Awards Hopefuls ‘Spotlight’, ‘Trumbo’ & ‘Brooklyn’ Launch Threatrical Campaigns – Specialty Preview

September and October were generally rough months for limited-release adult-oriented films, a time of the year when sophisticated fare are supposed to thrive. This weekend hopefully will breathe new life into the season. Open Road Films’ Spotlight starring Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams is among the still-crowded slate of newcomers this weekend, joined by Bleecker Street’s Trumbo with Bryan Cranston, Michael Stuhlbarg and Diane Lane. Fox Searchlight, meanwhile, has Brooklyn, starring Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Jim Broadbent and Domhnall Gleeson, while Roadside/Lionsgate will open Toni Collette and Drew Barrymore’s Miss You Already in more than 300 theaters. Actress Ally Walker went behind the camera for Sex, Death And Bowling with Selma Blair via Monterey Media, and Submarine Deluxe is rolling out the documentary Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict.

Also opening in limited release this weekend are Oscilloscope’s docu What Our Fathers Did: A Nazi Legacy at Lincoln Plaza in New York and the Royal in L.A.; Film Movement’s Venice Best Director winner Theeb, which also is Jordan’s foreign-language Oscar entry; and IFC Midnight’s thriller The Hallow by Corin Hardy in select theaters and on-demand.

Director-writer: Tom McCarthy
Writer: Josh Singer
Cast: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Brian d’Arcy James, Stanley Tucci, Elena Wohl
Distributor: Open Road Films

Spotlight posterSpotlight is tipped as an awards heavyweight coming (mostly) out of its festival run, beginning its theatrical run in under a half-dozen theaters this weekend before it slowly heads into wider release by Thanksgiving. Participant Media and Anonymous Content produced Spotlight, based off the 2013 Black List screenplay by Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer.

Based on actual events, the film’s title refers to the Spotlight team of Boston Globe reporters and editors. The feature begins in 2001, when editor Marty Baron assigned a team of journalists to investigate allegations against John Geoghan, a defrocked priest accused of molesting more than 80 boys. Led by editor Walter “Robby” Robinson, reporters Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Matt Carroll and Sacha Pfeiffer interview victims and try to unseal sensitive documents. The reporters made it their mission to provide proof of a cover-up of sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church. Their reporting eventually led to the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law, who had hidden years of serial abuse by other priests, and paved the way for other revelations of molestation and subsequent cover-ups worldwide.

“We’re excited. It’s a great movie, and we’re thrilled to see the response so far,” said Open Road Films Chief Marketing Officer Jason Cassidy. In addition to Spotlight‘s festival run from Veniceto  Telluride and Toronto this year (and the Key West Film Festival coming up), Cassidy said the company has held screenings for various newspapers and journalism schools, including staff screenings for the Boston Globe and Washington Post, and perhaps from an unlikely crowd. “The response also has been strong from the Catholic community,” added Cassidy. “[Boston’s] Cardinal O’Malley has been dealing with the issue, and the rank and file are responding.” In addition to its general marketing, the distributor has also tapped a faith consultant on the publicity side.

“When we test materials, we see the Catholics are over-indexing in their interest,” added Cassidy. “The core audience for this is adult upscale moviegoers, but it’s also incredibly entertaining. It’s something that — knock on wood — will be a crossover. We’re hopeful, but it is a tough space. This weekend, if we sold out nearly all of our shows, we’d crack $50K per average. If we can do sellouts, we’ll be thrilled. But it’s really all about the long run for this movie.”

Open Road will launch Spotlight in two theaters each in New York and Los Angeles, in addition to a single engagement in Boston this weekend. The film will head to about 60 theaters in 17 markets on November 13 and will expand again November 20 heading into Thanksgiving. Added Cassidy: “People love this movie and it’s all about getting them to spread the word. It’s a long-haul movie.”

Director: Jay Roach
Writers: John McNamara, Bruce Cook (book)
Cast: Bryan Cranston, Michael Stuhlbarg, Diane Lane, Laura Flannery, Helen Mirren, David James Elliott, Richard Portnow
Distributor: Bleecker Street

Trumbo posterTrumbo continues Bleecker Street’s partnership with Shivani Rawat’s ShivHans Pictures, which financed the title along with Danny Collins and Captain Fantastic.

Set beginning in 1947, the story centers on Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston), who was Hollywood’s top screenwriter until he and other artists were jailed and blacklisted for their political beliefs. The film recounts how Trumbo used his words and wit to win two Academy Awards and expose the absurdity and injustice under the blacklist, which entangled Hollywood notables from gossip columnist Hedda Hopper to John Wayne, Kirk Douglas and Otto Preminger.

