With the Sundance Film Festival coming to a close, Oscar nominations out and Specialty distributors looking ahead, this weekend will have more new limited releases than the last few, post-holidays weekends. Bleecker Street is opening Joe Penna’s Arctic starring Mads Mikkelsen as a man stranded near the North Pole following a plane crash. The Orchard is opening The Unicorn by Robert Schwartzman, who hosted an event at Sundance last weekend. Starring Nick Rutherford who also co-wrote, The Unicorn will head out to theaters this weekend before going on-demand next week. The ‘widest’ Specialty roll out on this continent this weekend will be Bollywood’s Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga from FIP, which will take the title by director Shelly Chopra Dhar to 192 locations in North America. And Danish filmmaker Mads Brügger was at the Sundance Film Festival with doc Cold Case Hammarskjöld, but the director has also been promoting his narrative comedy The Saint Bernard Syndicate, which opens Friday via Uncork’d Entertainment and Dark Star Pictures.
Among other titles heading to theaters in limited release are Rising Star Entertainment’s The Gandhi Murder, focusing on the events that lead up to the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, and Abramorama’s Jimi Hendrix: Electric Church, with footage from a 1970 concert festival featuring the legendary artist.
Director-writer: Joe Penna
Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Maria Thelma Smáradóttir
Distributor: Bleecker Street
Bleecker Street first caught drama Arctic at its debut at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. The company, which releases the title starting Friday, hopes it can carry some of the box office luster of a previous survival drama, 127 Hours from Danny Boyle.
In this film, Mads Mikkelsen stars as a man stranded in the Arctic after an airplane crash. He must decide whether to remain in the relative safety of his makeshift camp or to embark on a deadly trek through the unknown in hopes of making it out alive.
“It’s a suspenseful, fascinating, engaging story about survival. Mikkelsen is phenomenal,” said Bleecker Street’s president of Theatrical Distribution, Jack Foley. “It’s a tour de force for him. I don’t think people have seen him act like this which was compelling for us to buy it.”
Foley likened the title to other survival stories such as 127 Hours ($18.33M) as well as Robert Redford’s turn in All Is Lost ($6.26M) and said Arctic could also find notice from groups who have given Oscar-nominated doc Free Solo success in theaters.
“We also want to target the core group of high-end moviegoers,” said Foley. “This [film] can also reach younger audiences and we have a campaign to target that.”
Arctic will open New York and L.A. Friday and then will head to other cities including Washington, D.C., Boston and San Francisco while also broadening in NYC and Los Angeles.
Added Foley: “The February 1 date is exciting to us because we’re introducing this [post] nomination period. Those that have been nominated and those that were contenders have been seen.”
Director-writer: Robert Schwartzman
Writers: Will Elliott, Kirk C. Johnson, Nick Rutherford
Cast: Nick Rutherford, Lauren Lapkus, Lucy Hale, Beck Bennett, Drie Hemingway, Beverly D’Angelo, John Kapelos, Maya Kazan
Distributor: The Orchard
Filmmaker Robert Schwarzmann hosted a Francis Ford Coppola Winery happy hour last weekend at the Sundance Film Festival. The lead singer of Rooney and nephew of Coppola was also gearing up for the theatrical release of his second directorial, The Unicorn, which is opening via The Orchard Friday ahead of an on-demand release next week. (Deadline revealed last week that The Orchard Film Group was acquired by investment group 1091 Media. The Orchard’s possible new name will be announced at a later date.)
Schwarzmann worked with fellow writers including Nick Rutherford, who also stars in the film, pushing the project forward pretty quickly. “Nick Rutherford and I started outlining script in February 2017, first draft was ready by March, and we were shooting by May,” revealed Schwartzman. “We went into this process saying, ‘let’s make this movie, let’s not let anything get in the way of it.’ That was our sort of mantra from the moment I pitched Nick the story.”
The Unicorn centers on engaged couple Cal (Rutherford) and Mal (Lauren Lapkus), who set out on a wild night after discovering the secret to a happy marriage might be threesomes, but this experience inadvertently tests their relationship in ways they never imagined.
“I wanted to make a film with Nick Rutherford so I approached him with the project to write and act in the lead role. I’m a fan of his work, his comedy, and his history as a member of the sketch comedy group Good Neighbor,” noted Schwartzman. “He comes from an improvisational acting background and screenwriter, so he was able to contribute more layers and live and breathe the character.”
