Todd Haynes Legal Thriller ‘Dark Waters’ Premieres, ‘When Lambs Become Lions’ And ‘Hala’ Set Limited Debuts – Specialty B.O. Preview

Mark Ruffalo stars as "Robert Bilott" in director Todd Haynes' DARK WATERS, a Focus Features release. Credit : Mary Cybulski/Focus Features

Focus Features is looking to flood the specialty box office with their latest title Dark Waters from director Todd Haynes. The film, which stars Mark Ruffalo and Anne Hathaway, is based on a true story about attorney Rob Bilott (Ruffalo) who uncovers a dark secret that connects a growing number of unexplained deaths to one of the world’s largest corporations.

Dubbed a legal thriller, the film written by Mario Correa and Matthew Michael Carnahan, uses Nathaniel Rich’s 2016 New York Times Magazine article “The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare” as a jumping-off point to tell the story about Bilott, who risks everything in his life to expose the truth about the contaminated water supply and the big company that is responsible — something that is still affecting the community today.

“It’s about what’s going on in the world and humanity in general — what people know and what people don’t know what’s going on in the world,” said Lisa Bunnell, Head of Distribution at Focus Features. “It’s about people being informed and hearing the truth.”

For Dark Waters, Focus Features teamed with Participant Media. Bunnell said, “When we did this movie with them, we knew we were going to cover ground about the secrets being kept by these large corporations and what’s happening to our world.”

The film certainly can lean into being a political story, but at the end of the day, Bunnell said, it’s an eye-opening film that is more informative. “It’s an important movie to get out because it affects all of us,” she said. “It’s not a political issue — it’s an issue of humanity.”

With its cast, director and 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Dark Waters is set up to be an awards season contender — however, it is a different side of Haynes that we haven’t really seen. Compared to Carol, Wonderstruck, Far From Heaven and I’m Not There, Bunnell points out how Dark Waters utilizes Haynes’ visual storytelling skills to “talk about what’s going on in the country.”

Dark Waters also stars Tim Robbins, Bill Camp, Victor Garber, Mare Winningham, William Jackson Harper and Bill Pullman. Ruffalo serves as a producer alongside Pamela Koffler and Christine Vachon. The film opens today at AMC Lincoln Square and the Angelika in New York and at the Landmark and Arclight Hollywood in Los Angeles. Next week it will open in approximately 30 markets in 100 theaters before going nationwide on December 6.


The Jon Kasbe-directed When Lambs Become Lions opens in Los Angeles today and will expand to New York theaters on December 6. The Oscilloscope pic made its debut at the Tribeca Film Festival and follows a small-time ivory dealer from the Kenyan bush as he fights to stay on top while forces mobilize to destroy his trade.

Without depicting real-life harm of animals, the film addresses how the African government is dealing with a decreasing elephant population and how poachers and rangers face their own existential crises.

“I hope that this film challenges the existing conversation around poaching,” said director Jon Kasbe. “We can’t focus on the preservation of animal life without considering the economic realities and perspectives of the people who have shared land with these animals for a long time.”

Also in theaters this weekend is Apple’s drama Hala from writer-director Minhal Baig, which puts the spotlight on a 17-year-old Pakistani American (Geraldine Viswanathan) with a story that tackles coming-of-age, cultural identity and familial relationships. As Hala comes into her own, she grapples with a secret that threatens to unravel her family. The film also stars Jack Kilmer, Gabriel Luna, Anna Chlumsky, Azad Khan and Purbi Joshi and is executive produced by Jada Pinkett Smith.

The film premiered at Sundance earlier this year and went on to play at the Toronto Film Festival. Apple is following a similar release model as Amazon and Netflix. Hala is set for a limited theatrical run starting today in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Louisville and Columbus. It will then move on to Apple TV+ starting December 6.

Also opening this weekend is the Greenwich Entertainment documentary Citizen K from Alex Gibney, taking a look at a post-Soviet Russia through the eyes of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a former oligarch turned political dissident. In addition, Kim Longinotto’s Shooting the Mafia debuts. The documentary focuses on photojournalist Letizia Battaglia’s coverage of organized crime in Italy, which helped expose the Sicilian Mafia’s brutal crimes.


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