After teasing late last year a bus tour to promote his new film Where To Invade Next, Michael Moore announced last week that he was being hospitalized with pneumonia and asked his fans to take to social media to promote the title’s release this weekend (he’s apparently now resting at home). Tom Quinn, who is leading the title’s release along with Jason Janego and Drafthouse Films’ Tim League, said they are concentrating on getting the film out before announcing a name for their new label. Roadside Attractions’ Touched With Fire starring Katie Holmes and Luke Kirby opens Friday following a premiere in New York with the film’s stars at Lincoln Center. Paparazzi were a constant presence during the project’s filming in Manhattan. Magnolia Pictures is bowing Oscar nominee A War by Danish director Tobias Lindholm, moving up its original U.S. release to take advantage of its momentum in the Best Foreign Language race. Screen Media is launching Bad Hurt, produced by actor Theo Rossi, from a stage play. And Film Movement is opening Sundance 2015 pic Glassland with Toni Colette and Jack Reynor, who won an acting nod at the festival.
Also opening this weekend is Bollywood feature Fitoor in 147 U.S. theaters, coinciding with its Indian release in 1,225 theaters. The UTV title will also open in the U.K. and Middle East. Kino Lorber will bow Mountains May Depart, while Epic Pictures will open Nina Forever.
Where To Invade Next
Director: Michael Moore
Distributor: Unnamed distribution company headed by Tom Quinn, Jason Janego and Tim League
Former Radius heads Tom Quinn and Jason Janego along with Drafthouse Films’ Tim League will roll out the first film of their still-unnamed distribution start-up this weekend. Michael Moore’s Where To Invade Next debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival and was picked up by the new company ahead of its U.S. premiere at the New York Film Festival in early October. Initially, the film was slated to have its regular release begin December 23 but was moved to Presidents Day weekend aside from a small qualifying run over the Christmas holiday.
The docu-comedy has Moore back in the center as he plays the role of an “invader” in mostly European countries where he attempts to “take” their ideas back home on a host of sociopolitical issues such as education, health care, vacation time and even prisons.
“The original release date was before Christmas, but then we didn’t think it would be good with Star Wars opening,” said Quinn. “We saw some daylight in February being in the middle of Primary Season and opening on [President’s Day] weekend.”
Moore told Deadline’s Pete Hammond last year that the idea would be to have the title launch with a “50-state strategy,” with the Oscar-winning filmmaker heading off on a “rock ‘n’ roll-style tour of every state” via a specially designed Where To Invade Next bus tour. That didn’t happen due to health issues. In a long Facebook post, Moore wrote asked fans to share the film’s trailer, poster and 30-second ad “wherever you can” in addition to forwarding reviews to friends and family.
“He hasn’t been able to travel since December,” Quinn said, “but to his credit, he rallied and went to Flint which took up a lot of his time as it should. The guy’s a trouper, and I’m impressed by that. [But] his health has prevented him from running a regular schedule to promote the movie.”
Moore said during the post-screening Q&A at NYFF last fall that he made Where To Invade Next with “one-third of the budget” of his last film, Capitalism: A Love Story. The 2009 release grossed $14.36 million domestically, while his previous feature, 2007’s Sicko from Lionsgate, grossed $24.5 million. His all-time highest grosser was 2004 release, Fahrenheit 9/11, which totaled nearly $119.2 million domestically — the top-grossing docu of all time.
“We’re releasing the film as an ‘aggressive documentary,’ but not on the [scale] of a Fahrenheit 9/11 or Sicko,” said Quinn, who spearheaded the releases of Oscar-winning docmentaries Citizenfour in 2014 ($2.8 million cume) and 20 Feet From Stardom in 2013 (nearly $5 million cume). “It’s a great Michael Moore movie, it exists quite well in this election climate. … It’s a movie that will be relevant all year long. Will likely have a longer ancillary life than his last two movies. These movies will and should continue to exist theatrically.” Quinn said the title will bow in about 308 engagements Friday.
