After last year’s stateside success with Call Me By Your Name, Italian filmmaker Luca Guadagnino is back with a “re-imagining” of Dario Argento’s 1970s classic Suspiria. The update, which stars Tilda Swinton, Dakota Johnson, Mia Goth and Chloë Grace Moretz, heads to theaters this weekend via Amazon Studios. Legendary documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman is out with his latest film, Monrovia, Indiana. Wiseman, who helped define the big screen non-fiction genre over the decades, has yet to receive awards recognition, though his latest, released via his Zipporah Films label, could change that. Susan Sarandon stars in Viper Club from YouTube Originals and Roadside Attractions, the largest U.S. theatrical release for a YouTube financed feature. Neon is heading out with Scandinavian-based filmmaker Ali Abbasi’s Border, based on a story by Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist. Following its bow as the opening night film at New York LGBT film festival NewFest, 1985 is being launched by Wolfe Releasing, directed by Yen Tan and starring Cory Michael Smith and Virginia Madsen, while Well Go USA heads out with Burning by Korean filmmaker Lee Chang-dong.
Also opening with 500 runs is Universal’s Johnny English Strikes Again with Rowan Atkinson and Ben Miller. Other limited releases this weekend include IFC Films psychological thriller Don’t Go, opening day and date with theatrical runs in over a dozen locations as well as Ricki Lake-produced documentary Weed The People from Mangurama Consciousness Films. GVN Releasing has London Fields and Passion River is rolling out doc The Long Shadow in New York, L.A. and the Bay Area.
Director: Luca Guadagnino
Writers: Dario Argento, Daria Nicolodi, David Kajganich
Cast: Tilda Swinton, Dakota Johnson, Mia Goth, Chloë Grace Moretz, Lutz Ebersdorf, Jessica Harper
Distributor: Amazon Studios
Italian filmmaker Luca Guadagnino’s thriller Suspiria is billed as a “re-imagining” of Dario Argento’s 1977 cult classic of the same title. Argento is also a writer on the contemporary script. Amazon Studios, which co-financed the film, opens the title starring Tilda Swinton, Dakota Johnson, Mia Goth and Chloë Grace Moretz this weekend.
“Luca had Dakota and Tilda attached to the project before there was a script, but the project itself had been around for even longer. I remember first becoming aware of a new version of Suspiria when I was working on Black Swan,” noted producer Brad Fischer. “At that point Luca was producing and David Gordon Green was going to direct. Fast forward to 2015 and Luca had spent years reconceiving it and decided to direct the film himself.” The film shot over 52 days in northern Italy.
In Suspiria, young American dancer Susie Bannion arrives in 1970s Berlin to audition for the world-renowned Helena Markos Dance Company, stunning the troupe’s famed choreographer Madame Blanc with her raw talent. When she vaults to the role of lead dancer, Olga, the previous lead, breaks down and accuses the company’s female directors of being witches. As rehearsals intensify for the final performance of the company’s signature piece, Susie and Madame Blanc grow strangely close, suggesting that Susie’s purpose in the company goes beyond merely dancing. Meanwhile, an inquisitive psychotherapist trying to uncover the company’s dark secrets enlists the help of another dancer, who probes the depths of the studio’s hidden underground chambers, where horrific discoveries await.
Suspiria is the first feature release since Guadagnino’s 2017 hit, Call Me By Your Name. Amazon Studios said its festival run generated attention for the film, which it expects to carry over into the release.
“We’ve had a lot of advanced ticket sales and they have been really strong in New York and L.A.,” said Head of Marketing & Distribution Bob Berney. “We showed [scenes from the film at] CinemaCon and there was a great response. The trailer has also been nominated for a Clio Award.”
Berney added that the tease at CinemaCon was “so shocking” that it created a lot of buzz. That momentum carried over into Venice where it premiered as well as a surprise screening at the recent Fantastic Fest in Austin.
“[Audiences] loved the fact it’s not a remake,” he said. “It has a lot of nods to Dario’s film and it was really well-received. Jessica Harper was in the original film and has an appearance in this.”