Bleecker Street said it wanted to open Trumbo after other bio-centric films that came out earlier this fall, such as Steve Jobs and Suffragette. “We’re mostly alone in this now,” said Bleecker Street exec Jack Foley. “It has a strong message about First Amendment rights and has an array of phenomenal characters. We think it’s a stand-out for Thanksgiving.” Foley said the company initially is targeting an older audience of ages 35-40 and up but hoped that it will eventually cross over to younger audiences particularly through Cranston’s involvement with Breaking Bad.

“We’re being careful, opening in New York and L.A. this week, then going to Chicago, Phoenix, San Francisco and just a handful of other markets instead of what might be typically a dozen markets,” said Foley. “These are perfect markets for this film. We’ll be opening up against the expansion of Spotlight, but they’ll be in more markets then we will.”

Added Foley: “Trumbo is witty, sophisticated and entertaining. On the 25th, we’ll go broad across the country, and we’ll still be the [relatively] new kid on the block.”

Director: John Crowley
Writer: Nick Hornby, Colm Tóibín (novel)
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Jim Broadbent, Domhnall Gleeson, Fiona Glascott, Brid Brennan, Jane Brennan, Eileen O’Higgins
Distributor: Fox Searchlight

BRooklyn posterProducer Finola Dwyer read Colm Tóibín’s novel Brooklyn and was struck by the immigrant story, which she found to have parallels with her own family. The film is a moving account of Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan), a young Irish immigrant navigating her way through 1950s Brooklyn. Lured by the promise of America, Eilis departs Ireland and the comfort of her mother’s home for the shores of New York City. The initial shackles of homesickness quickly diminish as a fresh romance sweeps Eilis into the intoxicating charm of love. But her new vivacity soon is disrupted by her past, and Eilis must choose between two countries and the lives that exist within.

“It was my mother’s story. She left Ireland for New Zealand in 1951,” said Dwyer. “I moved to London in the early ’90s and had some of the feelings that she must’ve felt in being displaced — questions about ‘where is home?'”

After securing rights to the novel, Nick Hornby wrote a screenplay adaptation. The script eventually landed in filmmaker John Crowley’s hands. “It was a challenging movie to make,” Dwyer said this week at an awards luncheon organized by New York publicist Peggy Siegal at Lotos Club. “An immigration story with a female at the center is a [hard sell]. The [project] also included three crews in three countries, shooting over 35 days in eight weeks. There was a lot of travel and a lot of people to handle, but we made it work.”

Ronan joined the project about a year before shooting began, meeting Crowley when she was 19. Her parents had moved in the ’80s to the Bronx from their native Ireland. They eventually returned to Ireland, where she spent time growing up. “These two worlds, America and Ireland, made me who I am, so I knew this would be the right Irish project for me,” said Ronan at the event, which was hosted by Jon Robin Baitz, Patricia Clarkson and John Patrick Shanley.

Fox Searchlight began Brooklyn‘s rollout Wednesday, playing five theaters this week including AMC Lincoln Square, Cinema 1 and Regal Union Square in New York as well as the Landmark West L.A. and the ArcLight Hollywood.

Miss You Already
Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Writer: Morwenna Banks
Cast: Toni Collette, Drew Barrymore, Dominic Cooper, Paddy Considine, Tyson Ritter, Mem Ferda, Noah Huntley, Jacqueline Bisset
Distributor: Roadside Attractions/Lionsgate

Miss You Already posterRoadside and Lionsgate viewed and acquired Miss You Already in the spring, a couple months before officially announcing they picked up the title in early June.

Starring Toni Collette and Drew Barrymore, the film follows best friends Milly and Jess as they navigate life’s highs and lows. Inseparable since they were young girls, they can’t remember a time they didn’t share everything –secrets, clothes, even boyfriends — but nothing prepares them for the day Milly is hit with life-altering news. Miss You Already “celebrates the bond of true friendship that ultimately can never be broken, even in life’s toughest moments.”

“We bought it in April before Cannes,” said Roadside co-president Howard Cohen. “The plan was for a fall release after Toronto [where it premiered]. The complexity is navigating what is always a crowded fall. It’s a drama, but it’s a more ‘populist’ movie.”

Cohen said the feature’s rollout coincides with a spotlight on the relatively small number of movies directed by women. Miss You Already is directed, (mostly) produced and written by women with a story that is centered on two women. “Catherine [Hardwicke] has been asked to talk about this issue and is testifying on it [to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission]. It’s perfectly timed in Hollywood. … She’s at the forefront of this conversation. This is a passion project for her, and we’re excited to give it a strong launch. It’s a good movie that also has women all across the board.”

Roadside and Lionsgate are marketing Miss You Already to a primarily female audience and are encouraging individuals to “bring their best friend.” Cohen noted that the title has received “good reviews” and added that it has been some time since audiences have seen Collette in a leading role. “This is really her in a lead, and Drew is close behind,” he added. “They’re almost equal, but Toni is the one who gets ill and undergoes the biggest change in the movie.” Barrymore, Collette and Hardwicke have done a good amount of press, including shows such as Ellen, The View, Today and others ahead of its rollout this weekend.