Lauren Lapkus joined after doing a chemistry reading with Rutherford. Lucy Hale had auditioned for Schwartzman’s first directorial Dreamland. She wasn’t cast for that project, but the two stayed in touch and boarded The Unicorn. Schwartzman met Dree Hemingway on another project and she also joined the cast.
Streamlining the production and keeping to a schedule was important to Schwartzman. “We worked backwards from the budget and knew what story could be told, how many days to tell it and how many characters and locations, etc.,” he noted. “The budget level allowed us to make a film that was not cast contingent, meaning the investors were not making the investment based on how famous or sellable our actors were. They believed in the team, in the concept, in the approach and were betting on that alone. The investors of the film come from different backgrounds, none in film, so they’re open minded to the indie film model and seem to gravitate towards it.”
Pre-production and interiors were shot in L.A. while production followed to Palm Springs, shooting over 14 days. The title debuted at SXSW last March and The Orchard announced its acquisition of the feature in early September.
The Orchard is opening The Unicorn theatrically in ten cities Friday with exclusive runs. It will hit all on-demand platforms beginning February 5.
Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga
Director-writer: Shelly Chopra Dhar
Writer: Gazal Dhaliwal
Cast: Sonam Kapoor, Anil Kapoor, Rajkummar Rao, Juhi Chawla
Distributor: Fox Star Studios India
Studio FIP boarded Indian romantic dramedy Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga ahead of its shoot. The main attractions were the project’s “story, cast, director vision and the production house, Vinod Chopra Films,” according to the company’s head of International Sales & Distribution, Rohit Sharma.
Leading up to its release in North America Friday, which will coincide with India and 30 other countries, the title’s trailer rolled out on YouTube and Facebook, garnering over 32 million, according to the company.
Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga centers on one woman who has to contend with her over-enthusiastic family that wants to get her married. Meanwhile, a young writer is completely smitten by her, but doesn’t know the secret that she harbors close to her heart.
“The core of the audience is the South Asian diaspora audience around the world,” commented Sharma. “The subject and story do have appeal for non-Indian markets as well and the film has been subtitled in English to target a broader audience.”
FIP has utilized its marketing across digital, television, print and radio to target its core audience ahead of its multi-territory release. Added Sharma: “We have also used a few mainstream digital and media platforms to target a larger audience given the story of the film.”
Looking ahead to 2019, the company is expecting to release 14 films this year, which Sharma said is its “most ambitious line-up of big Bollywood films and the biggest line-up for any Indian film company this year.”
Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga will bow in 192 locations in North America Friday.
The Saint Bernard Syndicate
Director: Mads Brügger
Writer: Lærke Sanderhoff
Cast: Frederik Cilius, Rasmus Bruun
Distributor: Uncork’d Entertainment, Dark Star Pictures
After Uncork’d picked up Danish comedy The Saint Bernard Syndicate, the company shared it with Dark Star Pictures which signed on to collaborate on the title’s release. Dark Star founder Mike Repsch said the feature, which plays select cities starting Friday and will be on demand February 5, had elements his company looks for.
“It is equal parts comedy and drama that makes for a gut wrenching experience where you feel for the characters so much so it makes you cringe…,” commented Repsch. “Dark Star and Uncork’d collaborate in many areas in the distribution space, for this one we worked the festivals and theatrical campaign for the release.”
In The Saint Bernard Syndicate, two awkward entrepreneurs set out on a business adventure to try to make their fortune in the lucrative Chinese Pet industry. When their seemingly genius plan to create a breeding center for Saint Bernard dogs doesn’t develop as expected, their desperation drives them off course.
“The core audience for this film is a cinephile/indie art house crowd, but also a millennial demographic,” noted Repsch. “Our strategy has been two fold, one in which we play festivals and build word of mouth buzz through reviews, interviews and features. Then for the younger ‘trendy’ millennial audience our focus is more on the social media aspect and building up the story as a ‘true story,’ with fun materials that almost play as ads.”
Repsch added that Mads Brügger’s latest documentary, Cold Case Hammarskjöld, is playing at the Sundance Film Festival this week and he hopes some of the film’s attention coming out of the festival will also help jump start The Saint Bernard Syndicate.
Theatrically, the title is opening in select locations in Los Angeles, New Orleans and the Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood, FL area Friday. There are also plans for special screenings at universities along with one-offs at art house venues around the country.