German filmmaker Florian Henckel von Donnersmark made a splash in the foreign language box office over a decade ago with The Lives of Others, which took the Oscar for Best Foreign Language film. He is back again with Sony Pictures Classics for Never Look Away, which is also vying for Oscar this year. Also out in theaters beginning Friday is Greenwich Entertainment’s WWII-era drama, The Invisibles, which was the first pick up for the company back in 2017. And on a decidedly different note, Cinedigm is mixing camp and horror with Dead Ant starring Tom Arnold and Sean Astin.
Also this weekend, Focus Features is taking Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman back to theaters following its six Oscar nominations. The company said the film, which grossed over $48.5M in its initial run in theaters starting last August, will play 168 theaters around the country beginning Friday. Said Focus president Lisa Bunnell, “We are thrilled that the Academy recognized BlacKkKlansman with 6 nominations – including Spike Lee’s first-ever for Best Picture and Best Director in his 30-plus year career. Spike’s message that love must conquer hate feels like perfect time to have this film back in theaters.”
Never Look Away
Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmark
Cast: Tom Schilling, Sebastian Koch, Paula Beer, Saskia Rosendahl, Oliver Masucci, Ina Weisse, Hanno Koffler, Jörg Schüttauf, Jeanette Hain, Lars Eidinger
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Sony Pictures Classics opened German filmmaker Florian Henckel von Donnersmark’s The Lives of Others back in 2007, winning the Oscar for Best Foreign Language film. The title grossed $11.28M at the domestic box office. Following a studio release of The Tourist in 2010, the director is back with SPC for his latest, Never Look Away, opening in theaters Friday. It is also nominated in the foreign language category at this year’s Oscars.
Inspired by real events and spanning three eras of German history, the feature tells the story of young art student Kurt (Tom Schilling) who falls in love with fellow student Ellie (Paula Beer). Ellie’s father, Professor Seeband (Sebastian Koch), a famous doctor, is dismayed at his daughter’s choice of boyfriend, and vows to destroy the relationship. What neither of them knows is that their lives are already connected through a terrible crime Seeband committed decades prior.
“We wanted Never Look Away to open in New York at the Paris Theater no matter what,” said SPC co-president Michael Barker. “It’s an epic movie and it belongs at [a theater] like the Paris.” Barker said that Sony Classics took rights to the title just before it began principal photography.
“The National Review said it’s one of the best movies of the last decade,” enthused Barker. “Other critics have been praising it. It’s a great follow-up to The Lives of Others.” Barker noted that The Lives of Others began at somewhat of a disadvantage when some major festivals including the Berlin Film Festival turned it down, but word of mouth spread and gave a major boost to the film. He is also looking to audiences to propel Never Look Away.
“It is opening slowly around the country,” he said. “It’s a movie we need to screen a lot since the word of mouth is strong… Anyone who is interested in Western art and great artists from this time period will be into this. The movie is a home run and has an epic quality [akin] to movies that were made in the ‘60s. It’s compelling storytelling.”
Never Look Away will play exclusively at New York’s Paris Theater this weekend and will head to Los Angeles February 8.
Director-writer: Claus Räfle
Writer: Alejandra López
Cast: Max Mauff, Alice Dwyer, Ruby O. Fee, Aaron Altaras, Victoria Schulz, Florian Lukas
Distributor: Greenwich Entertainment
Historical drama The Invisibles is actually Greenwich Entertainment’s first acquisition. The company bought rights to the title out of the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. Greenwich was attracted to the little known story of a group of survivors who outlasted World War II in the German capital.
“It told a Holocaust story we were utterly unfamiliar with: the true story of how four young Jewish Berliners were able to survive by their own wits and the decency of fellow Germans and ultimately outlast the Nazi regime in its very capital,” commented Greenwich Entertainment’s Ed Arentz. “Very few films have shown what the day to day existence of a persecuted minority is like in a totalitarian police state and that tension makes for an edge-of-your-seat thriller.”
While Goebbels infamously declared Berlin “free of Jews” in 1943, some 1,700 managed to survive in Nazism’s capital. Claus Räfle’s gripping docudrama traces the stories of four real-life survivors who learned that sometimes the best place to hide is in plain sight. While moving between cinemas, cafés and safe houses they dodged Gestapo and a dense network of spies and informants, knowing that certain death was just one mistake away. Yet their prudence was at odds with their youthful inclination towards recklessness, sometimes prompting them to join the resistance, forge passports, or pose as Aryan war widows.
To build awareness of the feature, Greenwich screened The Invisibles in over 50 regional, international and Jewish film festivals around the country, beginning with the Mill Valley Film Festival in October 2018 where it won an audience award.
Noted Arentz: “Pre-release marketing has involved the standard grassroots affinity group outreach, social media and print advertising. We believe this is a story that has wide appeal beyond just Jewish audiences. The phenomenon of a racist nationalist political party coming to power by stigmatizing minority groups, abrogating civil rights and seeking to quarantine and eventually engage in genocide is a cycle that still continues to repeat itself across the world today.”
Hanni Lévy, one of the two living subjects portrayed in The Invisibles, will take part in post-screening Q&As in New York this weekend. She also took part in recent screenings in Berlin and Israel.
The Invisibles opens this weekend, coinciding with International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Sunday, in two theaters each in New York and Los Angeles. The film will then head to art house locations in the top 25 markets followed by further cities over the next three months.
Director-writer: Ron Carlson
Cast: Tom Arnold, Sean Astin, Sydney Sweeney, Jake Busey, Leisha Halley, Rhys Coiro
The cast of Dead Ant and its playful twist on genre appeal drew Cinedigm to the feature, which stars Tom Arnold and Sean Astin. The company has had success with the release of horror films in winter and it hopes to replicate that with Dead Ant.
“We do a lot of horror, but this has its own place being campy and fun. It’s super playful,” said Cinedigm’s Heidi Millay. “This is also a good time of year for this kind of film. The fall is very crowded with prestige film. We do very well with horror in January and February pre-Valentine’s.”
Dead Ant centers on ‘80s hair-metal band Sonic Grave, who finds themselves living off a power ballad they released nearly 30 years ago. Eager to become relevant again, they embark on a road trip to Coachella, where their manager has set them up to reinvent themselves. All they need is a hit song, and what better way to come up with one than to take peyote in Joshua Tree and let the music gods work their magic? But the plan quickly falls apart when the group finds themselves under attack by killer ants…that keep getting bigger.
“We believe Dead Ant will skew two ways [with audiences],” noted Millay. “There are younger audiences who will love the irreverence and humor. Older audiences will love the ‘80s angle and story about an aging ‘hair band.’”
Tom Arnold and Sean Astin have used their social media following to push out Dead Ant’s promotional material. Arnold has also taken part in two press days. Dead Ant had its premiere at TCL Chinese Theater Tuesday, which included a cast Q&A.
Cinedigm is opening Dead Ant day and date Friday. Theatrically it will bow in 10 U.S. markets and one in Canada, including Laemmle Music Hall in Los Angeles. In addition to digital and VOD Friday, the title will be available on Blu Ray in March.
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