The trend continues of specialty films going wider faster and narrowing the window from theatrical to VOD in a nod to the chunk of its audience, mainly older, that feels more comfortable watching at home. The market is looking to a stream of fall product ahead of awards season, hoping the virus is more contained by then. Some good news offset the march of the Delta Variant this week as the FDA granted full approval to the Pfizer vaccine – shots in arms being key to an accelerated theatrical revival.
Together is directed by Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot, The Hours, The Reader, The Crown, Trash) and written by Dennis Kelly. It stars James McAvoy and Sharon Horgan as a couple forced to re-evaluate themselves and their relationship through the reality of lockdown. It plays out in seven scenes over a year of mounting Covid-19 fatalities in the U.K. A Shoebox Films and Sonia Friedman Productions film for BBC Two and BBC Film.
In other openings, documentary The Conservation Game arrives in LA today (expanding thereafter) with a screening and live appearance by Carole Baskin of Big Cat Rescue. The queen of Tiger King joins filmmaker Michael Webber and retired Ohio police officer Tim Harrison for a Q&A at the Laemmle Monica Film Center. In the doc, from Cargo Film & Releasing, Harrison stumbles upon a bombshell discovery when he suspects that the world’s most famous celebrity conservationists may be secretly connected to the exotic big cat trade.
Cinema Guild presents 499, an unusual documentary about colonialism with a shadowy conquistador roaming modern day Mexico on 500-year anniversary of the Spanish conquest of the country. It opened at BAM in Brooklyn last weekend and expands to LA and a handful of other markets. The film by Rodrigo Reyes’ premiered at the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival where it won the Best Cinematography award in the documentary competition. It was also awarded a Special Jury Prizes at both Hot Docs and EIDF Korea.
Tom Sveen, manager of theatrical sales for Cinema Guild, known for culling prestige films from festivals and counting on strong word of mouth and social media, said the distributor is pushing through, doing what it knows. “Everyone has questions about how to deal with this challenging time. It’s kind of hit or miss. I think we are trying to really just sail straight ahead.”
It’s worth noting a pair of special events this week. Halsey’s If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power in Imax and Fathom’s release of 2009 hit Coraline livened up cinemas heading into the weekend. There were lines — remember those? — and sold out shows for the hour-long music video. Fathom Events posted record post-pandemic ticket sales from the Laika stop-motion favorite, said Fathom CEO Ray Nutt.
If I Can’t Have Love’s exclusive Imax premiere sold out in over 70 locations out of 122 in North America on Wednesday and internationally Thursday. The “theatrical experience” set to music from the singer’s album of the same name — dropping today — was written by Halsey, directed by Colin Tilley and shot using Imax cameras and format.
Imax added another showing Saturday due to high demand, said Megan Colligan, president, Imax Entertainment. Imax had experimented with a few music events pre-pandemic, like Kanye West’s Jesus is King Sunday service choir concert film and Radiohead’s Thom Yorke video Anima directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.
“The great thing about music fans is they will run over hot coals to see things they want to see and get to hear something before it’s out,” Colligan said.
Fathom said Coraline was its most successful event since Covid hit in March of 2020, grossing $410K in a one-day-only presentation Tuesday when it was No. 7 at the domestic box office on 675 screens with the second highest per-screen average of any film in release. Fathom is owned by the nation’s three largest exhibitors but plays at nearly 100 others smaller circuits.
Fathom is offering Stripes this Sunday for the 40th anniversary of the Bill Murray-starrer with an exclusive introduction from director Ivan Reitman and Murray.
Elsewhere in specialty: RLJE Films presents Elijah Wood and Luke Kirby dramatic thriller No Man of God is based on real transcripts and conversations between serial killer Ted Bundy and FBI agent Bill Hagmaier. The film, directed by Amber Sealey, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in June. Opening In 14 theaters and VOD/digital.
In 1980, Bundy was sentenced to death by electrocution. In the years that followed, he agreed to disclose the details of his crimes, but only to one man, Hagmaier. Written by Kit Lesser. With Aleksa Palladino and Robert Patrick.
And revenge drama Rushed from Vertical Entertainment. Directed by Vibeke Muasy, written by Siobhan Fallon Hogan, with Hogan, Robert Patrick, Jake Weary, Peri Gilpin. An Irish Catholic mother’s life is upended when her college freshman son is involved in a tragic hazing. Confronted by corruption and cover ups as she tries to prove the university liable, she takes justice into her own hands and seeks revenge on the one person she finds truly responsible. In select theaters and VOD/digital.