Stars Turn Zombie In ‘The Dead Don’t Die’; Sienna Miller Is ‘American Woman’ – Specialty Box Office Preview

Dead Don't Die
Iggy Pop, 'The Dead Don't Die' Frederick Elmes / Focus Features

Hot off the Cannes Film Festival, Focus Features is wasting little time to get Jim Jarmusch’s latest The Dead Don’t Die in theaters this weekend. The comedy-thriller which features Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloë Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, Iggy Pop and more will be in about six hundred theaters starting Friday. The Dead Don’t Die is one of a fairly sizable crowd of Specialty newcomers headed to theaters. Sienna Miller stars in American Woman from Roadside Attractions/Vertical Entertainment. Directed by Jake Scott, the drama will also have a good number of runs in its first frame in about 117 locations. Jim Gaffigan, meanwhile, stars in comedy, Being Frank, by director Miranda Bailey in a much more traditional three locations in New York and L.A. its first weekend via The Film Arcade. And nearly three decades after its first release, the seminal documentary Paris Is Burning by Jennie Livingston is coming out again to mark the 50th Anniversary of Stonewall.

Other limited release titles this weekend include For The Birds from Dogwoof and In The Aisles from Music Box Films, while Midnight Releasing is bowing thriller Clinton Road. And Verizon Media is opening Cannes doc 5B in over 125 locations.

The Dead Don’t Die
Director-writer: Jim Jarmusch
Cast: Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloë Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, Caleb Landry Jones, Rosie Perez, Iggy Pop, Sara Driver, RZA, Selena Gomez, Carol Kane, Austin Butler, Luka Sabbat, Tom Waits
Distributor: Focus Features

Filmmaker Jim Jarmusch’s latest, The Dead Don’t Die, is headed to over 600 theaters this weekend following its premiere as the opening night film at the recent Cannes Film Festival. Focus Features was on board from the start of production last summer. The title features some stars from Jarmusch’s previous phantasmic film Only Loves Left Alive, including Tilda Swinton and Chloë Sevigny.

The Dead Don’t Die is set in the sleepy small town of Centerville where something is not quite right. The moon hangs large and low in the sky, the hours of daylight are becoming unpredictable, and animals are beginning to exhibit unusual behaviors. No one quite knows why. News reports are scary and scientists are concerned. But no one foresees the strangest and most dangerous repercussion that will soon start plaguing Centerville: The dead don’t die — they rise from their graves and savagely attack and feast on the living, and the citizens of the town must battle for their survival. 

“Jim Jarmusch came to us with this bizarre zombie script with an amazing cast,” explained Focus Features president of Distribution Lisa Bunnell. “It’s very accessible and socially relevant.” Focus is expecting the feature to broaden out beyond Jarmusch’s loyal fanbase, which is why it is going fairly wide this weekend. The cast, which includes a cross-section of well-known actors, also contributes to its potential appeal.

“[The Dead Don’t Die] has social commentary, satire and sharpness, but there’s also a broad entertaining quality,” said Bunnell. “It’s a great summer movie — and we all can use a good laugh with everything going on in the world.”

Focus is opening to a mix of art houses and other select commercial theaters, including locations at chains Landmark, Angelika and Alamo Drafthouses.

Focus Features also released the 2018 Cannes opening film, Everybody Knows by Asghar Farhadi, starring Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem. The drama grossed $2.66M domestically in theaters.

American Woman
Director: Jake Scott
Writer: Brad Ingelsby
Cast: Sienna Miller, Christina Hendricks, Aaron Paul, Amy Madigan
Distributors: Roadside Attractions/Vertical Entertainment

American Woman director Jake Scott worked with his father, four-time Oscar-winner Sir Ridley Scott’s Scott Free Productions, for his latest project from a script by Brad Ingelsby. Scott had Sienna Miller in mind for the lead and met with her at a restaurant to discuss the role early on. Roadside Attractions along with Vertical Entertainment had been talking to the producers leading up to the film’s Toronto 2018 premiere and eventually boarded for its release some time after the festival.

Set in rural Pennsylvania, American Woman centers on Deb Callahan (Sienna Miller) whose life is changed forever when her teenage daughter mysteriously disappears. Deb is left to raise her young grandson and navigates the trials and tribulations of subsequent years, until a long-awaited discovery of the truth is revealed.

“We saw the movie and loved it. We had done Manchester By the Sea [with Amazon Studios] with American Woman producer Kevin Walsh,” said Roadside co-president Howard Cohen. “It’s a great performance by Sienna Miller. People are saying it’s the best performance of her career. We were especially [interested in releasing] if she’d support it, and she really has.”

Cohen added that Scott Free was an active partner in the lead-up to American Woman’s roll out this weekend. Miller, meanwhile, has been on the talk show circuit with appearances on GMA, Fallon and others. Roadside and Vertical are hoping to capitalize on Miller’s round of publicity with a fairly hefty release for a specialty.

“There’s a national footprint and the PR is out,” said Cohen. “She gives an incredible performance that takes place over 11 years. It’s a miniature epic.”

American Woman will bow in around 117 theaters this weekend with further expansion expected in the coming weeks.

