It isn’t often that a Whit Stillman movie opens, but this weekend is one of those rare occasions. Starring Kate Beckinsale, Chloë Sevigny and Xavier Samuel, the Jane Austen-inspired Love & Friendship will have an exclusive theatrical window via Amazon and Roadside Attractions. A24 is opening last year’s Cannes Jury Prize winner The Lobster, after taking over the title’s release in February. The film, starring Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz and John C. Reilly, will be in limited release before going wide at the end of the month. Also with a limited bow is Magnolia’s Terence Davies feature Sunset Song, opening in New York and L.A. before going wider in the coming weeks. The company’s genre label, Magnet, is launching Ben Wheatley’s High Rise, starring Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons and Sienna Miller, in about 40 theaters following a premium VOD release. And IFC Films is opening Tribeca 2015 premiere Pelé: Birth of a Legend across multiple platforms.
Also opening in limited release are Pantelion’s Sundown in 75 theaters, two weeks after its debut in Mexico, as well as Freestyle Digital Media’s Divine Access day-and-date. Well Go USA will have Kill Zone 2 in theaters and on demand, and Ewan McGregor plays Jesus in Broad Green’s Last Days in the Desert.
Love & Friendship
Director-writer: Whit Stillman
Writer: Jane Austen (novella)
Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Chloë Sevigny, Xavier Samuel, Tom Bennett, Morfydd Clark, Jenn Murray, Lochlann O’Mearáin, Stephen Fry, Sophie Radermacher
Distributor: Amazon/Roadside Attractions
Amazon picked up Whit Stillman’s Love & Friendship based on a promo reel last summer, and then screened the title for Roadside Attractions in December. Based on the novella Lady Susan by Jane Austen, the film centers on Lady Susan Vernon, who takes up temporary residence at her in-laws’ estate, and while there, is determined to be a matchmaker for her daughter Frederica — and herself too.
“It’s a great movie. We’re incredibly excited about it,” said Roadside Attractions co-president Howard Cohen. “[Amazon] was talking about doing more traditional windows, and we told them that this would be great for that since it’s a Jane Austen costume drama. It had already been invited to Sundance when they showed it to us. It played through the roof there.”
This is the first film from Whit Stillman since his 2011 release Damsels In Distress ($1 million, Sony Classics) and only his fifth feature film ever. Gramercy released his 1998 film, The Last Days Of Disco, which grossed over $3 million, while Fine Line distributed ’94 feature Barcelona ($7.26 million) and New Line bowed his first film, Metropolitan, (over $2.9 million) in 1990. “I think Stillman has been waiting to see what he wanted to do next,” said Cohen. “He’s careful about his material. He had been thinking about this project for awhile. There’s a connection reviewers have drawn with his profile of manners [seen in his previous work]. The rules of society are very much a part of his movies, and reviewers have been saying it’s a natural connection with Jane Austen.”
Cohen noted that other Jane Austen-inspired films have performed strongly with Specialty audiences. Focus Features released the 2005 feature Pride And Prejudice, grossing over $38.4 million, while Miramax rolled out Emma starring Gwyneth Paltrow in 1996, taking in over $22.23 million. As of Thursday, Love & Friendship had a 100% on RT from dozens of critics. “There’s a significant audience for this, skewing toward women,” added Cohen. “The film had a fantastic premiere as the opening night film at the San Francisco International Film Festival.”
Amazon and Roadside will open Love & Friendship in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles this weekend. Cohen said the title will have a “significant expansion” next week, and will be wide by June 3.
Director-writer: Yorgos Lanthimos
Writer: Efthymis Filippou
Cast: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, John C. Reilly, Ben Whishaw, Léa Seydoux, Olivia Colman
The Lobster came together fairly quickly after Greek filmmaker-co-writer Yorgos Lanthimos pitched the idea to a group of producers including Ed Guiney. “He moved to London and decided he wanted to make a movie in the English-language,” said Guiney. “The pitch was ‘un-turn-downable’ at that point, so we commissioned the script. It has five different European co-productions [including] Ireland, the UK, Greece, France and Netherlands where financing came from… The Irish Film Board and British Film Institute (BFI) were particularly strong.”
