Christian Bale Prowls L.A. In Terrence Malick’s ‘Knight Of Cups’; ‘The Wave’ Rushes In: Specialty Preview

Melinda Sue Gordon / Broad Green Pictures

Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett and Natalie Portman are just a few of the bold face names in Terrence Malick’s feature Knight Of Cups, opening in New York and Los Angeles following a premiere Tuesday night in L.A. attended by more than a thousand ticketholders. The Broad Green Pictures releases.

On the documentary side this weekend, BBC Worldwide North America is rolling out the 2015 SXSW Film Festival title They Will Have To Kill Us First, which will loosely follow a concert tour with the Malian musicians profiled in the feature. It opens exclusively in New York. Meanwhile, Magnolia Pictures launches the Toronto fest ’15 pick up The Wave by Norwegian filmmaker Roar Uthaug, hoping to tap the genre/disaster flick market as Wave heads out day and date. Also targeting the genre crowd isDark Sky Films, debuting Emelie in six cities.

Another debut this weekend is New York City’s new independently operated movie theater, Metrograph, on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The venue has two theaters and will most certainly be a mainstay on the Specialty Box Office roster. Metrograph received a star-studded opening party Wednesday night with well-wishers including Darren Aronofsky, Dustin Hoffman, Noah Baumbach, J.C. Chandor, Jim Jarmusch, Willem Dafoe, Rose McGowan, John Waters, James Marsden and more.

Knight Of Cups
Director-writer: Terrence Malick
Cast: Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, Brian Dennehy, Antonio Banderas, Freida Pinto, Wes Bentley, Isabel Lucas, Teresa Palmer, Imogen Poots, Peter Matthiessen, Kevin Corrigan, Dane DeHaan, Ryan O’Neal, Fabio, Joe Manganiello, Ben Kingsley
Distributor: Broad Green Pictures

5609281AJPerhaps hard to believe, but Knight Of Cups is only the seventh feature directorial from filmmaking maverick Terrence Malick, whose name certainly attracts some marquis talent. Aside from this film’s headliners Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett and Natalie Portman, Knight Of Cups is jammed with big names both in front of and behind the camera, including D.P. Emmanuel Lubezki, who just won his third consecutive Oscar for his work on The Revenant.

A world premiere at the 2015 Berlin International Film Festival and the Santa Barbara International Film Festival last month, Knight Of Cups follows writer Rick (Bale) on an odyssey through the playgrounds of Los Angeles and Las Vegas as he undertakes a search for love and self. Even as he moves through a landscape of mansions, resorts, beaches and clubs, Rick grapples with complicated relationships with his brother (Wes Bentley) and father (Brian Dennehy). His quest to break the spell of disenchantment takes him on a series of adventures with six alluring women: rebellious Della (Imogen Poots), physician ex-wife Nancy (Cate Blanchett), serene model Helen (Freida Pinto), wronged woman Elizabeth (Natalie Portman), playful stripper Karen (Teresa Palmer), and innocent Isabel (Isabel Lucas), who helps him see a way forward.

“Terrence Malick is a huge magnet for talent,” said Broad Green’s president of Theatrical Distribution Travis Reid. “This is the first in our three-picture deal we made in Berlin last year.” Reid said Malick wanted Thursday’s theatrical premiere to include fans, so only about 200 of 1,500 seats were set aside for invited guests.

“We have four [of this year’s] Oscar nominees involved with this film,” added Reid. “The film is beautiful. It’s a very experiential kind of film.”

Malick’s previous release, To The Wonder with Ben Affleck, Javier Bardem and Rachel McAdams, grossed over $587K theatrically, though the 2013 Magnolia release was a day and date roll out. His 2011 Searchlight title The Tree Of Life grossed over $13.3 million, while 2005 New Line release The New World with Colin Farrell grossed over $12.7 million domestically. Malick’s 1998 film The Thin Red Line with Sean Penn and Adrien Brody grossed $36.4 million, which remains his biggest theatrical cume.

“Terry ruminates on ideas for a very long time. He spoke about [Knight Of Cups] during post-production for [2011 film] The Tree Of Life,” said producer Nicolas Gonda. “He was very interested in doing a story in Los Angeles, but he wanted to create a ‘small town’ environment within L.A. In The Tree Of Life, we worked in contained atmospheres and that was our task for this movie.”

FilmNation produced the title, which shot over 9 weeks in the summer of 2012 in various areas of Los Angeles and Las Vegas. “We’re always a nimble and agile group,” said fellow producer Ken Kao. “We were fighting to not draw attention though. At the time, Christian was the biggest star in the world because of The Dark Knight, so when you have actors of that caliber, you get all kinds of attention. We also didn’t do ourselves any favors going to popular places in L.A. to shoot.” Added producer Sarah Green: “One thing we didn’t anticipate was when Christian’s character jumped off a pier.”

Post-production was a typically lengthy process. Green noted that Malick works with a small core group of editors in the beginning stages of the edit and then widens the circle for a fresh perspective.

Broad Green opens Knight Of Cups today with two runs in both New York and Los Angeles. The company will add 20 additional markets next week with further expansion afterward. “It’s a special film you want in the right theaters,” said Travis Reid. “It’s going to appeal to Malick fans and the art house crowd. We’ll add engagements in each market and expand it as it makes sense.”

They Will Have To Kill Us First
Director: Johanna Schwartz
Subjects: Aliou Touré, Oumar Touré, Garba Touré, Nathanael Dembélé, Khaira Arby, Fadimata Walett Ourmar, Moussa Sidi, Hassan Mehdi, Marc-Antoince Moreau, Nick Zinner, Fadi, Tartit
Distributor: BBC Worldwide North America

images-1BBC Worldwide North America timed the release of Malian music doc They Will Have To Kill Us First to coincide with Music Freedom Day 2016 (March 3). BBC Worldwide Music’s Salim Mukaddam acquired the title, which highlights the cultural fallout from the takeover by Islamic militants in parts of the African nation.