Quinn added that he, Janego and League likely will hold off on announcing the name of their distribution label until after Where To Invade Next is well into its release. “The focus has been 100% on releasing this movie, so that’s what we’re doing,” Quinn said. “We’re not going to announce a name until we have this off and running. We like that it’s not about us, but about the movie.”
Touched With Fire
Director-writer: Paul Dalio
Cast: Katie Holmes, Luke Kirby, Christine Lahti, Griffin Dunne, Bruce Altman, Alex Manette, Edward Gelbinovich, Daniel Gerroll
Distributor: Roadside Attractions
Producer Jeremy Alter met filmmaker Paul Dalio through David Lynch, later producing two of his short films. Dalio told him about a feature project he was working on, which was a personal one for the filmmaker. The story revolves around two manic depressives (Katie Holmes and Luke Kirby) who meet at a psychiatric hospital and begin a romance that brings out all of the beauty and horror of their condition.
“The two characters played by Katie Holmes and Luke Kirby experienced things that really happened to Paul Dalio,” said Alter. “Paul is bipolar and is very open about that. Some of his own life experiences he had were infused into [the story] to give an honest portrayal of the two characters.” Casting director Avy Kaufman suggested Holmes and Kirby for the lead roles, while financing for the project came from a “consortium of private investors,” according to Alter.
“Avy championed both our leads and has incredible instincts,” said Alter at the film’s New York premiere Wednesday night at the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center. “We were excited [that Holmes and Kirby] were equally excited about our project, and once they were on, they took the material to a whole new level.” The film shot over 44 days in New York and Utah, using a mix of 35mm film in parts along with the Alexa digital camera.
“The shoot was great, but challenging in a lot of respects,” added Alter. “Shooting in Manhattan is challenging in a lot of ways when you have an actress like Katie because the paparazzi would follow us around and were relentless. They threatened that if we didn’t let them get their shots, they would yell ‘cut’ in the middle of a take.” Holmes would at times travel to Alter’s apartment in the East Village ahead of the shoot to try and head off the paparazzi. But by the end of the day, they’d find her. At one point, Holmes and Kirby were being filmed in the Washington Square fountain in Greenwich Village a day before NYU graduation, and 200 paparazzi showed up to capture the moment.
“Also challenging was that our DP was pregnant and on the second to last day of the shoot I got a call that they were going to the hospital and that I should cancel the last day,” said Alter. “But we got through the day.”
Touched With Fire debuted at last year’s SXSW Film Festival under the title Mania Days, and Roadside Attractions boarded the project soon afterward. The company will open the title in New York and Los Angeles this weekend, expanding to about two dozen additional markets on February 19.
Magnolia Pictures opened director Tobias Lindholm’s A Hijacking stateside in 2013, a precursor of sorts of Paul Greengrass’ Captain Phillips. The company is returning the Danish filmmaker stateside with another story about conflict, aptly titled A War. While writing the script, he consulted with Afghan veterans, relatives of soldiers, an auditor, a defense attorney and a former Taliban warrior he met in Turkey, where the film was shot. He also found Afghan refugees there and cast them in his film.
The feature follows company commander Claus M. Pedersen and his men who are stationed in an Afghan province. Meanwhile, back in Denmark, Claus’ wife Maria is trying to hold everyday life together with a husband at war and three children missing their father. During a routine mission, the soldiers are caught in heavy crossfire, and in order to save his men, Claus makes a decision that has grave consequences for him — and his family back home. A Hijacking grossed more than $414K at the box office and likely a good deal more on-demand.
“We distributed [A Hijacking], and it did very well including getting great reviews,” said Magnolia Pictures’ Matt Cowal. “We bought [the film] based on the script. Tobias strives for realism in his films, as was the case in A Hijacking. This film looks at the impact of war on people at home.”
A War, which debuted at the Venice Film Festival and played AFI Fest, is an Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film. Its nomination prompted Magnolia to move up its release date. “We always knew it would have a shot at a nomination,” said Cowal. “We were originally going to open it about a month later but decided this would be a good time. We’ve been screening it a lot, and Tobias has done a ton of publicity. The film also got an endorsement from Kathryn Bigelow, which was great.”
