Typical to the start of a new year, specialty newcomers are rather few this weekend. Holiday and awards holdovers are still at center stage, while the Sundance Film Festival looms toward the end of the month. This weekend, Katherine Waterston, Michiel Huisman, Michael Shannon and Luke Evans star in Tribeca premiere State Like Sleep, opening Friday day-and-date via the Orchard. The film is the second narrative feature by Meredith Danluck. Hermione Corfield, Jay Paulson and Micah Hauptman star in IFC Midnight’s thriller Rust Creek by Jen McGowan, which also will roll out day-and-date. And Well Go USA is releasing Chinese action title Mojin: The Worm Valley, the follow-up to Mojin: The Lost Legend, which the company released stateside in 2015.
State Like Sleep
Director-writer: Meredith Danluck
Cast: Katherine Waterston, Michiel Huisman, Michael Shannon, Luke Evans
Distributor: The Orchard
State Like Sleep debuted at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival, where distributor the Orchard first saw the film, though the company had been aware of the feature via their relationship with Sight Unseen, which produced the title by Meredith Danluck.
“We were taken by the classic noir tone of the film and the female protagonist and impressed by Meredith as this was her first feature film as a director,” said Paul Davidson, EVP Film and Television at the Orchard. “The film harkened back to some of the best noir films from the ‘90s and 2000s, and we felt like it had been sometime since a filmmaker had successfully delivered a film like that.”
State Like Sleep follows a young widow (Waterston) who receives an unsettling phone call one year after her husband’s untimely death. The call turns her world upside down and forces her to revisit the past.
“The calendar gets more and more crowded with each year and each new entrant into the content distribution space — theatrical, transactional, streaming or otherwise,” offered Davidson. “Putting State Like Sleep after the crowded awards release season and into January before Sundance felt like a good way to get to audiences who had seen the movies they’d been desperate to [see] over the holidays and were now looking for new, entertaining films in the new year.”
Davidson said the company has been concentrating on the “sexy noir, thriller” aspect of the film in its overall marketing. Looking ahead to the year, Davidson said, the Orchard is expecting to release 10-12 traditional theatrical titles as well as 10-15 day-and-date films in 2019, which is consistent with recent years.
State Like Sleep opens 10 cities this weekend in a day-and-date rollout.
Director: Jen McGowan
Writers: Julie Lipson, Stu Pollard
Cast: Hermione Corfield, Jay Paulson, Micah Hauptman, Sean O’Bryan, Daniel R. Hill, John Marshall Jones, Jeremy Glazer
Distributor: IFC Midnight
IFC Films first caught drama-thriller Rust Creek at a private screening in the summer. The company released filmmaker Jen McGowan’s first feature, Kelly & Cal. Noted IFC’s Arianna Bocco: “She’s a talented filmmaker whom we are thrilled to support on her second feature. We think this film shows the range of her filmmaking voice and is a great fit for us as it is a high quality, character driven survival thriller.”
An ordinary woman must summon extraordinary courage to survive a nightmare odyssey in this harrowing survival thriller. Sawyer (Hermione Corfield) is an ambitious, overachieving college senior with a seemingly bright future. While on her way to a job interview, a wrong turn leaves her stranded deep in the frozen Kentucky woods. Suddenly, the young woman with everything to live for finds herself facing her own mortality as she’s punished by the elements and pursued by a band of ruthless outlaws. With nowhere left to run, she is forced into an uneasy alliance with Lowell (Jay Paulson), an enigmatic loner with shadowy intentions. Although she’s not sure she can trust him, Sawyer must take a chance if she hopes to escape Rust Creek alive.
“This is solid, character-driven survival thriller with an amazing lead performance by Hermoine Corfield,” commented Bocco. “We are marketing to traditional thriller-horror fans as well as to art house audiences, particularly female-driven, who are looking for a quality and an unconventional thriller.”
Bocco added that the start of the year is a “great time” to introduce new films into the market following the heavily awards-laden Q4 titles. “We’re confident this film is great counterprogramming,” she said.
Bocco also noted that she expects the company’s 2019 theatrical release slate to be “more or less on par” with recent years. IFC Films saw the departure of its longtime head, Jonathan Sehring,” who retired just prior to the holidays.
Rust Creek is going out day-and-date on VOD and digital and will get an exclusive theatrically in New York at the IFC Center on January 4. It will expand to Los Angeles and additional theatrical markets on January 11.
Mojin: The Worm Valley
Director: Fei Xing
Cast: Cai Heng, Gu Xuan, Yu Heng, Chen Yusi, Ma Yuke, Cheng Taishen
Distributor: Well Go USA
Well Go USA’s Chinese action title Mojin: The Worm Valley follows the company’s 2015 feature, Mojin: The Lost Legend, which grossed $1.24M in the American box office.
Mojin: The Worm Valley once again finds legendary tomb explorer Hu Bayi on a dangerous mission as he seeks out the tomb of Emperor Xian, located on an island of monstrous creatures in this mystical action-adventure.
Noted Annie Walker, the company’s founder, “The first Mojin film is one of our most popular titles, and we can’t wait for audiences to discover this thrilling new chapter in the story.”
Mojin follows on the heels of what fellow Well Go USA exec Dylan Marchetti called the company’s “best box office year of all time,” adding about 2018: “Only two of our releases have been in English. We’ve turned amazing grosses from Burning (Well Go USA, nearly $584K) entirely from the art house audience as have Shoplifters (Magnolia, $1.2M), Border (Neon, $763K), The Cakemaker (Strand, nearly $876K) and several more.”
Well Go is taking Mojin: The Worm Valley to 17 theaters today for a bit of a smaller theatrical footprint than The Lost Legend in its opening weekend.