In the absurdist comedy, Colin Farrell plays David, a man who has just been dumped by his wife. To make matters worse, David lives in a society where single people have 45 days to find true love, or else they are turned into the animal of their choice and released into the woods. David is kept at the mysterious HOTEL while he searches for a new partner, and after several romantic misadventures decides to make a daring escape to abandon this world. He ultimately joins up with a rebel faction known as The Loners, a group founded on a complete rejection of romance. But once there David meets an enigmatic stranger (Rachel Weisz) who stirs up unexpected and strong feelings within him.
“One of the things notable about the project, is that it’s a parallel world so no nationalities apply,” said Guiney. “We just went out to the people we thought would be the best for those parts, and almost always they said, ‘yes.’ A lot of actors know Yorgos’ work. They had seen Dogtooth (2009) and were struck by it and were keen to be involved with this film.”
The script was commissioned in early 2013 and the shoot began in the south of Ireland about a year later over seven weeks in addition to one week in Dublin. Due to the rules of European co-production, money had to be spent where it was given. Editing took place in London, while sound and visual effects work took place in the Netherlands. The Lobster won the Jury Prize at last year’s Cannes Film Festival in addition to the Un Certain Regard Award. Distributor Alchemy picked up the title out of Cannes last year, but in February, A24 took the reins to the film (https://deadline.com/2016/02/alchemy-1201703924/) when the company began to falter.
“I produced [A24’s Oscar-winning] Room and always wanted them to buy The Lobster so it turned out brilliantly,” said Guiney. “I think they’re going to do a great job in the U.S.”
A24 will open The Lobster Friday at the Angelika and Lincoln Square in New York as well as the Arclight and Landmark in L.A. The title will head to top markets the following week ahead of going nationwide May 27.
Director-writer: Terence Davies
Writer: Lewis Grassic Gibbon (novel)
Cast: Agyness Deyn, Peter Mullan, Kevin Guthrie
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
Sunset Song is Terence Davies’ intimate epic of hope, tragedy and love at the dawning of the Great War. A young woman’s endurance against the hardships of rural Scottish life, based on the novel by Lewis Grassic Gibbon. The film takes place during the early years of the twentieth century, with the conflicts and choices a young woman experiences reflecting the struggle between tradition and change; a struggle that continues to resonate today. Set in a rural community, Sunset Song is driven by the young heroine Chris and her intense passion for life, for the unsettling Ewan and for the unforgiving land. The First World War reaches out from afar, bringing the modern world to bear on the community in the harshest possible way, yet in a final moment of grace, Chris endures, now a woman of remarkable strength who is able to draw from the ancient land in looking to the future.
“We think Terence Davies is one of the great living filmmakers and jumped at the chance to work with him,” commented Magnolia exec Matt Cowal. “Furthermore, Agyness Deyn is a revelation. She’s captivating and her performance carries the entire film. She has a major acting career ahead of her.”
Magnolia Pictures is rolling out Sunset Song with a traditional release with an eye on the traditional arthouse audience who are fans of Davies. The company said it gave the feature an “aggressive word of mouth” screening program and noted that “responses from audiences as well as critics have been very encouraging.”
Added Cowal: “The Museum of the Moving Image [in New York] is currently featuring a retrospective of Davies’ films. We’re counting on the word of mouth, a robust publicity campaign and strong critical notices to drive the theatrical release.”
Music Box Films opened Davies’ previous release, The Deep Blue Sea in March, 2012, grossing over $1.12 million on this side of the Atlantic. Sony Classics released his 2000 film The House Of Mirth in December of that year, grossing over $3 million.
Sunset Song will open in New York and L.A. on Friday with an expansion to major markets across the country throughout May.
