Two historic dramas headline a comparatively slow weekend for new Specialty roll outs vs. last weekend’s heavy roster. Bleecker Street/ShivHans Pictures’ Hotel Mumbai with Oscar-nominee Dev Patel and Golden Globe-nominee Armie Hammer will have a minimal start in New York and Los Angeles ahead of a fairly wide release in the coming weeks. The film recounts the true events in 2008 when terrorists laid siege of the Taj Hotel in Mumbai. Sony Pictures Classics is opening Budapest-set Sunset by László Nemes, whose previous feature, Son Of Saul won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language film. Sunset is a fictional drama set amid the tense days leading up to World War I. The film will have a slow roll out, beginning in New York and L.A. Grand Rapids, Michigan, however, will have the theatrical bow for Oscilloscope’s Relaxer by Joel Potrykus. The company is opening the title in the filmmaker’s hometown before heading to the coasts next weekend.
Also opening in limited release is Discovery’s Tigerland, which will bow at the Monica Center in L.A. and Cinema Village in New York. The title will be available on Discovery Go March 23.
Director-writer: Anthony Maras
Writer: John Collee
Cast: Dev Patel, Armie Hammer, Nazanin Boniadi, Tilda Cobham-Hervey, with Anupam Kher, and Jason Isaacs
Distributor: Bleecker Street/ShivHans Pictures
Bleecker Street and ShivHans Pictures co-acquired domestic rights to director Anthony Maras’ drama, Hotel Mumbai ahead of its debut at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival. The film had been with TWC.
Hotel Mumbai recounts the 2008 siege of the famed Taj Hotel by a group of terrorists in Mumbai, India. Among the dedicated hotel staff is the renowned chef Hemant Oberoi (Anupam Kher) and a waiter (Dev Patel) who choose to risk their lives to protect their guests. As the world watches, a desperate couple (Armie Hammer, Nazanin Boniadi) is forced to make unthinkable sacrifices to protect their newborn child.
ShivHans has financed a number of Bleecker Street features including Oscar-nominated Trumbo (2015, $7.85M), Golden Globe-nominated Danny Collins (2015, $5.63M) and war drama Beirut (2018, $5M).
“Hotel Mumbai is both ‘historical’ and it’s ‘true.’ Those two words reign meaningful for a core of moviegoers,” said Bleecker Street’s president of Distribution Jack Foley. “[This film] also has a built-in double audience with South Asian moviegoers. The Indian moviegoing audience is very rich as everyone knows.”
Foley said that ahead of Hotel Mumbai’s release Friday, the company has focused advance screenings, social media and advertisement toward the South Asian audience stateside in addition to its outreach to the core specialty market and beyond. Foley added that as the title expands in subsequent weeks, it will open in both mainstream locations where Bollywood and other sub-continent films have proven popular in addition to independent theaters that primarily cater to South Asian audiences.
“This is the time of the year for this kind of release,” noted Foley. “It’s post-Academy. We did Beirut this time last year. It’s adult time. The market has been rather light with business, but this year in particular enhances the film’s appeal because it’s different than what is out there right now.”
Hotel Mumbai will get a classic opening this weekend, with runs at Lincoln Square and the Angelika in New York as well as the Arclight and Landmark in Los Angeles. The company will then take it fairly wide to up to 800 locations next weekend.
Added Foley: “We’ll see how it goes. Not just in the box office, but also to see if there’s [evidence] of a dynamic, diverse audience, which will indicate how wide we go next weekend. We are very interested the duality of the audience…”
Director-writer: László Nemes
Writers: Clara Royer, Matthieu Taponier
Cast: Juli Jakab, Vlad Ivanov, Evelin Dobos, Marcin Czarnik, Judit Bárdos
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
László Nemes’ costume drama Sunset is the follow-up to his Best Foreign Language Oscar-winner Son Of Saul (2015), which took over $1.77M in the North American box office. Sunset takes place in Budapest in 1913 as World War I approaches. The young Irisz Leiter arrives in the Hungarian capital with high hopes to work as a milliner at Leiter, the legendary hat store that once belonged to her late parents but she is quickly sent away by the new owner, Oszkár Brill. While preparations are under way at the store to host important, wealthy, royal guests, a man abruptly comes to Irisz, looking for a Kálmán Leiter, who he says is her brother. Refusing to leave the city, the young woman follows Kálmán’s tracks, her only link to a lost past. Her quest brings her through the dark streets of Budapest, where only the Leiter hat store shines, into the turmoil of a civilization on the eve of its downfall.
“László creates a reality that feels much closer than the typical historical drama,” said SPC co-president Michael Barker. “It’s beautifully shot on 35mm film which adds to the texture of the movie. László is one of the major young directors to be in business with.”
Barker echoed others that this time of the year is the ideal time for adult-oriented content in the wake of Awards Season. Moviegoers have historically gravitated to serious, dramatic fare in between Oscars and the start of the studio tentpoles.
“After the Oscars, people are looking for that new site of high quality film before the studio business begins in summer,” said Barker. “It’s a good time to do high quality historical dramas that don’t have big-named stars.”
Sony Pictures Classics is opening Sunset at the Paris and Quad cinemas in New York as well as the Laemmle Royal in Los Angeles this weekend. It will then head to other markets including San Francisco and Washington, D.C. next week ahead of a slow roll out to additional cities.
Director-writer: Joel Potrykus
Cast: Joshua Burge, David Dastmalchian, Andre Hyland, Adina Howard, Amari Cheatom
Oscilloscope has worked on filmmaker Joel Potrykus’ previous films, including Buzzard and The Alchemist Cookbook. The company said, “Whatever Joel dreams up, we’re in all the way.”
That includes his latest, comedy-fantasy Relaxer, which debuted at last year’s SXSW Film Festival. The film will bow in his hometown, Grand Rapids, Michigan this weekend before heading to the coasts.
“His work is super personal and totally genre-defying,” explained Oscilloscope’s Andrew Carlin. “In fact, it’s kind of description-defying. Relaxer is basically an apocalyptic, surrealist, gross-out comedy.”
Relaxer is set amongst doom and gloom. The Y2K apocalypse can’t be stopped. Abbie’s older brother issues him the ultimate challenge before it goes down: beat the infamous level 256 in Pac-Man and no getting up from the couch until he does. Abbie’s survival story begins here; inside a rotting living room with no food or water, and a revolving door of numb-nut friends and acquaintances.
“[The film] had an amazing screening at BAM Cinemafest,” noted Carlin. “Barf bags were handed out – and potentially used. At SXSW, he hosted a milk shot contest between two fans. Joel dreams up such wild stuff, and it’s our job to match him when we’re promoting it.” Carlin added that IndieWire called it a “masterpiece,” which the company expects to help its box office awareness this weekend.
“In terms of the audience, Joel has said this is his version of The Exterminating Angel,” added Carlin. “So if you look at the Venn diagram of Luis Buñuel fans and Jackass fans, I guess that overlapping section is our audience.”
Following its bow in Grand Rapids this weekend, the title will head to New York and Seattle March 29 with more screening locations across the country in the works for the following weeks.
Added Carlin: “We expect this movie to have a lot of champions. It will absolutely make its way across the country, it just won’t follow the typical platform release model.”