Magnolia will open A War in a traditional rollout in Los Angeles and New York. It will open the following week in more than a dozen additional locations, with further cities added around the country throughout March.
Director-writer: Mark Kemble
Writer: Jamieson Stern
Cast: Theo Rossi, Karen Allen, Johnny Whitworth, Michael Harney, Ashley Williams, Iris Gilad, Calvin Dutton
Distributor: Screen Media Films
While winding down on a TV project a few years ago, actor Theo Rossi was sifting through scripts that might be a fit for his production company, Dos Dudes Pictures. He read the script for the play Bad Hurt on Cedar Street by Mark Kemble and reached out. “They said there were a lot of producers who said they wanted to make a movie out of it, but it never worked out,” said Rossi. “[Kemble] said one of the reasons the film hadn’t been made was that he wanted to direct the film. I said: ‘Of course you should direct it. You know the nuance of the story.'”
The story follows the Kendalls, a family burdened by grief and claustrophobia. Faced with caring for one child with special needs and another with PTSD, the family struggles for a sense of stability at home in their Staten Island hamlet. When a secret from the past is revealed, it threatens to tear them apart.
“I always say my ignorance about certain things can sometimes be my best ally,” Rossi said about plunging into making Bad Hurt when it had failed to make it to the big screen before. “I’m the epitome of the working-class actor. I was an extra. And this story is the epitome of the working-class family. I said I was going to make it. I had 19 investors on it, and we raised every cent of the money.”
Rossi moved the location of the film from Providence, RI, to Staten Island, where he grew up, in order to take advantage of friends and family who were willing to help. The title shot two years ago, amid one of the worst winters in memory, which caused some disruption. “A lot of things had to be changed on the fly from outdoor to indoor,” he said. “We had wanted to shoot on the ferry but couldn’t. But it was also a smooth shoot because there were no egos. We had a young crew that wanted to make a name for themselves. … My mom was cooking food, friends were shoveling snow. An electrician friend of mine was hooking up the equipment.”
Bad Hurt shot over 17 days in Staten Island and two days in Brooklyn, with one snow day halting production. The film debuted at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival. Screen Media picked it up after the festival and will release it day-and-date this weekend, bowing theatrically in Manhattan, L.A., Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Staten Island and Providence.
Director-writer: Gerard Barrett
Cast: Toni Collette, Will Poulter, Jack Reynor, Michael Smiley, Joe Mullins, Melissa Maria Carton
Distributor: Film Movement
Film Movement screened Glassland following its premiere at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, where it had its U.S. premiere, winning a Special Jury Prize for acting for Jack Reynor. The title centers on John (Reynor) lives with his mother, Jean (Toni Collette), in a social housing suburb and ekes out a meager living as a nocturnal taxi driver. John returns home one morning to find his mother unconscious from an alcohol overdose – and this was not the first time. When Jean is offered an opportunity to recover, John, with no savings or insurance, subsequently is faced with a life-changing task that may affect him and his family’s lives forever.
“Historically, Film Movement is known for foreign-language films from Cannes and Berlin etc., but since I took over, we’ve decided to do more English fare as well as foreign films,” said Michael Rosenberg, President of Film Movement. “We’ve also decided to do more documentaries. We acquired nine docs last year compared to six in all the previous years. It doesn’t mean we’re turning our back on the foreign-language market. We’ve had our best year with [Oscar nominee] Theeb. Glassland is certainly an art house film that fit right in with what we do. Award-winning festival movies are one of our mandates.”
Film Movement has played Glassland at a number of Irish festivals. The distributor is tapping the Irish community as a core audience in New York, where it will open this weekend, though it is expecting the title to resonate beyond that community. “We have print and radio coverage with cast interviews that we’ll have available prior to its release,” said Rosenberg. “It’s a day-and-date release, so we’ll also have promo on cable platforms in addition to promotion through social media.”
Film Movement will open Glassland theatrically at Cinema Village in New York and L.A. at the Laemmle Music Hall. Added Rosenberg, “We don’t expect to get a lot of pickup from other theaters, but we are expecting positive press in New York and L.A., so we’re hoping to do additional bookings beyond that.”