The Fall roll-outs begin ramping up this weekend as Toronto winds down, kicking the theatrical runs of the year’s awards hopefuls into gear. Mike White’s Brad’s Status, from Amazon Studios/Annapurna Pictures, starring Ben Stiller, Austin Abrams and Luke Wilson is opening in New York and Los Angeles Friday on the heels of its Toronto bow. Vertical Entertainment is rolling out Damian Harris’ The Wilde Wedding starring Glenn Close, John Malkovich, Patrick Stewart and Minnie Driver in 20 markets.
Judd Apatow and Michael Bonfiglio teamed up for documentary May It Last: A Portrait Of the Avett Brothers, which had a one-night run this past Tuesday in 325 theaters to the tune of $665K via Oscilloscope, which will continue to open the film as part of its regular theatrical run. And Theo Anthony’s festival favorite, Rat Film, will open in several cities via Memory ahead of on-demand and broadcast on PBS’ Independent Lens.
Other key Specialty roll-outs include Angelina Jolie’s Netflix feature First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers, which will open in select theaters Friday in addition to the steaming service. Music Box Films is opening doc Manolo: The Boy Who Made Shoes for Lizards. The title will play Manhattan’s new eight-theater Landmark at 57 West, which had its official opening party Wednesday. The venue will likely be a key location for Specialties. It will also host Darren Aronofsky’s mother! (Paramount) Friday.
Outsider Films will bow Sundance feature Woodpeckers, which is the Dominican Republic’s Oscar entry at Village East in New York, while Abramorama is opening crime drama Wetlands. ArtAffects is heading to theaters with Because of Grácia. FilmRise is opening Vengeance and Film Movement has Time To Die.
Director-writer: Mike White
Cast: Ben Stiller, Austin Abrams, Jenna Fischer, Michael Sheen, Luke Wilson, Jermaine Clement, Shazi Raja
Distributor: Amazon Studios/Annapurna Pictures
Producer David Bernad and writer/director Mike White had been working together for years. White sent Bernad the script for Brad’s Status in late 2015 and came on as a producer, which White was set to direct. “[Production company] Sidney Kimmel came on board pretty quickly,” said Bernad. “We were all aggressive and passionate about the material. [Executive producer] Carla Hacken was also a great champion of the project and pushed to get the script make. Then Amazon came on in the pre-production phase in August, 2016.”
The film centers on Brad Sloan, a dad who accompanies his college-bound son to the East Coast. The visit triggers a crisis of confidence. Brad has a satisfying career and a comfortable life in suburban Sacramento where he lives with his sweet-natured wife, Melanie, and their musical prodigy son, Troy, but it’s not quite what he imagined during his college glory days.
Showing Troy around Boston, where Brad went to college, he can’t help comparing his life with those of his four best college friends: a Hollywood bigshot, a hedge fund founder, a tech entrepreneur, and a political pundit and bestselling author. As he imagines their wealthy, glamorous lives, he wonders if this is all he will ever amount to. But when circumstances force him to reconnect with his former friends, Brad begins to question whether he has really failed or is, in some ways at least, the most successful of them all.
“Ben [Stiller] came up as an idea to star. He was sent the script and quickly read it,” recalled Bernad. “He and Mike sat down in New York and once he was on, it was all green-lit.” Casting took place for the part of Brad’s son, Troy. Mike White zeroed in on Austin Abrams and then set up a ‘chemistry read’ with Stiller.
The shoot took place over three months in Montréal, Boston and Hawaii. Bernad was very familiar with the Québec city. He as well as his father and brothers attended McGill University located near Montéal’s downtown area.
“We shot in the medical library which doubled for Harvard,” explained Bernad. “I used [my family’s 36 years] of McGill alumni status to get that location.” Production eventually headed to Hawaii, which became something of a surprise vacation for one Montréal individual who had worked on the film’s shoot. An idea to have Abrams join Stiller in a scene prompted a call to one lucky crew member in the city to hop on a plane to deliver Abrams’ wardrobe. “It worked so well,” said Bernad. “It’s the last image you see in the movie.”
Ben’s Status played at the Toronto Film Festival last Saturday, the first time the cast had seen it with an audience. Annapurna partnered with Amazon Studios for the theatrical release backing Cannes. The film will open in two theaters each in New York and Los Angeles before heading to other cities in the coming weeks.
The Wilde Wedding
Director-writer: Damian Harris
Cast: Glenn Close, John Malkovich, Patrick Stewart, Minnie Driver, Peter Facinelli, Grace van Patten
Distributor: Vertical Entertainment
The Wilde Wedding is loosely based on filmmaker Damian Harris’ mother’s fourth wedding. Harris is the son of actor Richard Harris and Elizabeth Rees. The film imagines, according to Harris, what it might have been like had his father been there. “It is also about my mother and father’s relationship and the longevity of their friendship,” he said. “He remained a consistent presence as her ‘other husband.’”
The film centers on movie star Eve Wilde (Glenn Close) who is getting married for the fourth time, raising concerns with her three grown sons and her ex-husband, Laurence (John Malkovich). As the entire extended family pours in to witness the nuptials of Eve and Harold (Patrick Stewart), the long summer weekend offers the opportunity for everyone to get to know each other a bit more intimately. As sexual sparks begin to fly, there are unforeseen consequences abound.
