Questlove’s Summer of Soul is up to 753 theaters as the doc about the 1969 ‘Black Woodstock’ concert in Harlem that debuted in two locations last weekend crossed into arthouse, commercial and urban venues.
Not that it was easy, said Frank Rodriguez, SVP General Sales Manager, Searchlight Pictures. “Exhibitors are eager to get back on track,” he said. “We had to push very hard in a crowded marketplace” that includes The Boss Baby: Family Business, The Forever Purge and week two of the first true post-Covid blockbuster, F9.
Rodriguez cited notable performances in Brooklyn, San Francisco and Georgetown in D.C. after what was basically an extended promo in NY and LA. Deadline is hearing from industry estimates that Thursday night came in north of $78K.
Full title Summer of Soul (Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), which features never-before-seen concert performances by Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Sly & the Family Stone, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Mahalia Jackson, B.B. King, The 5th Dimension and others, was produced by Joseph Patel, Robert Fyvolent and David Dinerstein.
The Sundance Grand Jury and Audience award-winner also streams exclusively on Hulu starting today.
Summer of Soul trailer here:
Indies premiering day-and-date – either by choice, necessity or previous agreements from back when Covid was still raging and visibility low – often have to push doubly hard to get onto screens, several distributors noted. The trend of four-walling (paying theater owners to rent out screens for public viewing) is accelerating
“The good news right now is that people are going back to theaters,” said Mike Messina, EVP Distribution of Screen Media Film, which debuts Till Death this weekend. “The challenge is that the big boys are back.” The crescendo of studio titles “is definitely changing the picture for independents.”
Megan Fox-starrer Till Death opens on ten screens and on-demand. The suspense thriller from Millennium Media is the Transformers actress’ first genre role since the 2009 Diablo Cody scripted horror pic Jennifer’s Body.
“Our strategy has been bigger content in general, cast-driven, that audiences will pay attention to” coupled with a hefty marketing push, Messina said. Fox “embraced that and was promoting the movie wholeheartedly this week,” she continued — including a Today show appearance that went viral as the actress’ small sons roamed in the background.
Fox plays Emma, who wakes up handcuffed to her dead husband after a romantic evening in their secluded lake house. Trapped and isolated in the middle of winter she must fight off hired killers and escape a twisted plan. It co-stars Callan Mulvey (Russo Brothers’ upcoming The Gray Man), Eoin Macken (George RR Martin’s Nightflyers), Aml Ameen (HBO’s I May Destroy You) and Jack Roth (Medici). It’s directed by S.K. Dale. Screenplay by Jason Carvey.
The documentary experts at Greenwich Entertainment are out with The Phantom, a true crime story opening in seven theaters and on-demand.
It’s the story of a dark episode in American justice when the state of Texas knowingly sent an innocent man to his death and left a serial killer at large — the first case where it can be conclusively proven that the U.S. courts knowingly executed a blameless man. This film delves into the shocking truth behind a tale of murder, corruption and lies that unfolded in the dusty, desperate streets of a Texas oil town thirty years ago.
Greenwich previously handled the record-setting theatrical release of Jimmy Chin and Chai Vasarhelyi’s Oscar-winning documentary Free Solo, which grossed over $17M at the North American box office. In 2019, it released two of top the documentary hits of the year with Andrew Slater’s Echo in the Canyon ($3.3M) and Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice ($4M).
Rounding out the specialty box office:
The God Committee from Vertical Entertainment starring Kelsey Grammer, Julia Stiles, Colman Domingo and Janeane Garofalo. Directed by Austin Stark, produced by Molly Conners, Amanda Bowers, Jonathan Rubenstein, Ari Pinchot, Jane Oster, Vincent Morano, Benji Kohn, Bingo Gubelmann and Stark.
When a donor heart unexpectedly arrives at a New York hospital, an organ transplant committee must convene within an hour to decide which of three patients deserves the life-saving organ. God’s work is left in the hands of five doctors, including Boxer (Grammer), a cynical but brilliant heart surgeon; Jordan (Stiles), an idealistic up-and-comer and Gilroy (Garofalo), a weary bureaucrat. As the debate heats up, ethics and bribes clash.
Long Story Short: in theaters, on-demand and digital. Written and directed by Josh Lawson with Rafe Spall, Zahra Newman, Ronny Chieng, Dena Kaplan and Noni Hazlehurst.
This is the story of serial procrastinator Teddy (Spall) who wakes up the morning after his wedding to discover that every few minutes he’s jumping forward to the next year of his life. Watching his future flash before his eyes, Teddy must make every second count if he is to win back the woman he loves in this comedy. Distributed by Saban Films.
First Date: Written and directed by Manuel Crosby and Darren Knapp, starring Tyson Brown, Shelby Duclos and Jesse Janzen. Opens in 28 theaters and on demand.
Conned into buying a shady ‘65 Chrysler, shy teen Mike’s (Brown) eagerly-anticipated first date with the girl-next-door, Kelsey (Duclos), implodes as he finds himself targeted by criminals, cops and a crazy cat lady. A night fueled by desire, bullets and burning rubber makes any other first date seem like a walk in the park.
Scenes From an Empty Church: opening in four theaters. Written and directed by Onur Tukel, starring Max Casella, Kevin Corrigan, Thomas Jay Ryan, Annie McCain Engman, Natalie Carter. A pandemic film set in church (shot at the Church of Saint Michael the Archangel on West 34th Street in NYC), it follows Father Andrew (Corrigan) and Father James (Ryan). In a locked-down city, the priests argue over protocols and open their church doors to those seeking salvation during the most isolating of times.