The feature by debut director Johanna Schwartz follows punk-blues band Songhoy Blues and musicians Kharia Arby, Fadimata “Disco” Walet Oumar, and Moussa Sidi as they deal with an unfathomable situation. When Islamic jihadists took control of northern Mali in 2012, they enforced one of the harshest interpretations of sharia law by banning all forms of music. Radio stations were destroyed, instruments burned, and Mali’s musicians faced torture, even death. Overnight, the country’s revered musicians were forced into hiding or exile, where most remain. But rather than laying down their instruments, the courageous Songhoy Blues fought back, standing up for freedom and using music as a weapon against the ongoing violence that ravages their homeland.

“We’ve been tracking this film since before SXSW last year,” said Soumya Sriraman, EVP of Franchise and Digital Enterprises at BBC Worldwide North America, who nabbed the title for U.S. release. “It is a convergence of a topical issue and music which is perfect for us. This is the kind of film that galvanizes the grass roots.” Ahead of its release this weekend, Sriraman said the distribution unit is utilizing a “trifecta of music, film and ‘message’ press” in addition to partnerships with Spotify and African advocacy groups.

“Spotify is doing internal messaging to get their tastemakers talking about the film,” said Sriraman. “We’re going about it in an organic, word of mouth way.”

In addition to the grassroots marketing, the film’s release will loosely track the band’s U.S. tour dates. “Atlantic Records is supporting their tour, so we’re opening the film [en route] where it makes sense,” she added. “Art house space is limited, but we’re going to do as much as we can.” The title had a small theatrical run in the U.K., which Sriraman described as “good,” though that release was spearheaded by the film’s producers.

They Will Have To Kill Us First open exclusively in New York at the Village East. About a dozen other markets are also on tap, including the Laemmle Santa Monica April 1. Added Sriraman: “Non-theatrical will take place after the run. We’ll also go to universities.”

The Wave
Director: Roar Uthaug
Writers: Harald Rosenløw-Eeg, John Kåre Raake
Cast: Kristoffer Joner, Ane Dahl Torp, Thomas Bo Larsen, Fridtjov Såheim, Jonas Hoff Oftebro, Arthur Berning Laila Goody
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures

imagesMagnolia Pictures saw disaster pic The Wave in Toronto where the company said it “screened amazingly well.” The film takes place in Norway’s Geiranger, a spectacular tourist draw where the mountain Åkerneset constantly threatens to collapse into the fjord. After putting in several years at Geiranger’s warning center, geologist Kristian (Kristoffer Joner) is moving on to a prestigious gig with an oil company when he senses something isn’t right, geologically speaking. The substrata are shifting. With tourist season at its peak, no one wants to believe that this could be the big one – but it is. When that mountain begins to crumble, everyone in Geiranger has ten minutes to get to high ground before the tsunami hits.

Norwegian director Roar Uthaug designed the project to “bring a traditional Hollywood genre closer to home.” The film is shot mostly with a handheld camera in a quasi-documentary style to give the experience intimacy.

“It’s a very relatable film told through the story of a family. It’s a very entertaining film,” said Magnolia Pictures exec Matt Cowal. “Fans of genre/disaster movies who are willing to watch subtitles will like this. It’s just a matter of getting past the subtitles.”

Cowal said The Wave is actually of a “higher quality” than typical Hollywood blockbusters and delivers on the “action-disaster movie level.” “We think it’s going to appeal to foreign-language audience fans, but this could potentially go a lot broader.”

Magnolia is eyeing on-demand to provide the bulk of The Wave‘s cash flow. It will open the title day and date on iTunes and cable platforms this weekend. On the theatrical side, The Wave will open with 30 engagements today and expand on the big screen throughout March.

Director-writer: Michael Thelin
Writers: Richard Raymond, Harry Herbeck
Cast: Sarah Bolger, Joshua Rush, Carly Adams, Thomas Bair, Susan Pourfar, Chris Beetem
Distributor Dark Sky Films

5609152ADistributor Dark Sky Films said it was drawn to Tribeca Film Festival debut Emelie because the title “appeals to mainstream audiences craving something outside the norm.”

Emelie opens as the parents of the three young Thompson children head out for a date in the city. The children immediately take to their new babysitter, Anna (Sarah Bolger), who seems like a dream come true: she’s sweet, fun, and lets them do things that break all of their parents’ rules. But as Anna’s interactions with them take on a more sinister tone, the kids realize that their caretaker may not be who she claims to be. Soon it’s up to big brother Jacob to protect his siblings from the increasingly nefarious intentions of a very disturbed woman.

Emelie toys with the traditional conventions of the genre, and we were excited to discover a thriller that played so terrifyingly with the notions of trust,” commented Dark Sky’s Greg Newman. “The babysitter protagonist in this film is not a sympathetic last girl standing, but rather a chilling and all-too-real character the viewer will not soon forget.”

Newman added that ahead of Emelie‘s launch this weekend, Dark Sky cast a wide marketing net that “encompasses everything from dedicated genre fans to ‘mommy blogs.'”

“Our campaign plays upon the idea that sometimes the greatest threat is the one closest to home,” noted Newman. “March is typically a time of year that major studios avoid, allowing limited release movies and VOD titles the opportunity to succeed.” Dark Sky Films will open Emelie in six cities including New York and Los Angeles this weekend in tandem with a digital roll out across major platforms. The company will continue to open the title in additional markets throughout March.

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