Added Fischer: “[The project phase] was quite early in the days of Amazon Studios so we were intrigued and also curious about Amazon’s plans for getting into the film business. They had just released Chi-Raq and we became their first international production. Ted Hope and Scott Foundas are fellow cinephiles though and they made it an easy decision creatively. Not many other studio execs could hold the table with Luca talking about Rainer Fassbinder and Mario Bava, so for us this was clearly home.”
Amazon Studios is opening Suspiria at Regal Union Square in New York and the Arclight Hollywood this weekend. The film will then head to about 250 locations by the second weekend.
Director: Frederick Wiseman
Distributor: Zipporah Films
Still working in his 80s, documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman has been a beacon of the non-fiction genre since 1967. He has made 42 docs. His films seek to portray “ordinary human experience in a wide variety of contemporary social institutions.” Perhaps surprisingly, and despite hallmark docs such as Titicut Follies, High School, Welfare, Boxing Gym and La Danse, Wiseman has been below the radar for decades in terms of Awards season. He was finally short listed in the doc Oscar category last year for his last film, Ex Libris: The New York Public Library (2017).
“La Danse [grossed] $600K but didn’t get awards,” noted Michael Tuckman who is shepherding Monrovia, Indiana’s theatrical release through Wiseman’s distribution label Zipporah Films. “So the idea is to get out there that Fred is still at the top of his game in his 80s after all these years.”
A debut at this year’s Venice and Toronto film festivals as well as the recent New York Film Festival, Monrovia, Indiana spotlights the farming community, founded in 1834 with a current population of 1,063. The film documents the day-to-day experiences living in the middle American farming town, and emphasizes Monrovia’s community organizations and institutions, religion and daily life.
“Critics are big supporters of his work,” said Tuckman. “There’s zero budget for marketing, so there is no big money campaign. It’s about sharing the film with as many people as possible.”
Tuckman said that Wiseman was adamant about getting Monrovia, Indiana out ahead of the U.S. midterms elections, noting that there had been some talk to do an early 2019 release, but the filmmaker wanted the title to be a part of the pre-election conversation, especially in Indiana where it will open in a number of locations not long after its bow at Film Forum in New York.
“Trump is not mentioned in the film and politics is not directly discussed, but it has a lot to say about rural America,” added Tuckman.
Monrovia, Indiana is the 13th of Wiseman’s titles that Film Forum has debuted, making him the “most-premiered” filmmaker in the cinema’s 48-year history. The film will head to Chicago and Los Angeles along with six cities in Indiana starting November 2. On November 5, it will play a half dozen one night-only engagements. Tuckman said the film is confirmed in over 40 theaters around the country so far.
Director-writer: Maryam Keshavarz
Writer: Jonathan Mastro
Cast: Susan Sarandon, Matt Bomer, Lola Kirke
Distributor: YouTube Originals/Roadside Attractions
YouTube Originals and Roadside Attractions have teamed for the theatrical release of Maryam Keshavarz’s drama, Viper Club. Roadside worked with the filmmaker on her 2009 film Circumstance, and has a connection to the producers from Margin Call (2011) and All Is Lost (2013).
YouTube financed the project and is working with Roadside on the theatrical side under its YouTube Premium banner ahead of a roll out via the portal in January.
In Viper Club, a war correspondent gets taken hostage while on assignment, prompting his mother, impatient with the government’s lack of concern, to take matters into her own hands.
“We’re expecting a 25-plus audience and especially Susan’s audience in the [initial roll out],” said Roadside Attractions co-president Howard Cohen, referring to star Susan Sarandon. “The film [involves] journalists covering war-torn countries, which is a current [topic]. We dropped a trailer and key art shortly before Toronto to a good response.”
YouTube joined the project during the script stage, and Sarandon was already attached. “We were excited to support a project that had such a strong female character and a female director,” said YouTube Creative Development exec, Nicole Emanuele. “We financed the film and were involved with casting, production oversight and creatively a part of the edit.”
