Jr. Gravitas Ventures boarded the project after speaking to him over the summer. The actor told the company he wanted to “support anywhere he could,” which helped seal the deal.

“Working with Gravitas provided Cuba the ability to help shape the release pattern and the creation of marketing materials and direction of the campaign,” commented the company’s VP of Sales & Marketing Laura Florence. “The Gravitas team was thrilled with having such an engaged talent participating in all levels of the release.”

Set in Louisiana, the film follows a Russian gangster (Richard Dreyfuss) who engages Rodney (Gooding), a former boxer, to take down his associate’s son-in-law via a salacious tape made by photographer Nic (Famke Janssen).

“Cuba has been amazing with his PR support for the film’s release including appearances on Watch What Happens Live, Live with Kelly and Ryan, AOL Build Series, Access Hollywood, Dr. Oz, a SiriusXM Radio tour, among other appearances and interviews,” noted Florence. “[Additionally, he] is making his Broadway musical debut in Chicago on Saturday, October 6th in New York. This was a fantastic opportunity to pair up our PR efforts to maximize the appearances to include both the film’s release and the Broadway opening.”

Bayou Caviar will open day and date. Theatrically, it will bow at the Village East in New York and Laemmle Music Hall in Los Angeles in addition to select locations in 11 other major markets. Added Florence: “In addition we will be expanding to an additional 7 markets in the following weeks. Based on box office reception, we will see about additional markets from there.”

Studio 54
Director: Matt Tyrnauer
Subjects: Steve Rubell, Ian Schrager
Distributor: Zeitgeist

Only two months after the theatrical release of Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood, filmmaker Matt Tyrnauer goes for two with his Sundance debut Studio 54 about the legendary, coveted New York nightspot that became an epicenter of ‘70s pop culture. Distributor Zeitgeist caught the title at the European Film Market in February.

“There was some confusion as to whether it had already been picked up out of Sundance, but it turns out it hadn’t been,” explained Zeitgeist’s Emily Russo who picked up the film with partner Nancy Gerstman. “The film will be shown on A&E next year but the filmmakers really wanted to have a theatrical release, and we saw a lot of potential for that. It’s such a great story, and Matt is a terrific filmmaker, we’ve long admired his films and were thrilled to close a deal with the support of our partner, Kino Lorber.”

Studio 54 was the epicenter of ’70s hedonism – a place that not only redefined the nightclub, but also came to symbolize an entire era. Its co-owners, Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell, two friends from Brooklyn, seemed to come out of nowhere to preside over a new kind of New York society.

“We think, ‘Who wouldn’t want to see this film?’ It’s a legendary subject, but Ian Schrager’s participation is a first…,” commented Russo. “Yes, it’s a New York story and surely we expect NYC to be a big market, but, as we found with Bill Cunningham New York, there is an appetite for cultural institutions that touch on fashion, celebrity, not to mention an ‘unbelievable’ true story with deeply human elements that will resonate beyond our urban border so we expect the film will play well all over.”

Russo touted the film’s trailer and materials as well as its push with ‘traditional indie’ and mainstream press along with targeted social media in the areas of music, club and ’70s culture in its lead-up to the film’s release this weekend. The company chose to give Tyrnauer time to release Scotty and found early October to be the best period to launch the title.

“We thought October 5 seemed like a ‘perfect’ weekend to get it going and give us enough time throughout the rest of the year to roll it out in other markets,” noted Russo. “Fortunately the IFC Center was able to accommodate this date — screens are hard to come by these days.”

Following its New York open this weekend, Studio 54 heads to L.A., San Francisco and Berkeley next week, and the feature will then play a “few dozen” other major markets in the coming weeks. Added Russo: “We expect to add many more dates once the film ‘proves’ itself at the box office.”

A Crooked Somebody
Director: Trevor White
Writer: Andrew Zilch
Cast: Rich Sommer, Clifton Collins, Jr., Joanne Froggatt, Ed Harris, Amy Madigan
Distributor: Vertical Entertainment, DirecTV

Filmmaker Trevor White boarded drama-thriller A Crooked Somebody after speaking with actor Rich Sommer about the story while the two were working on Rob Reiner’s 2016 film LBJ, on which White served as a producer. Sommer gave White the script, written by Andrew Zilch.

“I read 20 pages and called my brother and said to him that it’s so fun,” said White. “I told Rich that I loved it. There were a few [changes I wanted] but I said we’d love to [make the film] and asked if he’d consider I direct.”

The film centers on Michael Vaughn (Sommer) whose minister father always told him: ‘Better to be an honest nobody than a crooked somebody.’ But Michael doesn’t see the harm in giving people the closure they need with the dead and travels town-to-town professing his abilities as a spirit medium. One night, Michael is kidnapped. With a knife to his throat, Michael suddenly sees the opportunity of a lifetime in his psychologically unstable captor’s desperation to make contact with the other side. Intent on saving his career, and with his associate Chelsea (Joanne Froggatt) by his side, Michael sets out to become a celebrity TV psychic by solving the mystery of a high-profile crime in the national spotlight.

“We went into production in late summer 2016,” explained White. “It’s been a long road to this point. My company [Star Thrower Entertainment] produced it, but when I direct, it’s mentally best for me to check out as a producer because it handcuffs me on the choices I make.”

Leading up to the shoot, more work was done on the script. Sommer was already set to star, while they also looked for additional financing, eventually principally coming through Star Thrower, Storyboard Entertainment and Victual Entertainment

“There wasn’t a full green light,” said White. “Final financing was still dependent on casting. Sommer knew actor Joanne Froggatt socially, who read the script and was on board early on. The script was also given to Ed Harris and Amy Madigan.

A Crooked Somebody shot in August 2016, mostly in Santa Clarita, CA. Principal took 24 days, and then a splinter unit drove through Mammoth, CA for the film’s images of an empty, barren West.

The feature debuted at the Los Angeles Film Festival in June 2017. Vertical Entertainment will spearhead theatrical, opening the title in about a dozen locations in select cities Friday in a day and date/VOD

Heavy Trip
Directors-writers: Juuso Laatio, Jukka Vidgren
Writer: Aleksi Puranen
Cast: Torstein Bjørklund, Antti Heikkinen, Ville Hilska
Distributors: Music Box Films, Doppelgänger, Bloody Disgusting

Music Box Films caught Finnish music-comedy Heavy Trip at SXSW, while scouting films for Music Box Theatre’s Cinepocalypse Genre Film Festival. The feature is its first collaboration with labels Doppelgänger and Bloody Disgusting.

Hailing from a small village in Northern Finland, musician Turo is trying to overcome his fears by leading the unknown heavy metal cover band Impaled Rektum to Norway’s biggest metal festival. This road trip comedy includes a musical brotherhood, grave robbing, Viking heaven, and an armed conflict between Finland and Norway.

“We’re targeting metal fans by partnering with record stores, metal and rock venues, and radio stations, including promotional giveaways complete with band merch,” noted Kyle Westphal, Music Box’s Theatrical Sales Coordinator. “Bloody Disgusting is helping us reach the film’s target demographic via their readership through organic social and digital marketing across their channels including blog posts, social media posts, their weekly YouTube series, their mobile app, and more.”

Heavy Trip will open 20 locations with a mix of late shows, midnight screenings and regular engagements in major markets including New York, L.A., Chicago, Boston and Austin, in addition to some smaller locales. The title will head to VOD platforms October 12.

Added Westphal: “As demonstrated by the recent success of Mandy, there’s a short window where everyone is revved up for late shows and midnight screenings, but also open to something a bit more outside-the-box, since it’ll just be a deluge of horror screenings for the remainder of October.”