Being Frank
Director: Miranda Bailey
Writer: Glen Lakin
Cast: Jim Gaffigan, Logan Miller, Anna Gunn, Samantha Mathis, Alex Karpovsky, Danielle Campbell
Distributor: The Film Arcade

Following her 2013 short Another Happy Anniversary, filmmaker Miranda Bailey found representation with ICM and Echo Lake Entertainment, which sent her the script for Being Frank several years ago. She worked with the writer Glen Lakin to redevelop the script, changing some of the female characters. “It’s the same premise, but there was reconfiguration,” said Bailey. “[Then] it took another year-and-a-half to find our [lead for the role of] Frank.”

The feature centers on Frank Hansen who is hiding the biggest secret of all – he has two families. Two houses, two wives and two sets of children he’s been keeping apart for 15 years.  So when his 17-year-old son Philip discovers the truth, all bets are off as Frank tries desperately to get Philip to keep the secret, and Philip decides to blackmail his father.  Standing to lose everything, Frank digs a deeper and deeper hole for himself in his frantic effort to maintain the charade.

A producer/friend of Bailey’s was working on the series The Jim Gaffigan Show, which caught the eye of the director. “I didn’t know him,” said Bailey. “I called [my friend] right away and asked what she thought. I gave the script to his people and he liked it.” Gaffigan boarded in December, 2016.

That next month, Bailey went to the Sundance Film Festival and attended the premiere of Before I Fall and immediately became interested in actor Logan Miller who is a star of the film. “When the lights came up, I saw I just happened to be sitting next to Logan Miller,” recalled Bailey. “I his manager and him the script and two days later, he was on board.”

Financing came though Reliance Big Entertainment and Bailey’s production company Cold Iron Pictures. Being Frank shot over 25 days in June, 2017 in New York. “The shoot was freezing, but amazing and so fun,” said Bailey. “We had some of the normal problems you have with any production — a cast member falls out and needs to be replaced and a lost location.”

Bailey added that for post, she had told her producer Amanda Marshall that she wanted to work with someone “like the editor of The Kids Are All Right.” Another fortunate coincidence came to pass. “Amanda said, ‘I know that editor,’” said Bailey. “And then I worked with [cinematographer] Yaron Scharf. I had the best team for my first [narrative directorial].”

Being Frank debuted at the 2018 SXSW Film Festival where it received both positive and not-so positive reviews. Bailey took the opportunity after the festival to return with Scharf to the edit room based on the feedback.

“There were two negative review and four positive ones,” she explained. “From the positive ones, I enhanced some things and from the negatives, I made changes. In one review, it said that the funny parts started too late and I thought, ‘That was right.’ There were also some [social aspects] to the film that were updated for the final version. I’m very happy with the way it turned out.”

The Film Arcade, which Bailey is also a partner at, is taking the film to the Landmark in LA and two Landmark theaters in New York this weekend. Being Frank will head to 5 to 8 additional locations next weekend with additional roll outs to follow.

Paris Is Burning
Director: Jennie Livingston
Distributor: Janus Films

Jennie Livingston’s 1990 documentary Paris Is Burning sizzled big when it opened in theaters in 1991. The title debuted at the Toronto Film Festival in ’90 and played Sundance in ’91 before heading for general release via Miramax. Not only did it hit a cultural zeitgeist, Paris Is Burning became one of the pioneering non-fiction films to break seven figures in the box office, topping $3.77M.

Just shy of its third decade, Paris Is Burning is heading to theaters again with a new restoration, supervised by the director, beginning with a two-week exclusive run at Film Forum in New York followed by a national roll out through Janus Films.

Paris Is Burning provides a vibrant snapshot of the 1980s through the eyes of New York City’s African American and Latinx Harlem drag ball scene. Made over seven years, Paris Is Burning offers an intimate portrait of rival fashion “houses,” from fierce contests for trophies, to house mothers offering sustenance in a world rampant with homophobia and transphobia, racism, AIDS, and poverty. Featuring legendary voguers, drag queens, and trans women — including Willi Ninja, Pepper LaBeija, Dorian Corey, and Venus Xtravaganza.

When you make a film, you hope some people will see your film. To have created a film that a couple of generations can relate to is thrilling, and an honor, because my film documents a particularly beautiful subculture at a very particular time,” shared Livingston ahead of the film’s re-release this week. “It’s not possible to plan for something like that, but obviously it’s what anyone telling stories — in film or literature or images — wants to do. Because of the current attacks on trans and queer people, and because of persistent attempts to attack LGBTQ lives and civil rights, the film’s perhaps as relevant as it ever was.”

Livingston’s multi-year project focused on houses and individuals who wanted to be a part of the film. Budgetary constraints put focus to where she turned the camera. “In several cases, individuals from a house participated, and others did not. There weren’t resources to do an exhaustive survey of all the houses, so there was no need to try hard if particular people were less inclined.”

Paris Is Burning is set for runs throughout June, July and into August as well as September after its two-week Film Forum exclusive, beginning with locations in Cincinnati, Pleasantville, NY, and Missoula, MT on June 21. Major markets will be added over the following weeks before opening in L.A., San Francisco and Berkeley July 5.

Added Livingston: “The film celebrates queer and trans resilience; it’s a history of queer African American and Latinx elegance and excellence, and it’s also a meditation what it means to live on the margins. “

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