Viper Club shot last winter in New York during a particularly cold part of the season. “The cast caught colds, but they powered through, especially Susan. She really is a champion,” said Emanuele. “We were not onset the entire time, since we don’t want to be over-bearing — but it was cold.”
Emanuele noted that Viper Club is the “largest” U.S. theatrical release for YouTube Originals. Next week, it will be involved with the roll out of Joseph Kahn dramedy Bodied, produced by Eminem.
Theatrically, Viper Club opens New York at Landmark 57 West and Angelika as well as The Landmark in L.A. this weekend. It will head to the top 25 markets next weekend.
Director-writer: Ali Abbasi
Writers: Isabella Eklöf, John Ajvide Lindqvist
Cast: Eva Melander, Eero Milonoff
Filmmaker Ali Abbasi read the short story Border by Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist while shooting his first feature film, Shelley. He spent a few years adapting it to a script, according to producer Nina Bisgaard, adding: “He grew up in Iran and wasn’t [familiar] with the mythology of vampires, so I gave him a lot of books to read.”
Lindqvist and Abbasi wrote the initial drafts, followed by Isabella Eklöf who came on later. “She developed the female aspect of the story,” added Bisgaard.
Border centers on Tina (Eva Melander), a strange-looking border guard who has the ability to smell human emotions and catch smugglers. When she comes across a mysterious, troll-like man with a smell that confounds her detection, she is forced to confront hugely disturbing insights about herself and humankind.
While rounding out casting, the producers solidified financing which came from various government sources in Sweden and Denmark along with pre-sales and European funding sources. The connection with Lindqvist was also helpful, noted Bisgaard due to his notoriety in Sweden.
Border shot in Sweden outside the city of Gothenburg over 38 days. “We had thought of going to Canada, but it made sense to shoot in the places which are the creatures’ natural places,” said Bisgaard. “I wouldn’t say it went smoothly. It took four hours to apply makeup to Eva every day so it made the schedule inflexible and it was tough for her. Eva was amazing though. Once the camera started, she was so professional. There were a lot of locations and of course the forest was cold.”
Border premiered in Cannes in the Un Certain Regard section where Neon picked up the title. The experience was a boost for Bisgaard. “Usually I’m going there to find financing for projects, but this time we were on the red carpet,” she said. “Being in Cannes meant a lot for the film’s sales. Neon bought the film on the night after the premiere. They are the perfect match for it.”
The film is also flirting with awards season, screening for AMPAS recently. Neon is opening Border at IFC Center and Alamo Drafthouse in Brooklyn in NYC as well as the Arclight Hollywood in addition to locations in San Francisco, Denver, Austin, Chicago and Katy, TX this weekend.
Director-writer: Yen Tan
Cast: Cory Michael Smith, Virginia Madsen, Michael Chiklis, Jamie Chung, Aidan Langford, Ryan Piers Williams
Distributor: Wolfe Releasing
Writer-director Yen Tan’s drama 1985 opened NewFest, New York’s LGBT film festival, on Wednesday night. Wolfe Releasing, which begins the title’s theatrical run this weekend, caught the film starring Cory Michael Smith, Virginia Madsen and Michael Chiklis, at the SXSW Film Festival in March.
“Wolfe was established in 1985 and aside from having the title match our founding year, the honesty of Yen’s story, combined with powerful performances from the ensemble resonated with us,” shared Evan Schwartz, Content Operations Director at Wolfe. “Cory Michael Smith’s breakout performance blew us away and we were equally captivated by Oscar nominee Virginia Madsen, TV icon Michael Chiklis and social media maven Jamie Chung all at the top of their game as these memorable characters.”
Having been gone for three years, closeted advertising executive Adrian (Cory Michael Smith) returns to his Texas hometown for the holidays during the first wave of the AIDS crisis. Burdened with an unspeakable tragedy in New York City, Adrian looks to reconnect with his preteen brother Andrew (Aidan Langford) while navigating his relationship with religious parents Eileen (Virginia Madsen) and Dale (Michael Chiklis). When he reaches out to his estranged childhood friend Carly (Jamie Chung), their unresolved issues force Adrian to confront an uncertain future that will significantly alter the lives of those around him.
