Spider-Man: Far from Home is weaving an expansive web over the Fourth of July holiday frame, pushing new specialties to find space in upcoming weeks. There are a few brave indies hoping to grab some residuals over the long weekend, however. Sundance doc Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love will launch in several L.A. and New York locations. Distributor Roadside Attractions is hoping to ride a wave of music docs that have scored well in the box office with summer rollouts in recent years. Thriller Skin in the Game dramatizes the human trafficking in America. Specialty label Kandoo Films, which also produced the title, is releasing it day-and-date. Gravitas Ventures, meanwhile, is spearheading on-demand for the Armed Forces action-drama Above the Best. The producers are organizing limited theatrical events/showings for the feature, including one this weekend in Houston.
Additional limited releases over the holiday include Screen Media action-thriller Cold Blood and Cohen Media Group’s 4K restoration of the 1982 French crime bio-drama The Return of Martin Guerre starring Gérard Depardieu and Nathalie Baye.
Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love
Director: Nick Broomfield
Distributor: Roadside Attractions
Roadside Attractions picked up Nick Broomfield documentary’s Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love out of this year’s Sundance Film Festival. When picking a weekend to launch its rollout, the company saw the Fourth of July frame, which will be dominated by Spider-Man, as a potential opportunity.
“We picked [the holiday weekend] because there’s Spider-Man and we’ll have [the standout] specialty,” said Roadside Attractions co-president Howard Cohen. “It’s also a good time for docs.”
Marianne & Leonard has as it center the enduring love between Leonard Cohen and his Norwegian muse, Marianne Ihlen. The doc chronicles their relationship from the early days in Greece to how their love evolved when he became a successful musician.
“[Roadside co-president Eric d’Arbeloff,] and I have been fans of Nick Broomfield’s docs including [1998’s] Kurt & Courtney for years,” Cohen said.
The Roadside exec noted the track record for music-related nonfiction releases in summer, including Sony Classics’ Searching for Sugar Man (July 2012), which cumed over $3.69M. Radius-TWC’s Oscar winner 20 Feet from Stardom bowed in June 2013, eventually totaling just under $5M, while Roadside’s own Whitney, opened last July and took in $3M in theaters.
“This is a story about a part of his life that it not well known,” said Cohen. “The film contains new information and has footage of his early life on Hydra Island that was only recently found and was shot by D.A. Pennebaker.”
Cohen added that the company has done a hefty rotation of word-of-mouth screenings, including a number on the festival circuit leading up to this weekend’s release. Roadside is starting Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love in a classic four-theater launch in New York and L.A. — the Arclight and The Landmark in SoCal and the Angelika and Landmark 57 West in Manhattan. The company will expand the doc during the next several weeks, eventually taking its location count into the low hundreds.
Skin in the Game
Writer: Steven Palmer Peterson
Cast: Erica Ash, Elisabeth Harnois, Angélica Celaya, Sammi Hanratty
Distributor: Kandoo Films
Veteran producer Howard Barish produced some of the early indie titles directed by Ava DuVernay including Middle of Nowhere (2012) and I Will Follow (2010). Their collaboration led him to start a new outlet to champion underserved indie voices. “I began an initiative at Kandoo Films,” explained Barish. “It was born out of my experience [working] with Ava DuVernay. We put together projects that help indie filmmakers, and [Skin in the Game] is the third out of this initiative.”
Skin in the Game centers on 15-year-old Dani, who is abducted off the sidewalk in suburban America and finds herself trapped in the horrific underground world of human trafficking. With no initial assistance from the police, Dani’s mother and an ex-prostitute take to the streets in an effort to find her before it’s too late.
“[Filmmaker] Adisa came to me about this story on human trafficking taking place in America, in which many teen women — and some boys — are snatched off the streets. I thought it was something that happens in other countries, but it’s also happening here,” said Barish, who added that the numbers are shockingly high. “We’ve been involved with a number of projects that have touched on social issues and figured, ‘How could we not be involved with something so big?’”
Kandoo Films produced and financed Skin in the Game, which shot in L.A. over 17 days in November 2017.
Prior to production, Barish worked with the filmmaking team to bring the script to a manageable size in terms of budget. “I was involved every step of the way,” he said. “We were very fortunate to get Erica Ash [as a lead]. We cast against type. It gives [talent] the opportunity to flex muscles creatively that they’re not accustomed to. She’s known for her comedy, but this is a great dramatic role.”
Kandoo Films worked with AMC Theatres for a theatrical rollout in a dozen top markets as part of its day-and-date release, including various on-demand platforms.
Added Barish about the release: “There’s a twofold side to this [release]. People need to see and understand what’s happening with human trafficking. Also, the act of supporting indie films is important to us and indie filmmakers [generally]. People say they love indie films, but it’s getting harder and harder. Otherwise, we’d only be left with studio tentpoles, which are great too, but there should be more [out there].”
Above the Best
Directors: Christian Tureaud, David Salzberg
Writers: Eli Baldrige, David Salzberg
Cast: Daniel Flores, William D. Vile, Terry Best
Distributor: Gravitas Ventures (on-demand), self-distributed (theatrical)
Armed Forces action pic Above the Best is the fifth and final installment in a series called, “Heroes of Valor,” a collection that became available on demand July 2. Previous titles in the group are The Hornet’s Nest, Citizen Soldier, Danger Close and Apache Warrior. Above the Best also is screening theatrically beginning Thursday in Houston, hosted by cast members.
The feature tells the stunning story of Apache fighter pilot Dan Flores following his yearlong deployment to the most dangerous valley in Afghanistan. Through aerial combat footage and corresponding video from soldiers on the ground, the film will bring the audience in the cockpit and on the battlefield like never before.
“Above the Best features real, live battlefield footage from Afghanistan, so it is an accurate portrayal of the experiences these highly trained combat aviators deal with on a daily basis,” explained Gravitas Ventures exec MaryKate McHugh. “We have hired a PR company for pitching, social media marketing and grass-roots marketing. Additionally, we have been able to secure various VOD placements based on the success of previous films.”
Gravitas Ventures is handling DTV for Above the Best, while the title’s producers are booking limited theatrical. Plans call for select showings in 10 more cities going into the fall.
Gravitas Ventures has 15 titles it will release via theatrical and/or on-demand platforms through September, including the Neil Armstrong documentary Armstrong, in mid-July which McHugh noted will be, “Gravitas’ largest theatrical release to date.”