Damian Harris wrote the first draft four years ago. He tapped his friend John Malkovich to join the cast and he suggested Glenn Close for the lead. “She read it, but she was already doing a play on Broadway, so we had to wait 15 months,” noted Harris. Producer Andrew Karsch raised money during the interim. Initially there was agreement with one company, but then the filmmaking team decided to back out because the budget was, “too low,” according to Harris.
Eventually a satisfactory budget was raised and The Wilde Wedding shot over 25 days in Westchester in New York, which made the production eligible for the New York rebate. The production ran out of money following the shoot, so they had to spend time raising funds for post-production, stretching the project for another nine months before completion.
“We missed the deadline for Toronto as a result,” said Harris. “So we decided to screen it ourselves right before AFM. There were a number of bids, but Vertical came in with the highest one.” Universal picked up international rights to the title.
The Wilde Wedding will open day and date in theaters and on-demand/iTunes Friday. Theatrically, it will play 25 theaters in 20 markets including New York, L.A., Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington, D.C., Detroit, Phoenix, Minneapolis and others.
May It Last: A Portrait Of the Avett Brothers
Directors: Judd Apatow, Michael Bonfiglio
Subjects Scott Avett, Seth Avett
Oscilloscope first viewed Judd Apatow and Michael Bonfiglio’s documentary May It Last: A Portrait Of the Avett Brothers last April and picked up the title in May. The company is handling the film’s regular theatrical release, but it also had a one-night screening of the doc of Tuesday of this week in 325 theaters.
Oscilloscope said Thursday it is still collecting box office from the Tuesday screenings, but it is estimating it grossed $665K. The one-day take made May It Last the third highest-grossing film in the country, according to Oscilloscope. The distributor noted that about a dozen planned screenings had to be rescheduled due to Hurricane Irma.
Filmed over more than two years, May It Last is an intimate look at the Grammy Award-nominated North Carolina band fronted by Seth and Scott Avett. Directors Judd Apatow and Michael Bonfiglio chart the Avett Brothers’ decade-and-a-half rise, while chronicling their 2016 collaboration with famed producer Rick Rubin on the critically-acclaimed album “True Sadness,” released on American Recordings/Republic Records. Using the recording process as a backdrop, the film depicts a lifelong creative partnership put to the test as band members undergo marriage, divorce, parenthood, illness, and the challenges of the music business.
“This far exceeds our expectations and we couldn’t be more pleased by the result,” said Oscilloscope’s Andrew Carlin, adding that despite the one-night only event Tuesday, he spent the last couple of days lining up encore performances of the film across the country. “The demand is really incredible. It’s going to play select shows throughout September and into October.”
Carlin added that social media originating from Scott and Seth Avett to their fans drove a substantial amount of pre-sales ahead of Tuesday’s showings across the country. Oscilloscope began building the roll-out in June and told participating exhibitors that pre-sales needed to begin by July 12.
“The Avett brothers start posting on their social media, listing [participating] theaters,” said Carlin. “In that first day alone, sales were incredible. We worked closely with the record company and the band who were posting on a semi-regular basis of clips, poster art, etc. When they posted, people would absolutely be rabid for the content. The trailer was viewed hundreds of thousands of times in a matter of hours. The results were that ticket sales grew ever-more quickly.”
Director-writer: Theo Anthony
Distributor: Memory/Cinema Guild
Producers Riel Roch Decter and Sebastian Pardo were on the festival circuit with their 2015 film, Ma, when they met filmmaker Theo Anthony who told them about a film he had been working on in Baltimore. Dexter said that Anthony showed them a rough cut of Rat Film, which he had directed, shot and edited. “We were blown away by it,” said Decter. “We came on board in 2016 and helped him through the edit.”
As the title clearly suggests, rats are at the center of the documentary. Across walls, fences, and alleys, rats not only expose our boundaries of separation but make homes in them. Rat Film is a feature-length documentary that uses the rat – as well as the humans who love them, live with them, and kill them – to explore the history of Baltimore. “There’s never been a rat problem in Baltimore, it’s always been a people problem.”
For his part, Theo Anthony began the project when he came home one night and found a rat trying to get out of his garbage and immediately filmed it. The incident became what Anthony thought might be a short film, but eventually grew into a full feature.
“This was one guy with a camera,” said Decter. “He received a few grants, but then our company [Memory] came in to help him finish with color correction, sound mix, etc, to the finished movie it is now.”
Rat Film premiered at the Locarno Film Festival. The title intrigued press covering the festival, which gave it momentum ahead of its U.S. turn at festivals. Distributor Cinema Guild reached out about handling non-theatrical before the doc played stateside. “We are a company that has made a name for ourselves with documentary that pushes the limit for the realm,” said Tom Sveen from Cinema Guild. “This is that kind of film.”
Following its SXSW U.S. debut, PBS came on board for television. It will broadcast the title on Independent Lens early next year. Rat Film also played the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s spring series Art of the Reel. Its programmers offered to play the film in its venues as part of its theatrical run. The film will open there this weekend along with locations in Baltimore, Vancouver and Chicago. Rat Film will play Los Angeles in mid-October. Memory is handling the title’s theatrical run.