“The LGBT genre of film has grown significantly since the releases of Moonlight and Call Me By Your Name,” noted Schwartz. “Between Love, Simon and Disobedience hitting earlier this year, LGBT films are crossing over to straight audiences. We ultimately decided on a ‘theatrical-only’ strategy [for this release] because we believe 1985 has that same potential to resonate with audiences who love to go to the movies regardless of their sexual orientation.”
Aside from NewFest’s opening night, Smith, Madsen, Chiklis and Tan took part buzz screenings in New York. Madsen and Chiklis also participated in a special screening for the SAG-AFTRA foundation earlier in the week.
“We are targeting all the passionate fans of this ensemble, from Gotham to The Gifted and Sideways to The Shield,” noted Schwartz. “There is a unique four-quadrant audience, male and female, young and old, gay and straight, that we have the ability to reach directly through social media. Our messaging urges these fans to see not only a critically-acclaimed honest film about the LGBT experience, but one of the best films of the year with the breakout performance of 2018 in Smith.”
1985 opens in select New York and L.A. locations this weekend. Wolfe will add more markets through November, culminating with a one-night theatrical event across the country in recognition of World AIDS Day on Saturday, December 1.
Director-co-writer: Lee Chang-dong
Writers: Oh Jungmi, Huruki Murakami (short story)
Cast: Ah-in Yoo, Steven Yeun, Jong-seo Jun
Distributor: Well Go USA
Asian films across genres are core for distributor Well Go USA. The company set its sights on mystery-drama Burning from South Korea early on. In fact, the distributor wanted to pre-buy the title by filmmaker Lee Chang-dong, “sight unseen,” according to SVP, Distribution/Theatrical, Dylan Marchetti, but once it was accepted in Cannes, they had to wait. Noted Marchetti: “Most of our team had their minds blown in the Palais along with the rest of Cannes.”
Burning is an examination of an alienated young man, Jongsu (Ah-in Yoo), a frustrated introvert whose already difficult life is complicated by the appearance of two people into his orbit: first, Haemi (Jong-seo Jun), a spirited woman who offers romantic possibility, and then, Ben (Steven Yeun), a wealthy and sophisticated young man she returns from a trip with. When Jongsu learns of Ben’s mysterious hobby and Haemi suddenly disappears, his confusion and obsessions begin to mount, culminating in a stunning finale.
Marchetti commented that the film’s critical response has helped with the film’s promotion ahead of its release this weekend, though there are still challenges. “The rapturous critical response has admittedly made messaging easier, but it’s been a tightrope. At the end of the day this is a complex, layered work of art, so we’ve had to be delicate. Murakami’s short story provides the base, but the film goes in a number of additional directions. So it’s not fair to just call it a thriller, or just call it a drama, or just call it beautiful. We’ve been careful with our marketing to not try and explain too much to the audience – to just give them the basics, the tone, and a little of the intrigue.”
Burning has played a number of festivals following Cannes, including Toronto, New York, Hamptons, Mill Valley, Fantastic Fest and others. Well Go USA is banking on the performance of Steven Yeun as core to its success. “[He] gives a phenomenal performance in the film, and is a star that lives here in America,” explained Marchetti. “He’s been a fantastic ambassador for this film here in North America, and I think his work has opened the doors to an entire new audience.”
Well Go USA is positioning the film to be in the “awards conversation” early. Marchetti pointed out that Korean films have had a lack of awards recognition despite release successes stateside.
“It’s a jam-packed awards season this year, and we always knew we wanted to jump in at the beginning of it. This is very much a word-of-mouth movie, so we wanted to be sure it had room to breathe… It’s a little insane that as amazing as South Korean films have been for the last decade, they’ve never even been shortlisted for the Academy.”
Well Go USA opens Burning Friday at the Film Society of Lincoln Center and The Quad in New York. Next weekend it will expand to Los Angeles and Toronto, before adding the top 10 markets on November 9 and additional markets throughout the rest of November. Added Marchetti: “If the audience responds like we hope, we’ll be adding additional cities through the end of the year.”