Director: Ben Wheatley
Writers: Amy Jump, J.G. Ballard (novel)
Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Luke Evans, Elizabeth Moss
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures (Magnet)
Magnolia also has Ben Wheatley’s High Rise, which it picked up at Toronto, opening this weekend via its genre-centric Magnet label. The feature stars Tom Hiddleston as Dr. Robert Laing, the newest resident of a luxurious apartment in a high-tech concrete skyscraper whose lofty location places him amongst the upper class. Laing quickly settles into high society life and meets the building’s eccentric tenants: Charlotte (Miller), his upstairs neighbor and bohemian single mother; Wilder (Evans), a charismatic documentarian who lives with his pregnant wife Helen (Moss); and Mr. Royal (Irons), the enigmatic architect who designed the building. Life seems like paradise to the solitude-seeking Laing. But as power outages become more frequent and building flaws emerge, particularly on the lower floors, the regimented social strata begins to crumble and the building becomes a battlefield in a literal class war.
“We are longtime fans of Ben Wheatley – we released his first film, Down Terrace, and have been eager to work with him again. We thought Ben’s vision of the Ballard novel was wild and uncompromising and a ton of fun.” The film’s stars turned out for the title’s premiere at the recent Tribeca Film Festival, and took part in a press junket. Magnolia gave High Rise a pre-theatrical bow on-demand, noting that it’s “performing well.”
“We opted to release the film on VOD at a higher pre-theatrical price point,” commented Cowal. “This has been an effective strategy for us with star-driven genre fare, and it is off to a good start. The film launches theatrically this week, and the VOD pricing will drop to the standard, in-theaters rate, where we think it will perform even better.” High Rise also features the indie band Portishead in their first recording in six years, covering the ABBA song SOS. The haunting rendition of the popular ‘70s tune can only be heard in the movie, and according to Magnolia, won’t be released anywhere else.
“We think the core audience is consumers of intelligent genre fair, cult literature aficionados and Ballard fans, as well as fans of Ben Wheatley, who has a diehard following, and we’re hoping to attract fans of Tom Hiddleston who is incredibly hot right now,” added Cowal. “He gives a terrifically compelling performance in High Rise.”
The feature will open in about 40 theaters across the country Friday.
Pelé: Birth of a Legend
Directors-writers: Jeffrey Zimbalist, Michael Zimbalist
Cast: Vincent D’Onofrio, Rodrigo Santoro, Diego Boneta, Seu Jorge, Colm Meaney
Distributor: IFC Films
IFC Films saw Imagine Entertainment-produced Pelé: Birth of a Legend at last year’s Cannes Market. International star athlete Pelé is known around the world as a sports legend who changed soccer forever, and a national hero who carried the hopes and dreams of Brazil on his back. But before he was an icon, he was a kid from the slums of São Paulo, so poor that he couldn’t afford a real soccer ball. Charting his meteoric rise—from scrubbing floors to support his family to honing his electrifying playing style on the streets to leading Brazil’s national team to its first World Cup victory at the age of 17—Pelé vividly brings to life one of the greatest sports stories of the 20th century.
“I’m a huge [soccer] fan. I fell in love with the movie, and I know the appeal of Pelé. His popularity is mind-boggling,” said IFC Films president Jonathan Sehring. “We did the premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival and the press coverage was insane. I got off the train at Penn Station and I saw dads wearing Pelé jerseys going down to see the film in Battery Park. Everyone is like a little kid around Pelé.”
IFC Films is hoping to capitalize on interest generated out of the festival with a multi-platform release this weekend, though theatrically it will open at Lincoln Plaza and IFC Center Friday. “At Tribeca, the entire audience broke out in applause when a goal was made in the movie,” added Sehring.. “His appeal is so universal…We’ll be doing social media, traditional media…You name it, we’re going for it.” Pelé: Birth of a Legend will be in all major markets by Memorial weekend.