The feature opened well in the U.K. ($2.22M since opening September 25) and Australia ($1.32M since opening October 8). Roadside and Lionsgate will bow with 335 runs in the U.S. (383 including Canada) in the top 75 markets. It will expand based on performance.

Sex, Death And Bowling
Director-writer: Ally Walker
Cast: Selma Blair, Joshua Rush, Drea de Matteo, Adrian Grenier, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Bailey Chase, Drew Powell
Distributor: Monterey Media

Sex Death and BowlingFilmmaker Ally Walker began writing Sex, Death And Bowling after losing a series of people close to her. The film centers on 11-year-old Eli McAllister, who is on a quest to win the Fiesta Cup, a local bowling tournament. Joining him is his famous fashion-designer uncle, Sean McAllister (Adrian Grenier). Sean hasn’t spent time with his family — specifically his father — in years, but now he has come home to spend time with his older brother, Eli’s father. Thrown into the tournament as his ailing brother’s substitute, Sean clashes with his father as old wounds are opened. But instead of reliving the past, they pull together to bowl their best for Eli, who stands to lose so much.

“It’s a very low-budget film that I wasn’t originally going to direct, but then I did,” said Walker. “It’s really a human story.” Walker had lost several people close to her in the span of a few years including a best friend, grandmother, father and sister-in-law, who died at 45 with children. “My children began asking me what happens when we die, and this was the premise,” said Walker. “I remember waking up the day after my father died and … there was a meteor shower. It was so profound to me. I started piecing this story together in my head.”

Walker worked with the late Nora Ephron, who encouraged Walker to go behind the camera. She also met a casting director and showed him the script. “[Through him] we got some actors, and then we got some more actors. Nora, she didn’t direct her first film until 51, and I thought, ‘Maybe I can do that’ … I can do that.” Financing came primarily through private sources and some family, totaling less than $1 million. The project shot over 21 days in Fillmore, CA. Post took some time, with a couple of editors having to leave for other projects.

Monterey Media came on as distributor and will open Sex, Death And Bowling in six theaters in Southern California, Oregon and New Mexico. Other playdates are pending. The film will be available December 15 via iTunes, with Netflix following in the spring.

Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict
Director-writer: Lisa Immordino Vreeland
Writer: Bernadine Colish
Distributor: Submarine Deluxe

PEGGY_GUGGENHEIM_ART_ADDICT posterSubmarine Deluxe’s Dan Braun worked with filmmaker Lisa Immordino Vreeland on Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel (2011), but this time, he also took on the producer role.

Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict is a feature documentary about the life of art icon Peggy Guggenheim, based on her sole authorized biography. Peggy was an heiress to the Guggenheim family who would become a central figure in the modern art movement. As she moved through the cultural upheaval of the 20th century, she collected not only art but artists. Her colorful personal history included trysts, affairs and marriages with such figures as Samuel Beckett, Max Ernst, Jackson Pollock, Marcel Duchamp as well as countless others. While fighting through personal tragedy, she maintained her vision to build one of the most important collections of modern art, which today is enshrined in her famous Venetian palazzo. The film is a compendium of the greatest 20th century art mixed with the wild and iconoclastic life of one of the most powerful women in the history of the art world.

“I’ve been living with it for a long time; from its infancy to it’s ‘birth’ at the Tribeca Film Festival this year,” said Braun, who also is releasing the docu. “It went on to have a very robust festival run. It has sold out almost every festival screening it hadWe have always been excited about its prospects theatrically and felt that because Peggy Guggenheim is such a larger than life character that it would make for a compelling feature documentary.”

Not surprisingly, Submarine Deluxe is targeting the art world as well as admirers of modern art as it heads out to theaters. The company has done outreach to a subset of arts groups and organizations. “Along with traditional print buys, we did an old-fashioned snail mail campaign to over 150 galleries in NYC to raise awareness and generate group sales,” said Braun. “We have done extensive postcard dropping and grass roots [marketing]. We also had a screening for influencers and art world luminaries at the Guggenheim Museum. The interest in Peggy and her amazing life and accomplishments is very high, as we found out with standing-room-only crowd. Another core audience is women. Peggy is such a strong independent voice of a 20th century women who blazed her own path and broke all the rules.”

Initially, Submarine Deluxe had planned to release the title in late summer, but then opted for fall, when schools are in session. The distributor also said it found a window when the “end-of-year big Oscar films were laying in wait and the specialty market would be looking for intelligent adult fare.”

Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict will open at IFC Center and the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York this weekend before heading to the Nuart in L.A. the following weekend. The docu will head to Seattle, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Denver and Boston on November 20, before adding additional markets including Washington, D.C., in subsequent weeks. The film is doing a traditional theatrical release with full 90-day window before VOD.

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