The Eyes of Tammy Faye has something going for it that Searchlight Pictures’ Summer of Soul did not — a minimum 45-day exclusive theatrical window now that Hollywood appears to be in the midst of a pivot to encourage moviegoing. Eyes, directed by Michael Showalter, opens on 425 screens, expanding to another 400 next weekend.
The distributor’s films for the rest of the year will also follow parent Disney’s newfound determination to give cinemas a fighting chance after numbers from a handful of wide releases showed that can make economic sense. (Questlove’s documentary Summer of Soul, on the other hand, was released day-and-date on Hulu in July.)
Eyes also has gathering momentum as a string of high-profile festival titles from Venice, Telluride and Toronto, as well as Cannes, cycle into starving theaters. It started last week with Paul Schrader’s Oscar Isaac starrer The Card Counter from Focus Features. That had an OK debut. It is adding four theaters for a total of 580.
Dear Evan Hansen from Universal Pictures hits Sept. 23. Searchlight has Wes Anderson’s anticipated The French Dispatch in October and Guillermo del Toro’s Nightmare Alley in December (the star-packed remake of the 1947 film noir classic just dropped its first teaser trailer). The hope is for a rapid drumbeat of strong specialty fare that can cross over and nudge moviegoing back into the habit.
Frank Rodriguez, Searchlight’s SVP-General Sales Manager, said the distributor marketed the film heavily with buys from MSNBC to Food Network, targeting an older crowd that’s been the most reluctant to return to theaters. But there’s a glimmer of light, depending on where and to whom you talk with, he said. “There’s a sense that Delta has kind of calmed down a little in some areas,” Rodriguez said. “New York, LA, Chicago is leveling off. I think people are feeling that. The vaccination rates are higher, and they keep going up. In Mississippi and Louisiana and Texas and Florida, it’s not the best but a little better.
“Anything in the right direction is good,” he added.
The Eyes of Tammy Faye stars Jessica Chastain as famed televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker. Andrew Garfield stars as her husband Jim Bakker, with Vincent D’Onofrio as Jerry Falwell. Cherry Jones is Tammy Faye’s mother. The film centers on the rise, fall and redemption of her and Bakker, who created what would become one of the largest religious broadcasting networks in the world before he was disgraced and indicted. Chastain’s performance has some Best Actress Oscar buzz, and she’ll be personally introducing the film at three locations in NYC this weekend.
The Eyes of Tammy Faye trailer:
Blue Bayou is writer-director Justin Chon’s moving and timely story of a uniquely American family fighting for their future. Chon plays Antonio LeBlanc, a Korean adoptee raised in a small town in the Louisiana bayou, married to the love of his life (Alicia Vikander) and step-dad to their beloved daughter. Struggling to make a better life for his family, he must confront the ghosts of his past when he discovers that he could be deported from the only country he has ever known
Chon and the cast were joined at its Los Angeles premiere by many of Hollywood’s top Asian-American actors and filmmakers including Minari’s Steven Yeun, Awkwafina, Crazy Rich Asians’ Harry Shrum Jr., George Takei and Jimmy O. Yang.
AAIP (Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy) celebs Henry Golding and Jamie Chung are supporting the film. Total social reach from those who have posted supported Blue Bayou so far comes to 2.5 million.
The story is a common one for many oversea adoptees in America, and Focus said it’s partnered with nonprofit collective Gold House along with several adoption and immigration organizations like Adoptee Advocacy that who are working with lawmakers to pass new laws protecting the rights of adoptees.
Elsewhere in specialty there’s Nicholas Cage as a ruthless bank robber; Michael Caine as a cantankerous, booze-addled author; and Justin Long’s directorial debut.
These — and other films listed below — are all limited release and mostly day-and-date with video. A film here and there manages to pop in theaters, but many see low per-screen averages that distribs say were unimaginable pre-Covid. However, pockets of the business, in selected theaters in New and L.A. in particular, have been ticking higher in recent weeks.
In Sion Sono’s action-adventure Prisoners of the Ghostland from RJLE Films, Cage’s robber is sprung from jail by wealthy warlord The Governor (Bill Moseley), whose adopted granddaughter Bernice (Sofia Boutella) has gone missing. The Governor offers the prisoner freedom in exchange for retrieving the runaway. Strapped into a leather suit that will self-destruct in five days, the bandit sets off on a journey to find the young woman and his own path to redemption. The film written by Aaron Hendry and Reza Sixo Safai premiered this year at Sundance.
Screen Media presents comedy-drama Best Sellers. Lucy Stanbridge (Aubrey Plaza) inherited her father’s publishing house and has nearly sunk it with failing titles. She discovers she is owed a book by Harris Shaw (Caine), a reclusive author who originally put the company on the map decades earlier. In a last-ditch effort to save the firm, Lucy and Harris release his new book and embark on a book tour from hell that changes them both in ways they didn’t expect. (On 20 screens.)
Lionsgate’s Lady of the Manor is a comedy written and directed by brothers Justin Long and Christian Long in their directorial debuts. An aimless ne’er-do-well becomes a tour guide (Melanie Lynskey) in a historic estate and winds up befriending the manor’s resident ghost (Judy Greer).
IFC’s music mockumentary The Nowhere Inn from real-life friends Annie Clark (aka Grammy winner St. Vincent) and Carrie Brownstein (Portlandia). A metafictional account of two creative forces banding together to make a documentary about St. Vincent’s music, touring life and onstage persona. They quickly discover unpredictable forces lurking within subject and filmmaker that threaten to derail the friendship, the project and the duo’s creative lives. With Dakota Johnson.
The documentary Ferguson Rises and feature The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain confront issues of racial justice and police brutality.
Mobolaji Olambiwonnu’s debut feature, Ferguson Rises, produced by David Oyelowo is the inspiring story of the residents of Ferguson, MO, a small town that suffered a powerful loss and became the flashpoint for a modern-day civil rights movement. The killing of Michael Brown, Jr. by Ferguson law enforcement in 2014 galvanized the Black Lives Matter movement in America, and the doc chronicles the aftermath, presenting a solemn overview of the unresolved racial tensions still simmering. Premiered at the Tribeca Festival.
The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain by writer-director David Midell focuses on the 2011 fatal shooting of a 68-year-old Black man by police in White Plains, NY.
Frankie Faison plays Chamberlain in the film, which won both the jury and audience awards at the 2019 Austin Film Festival. It follows the last hours in the life of the elderly African-American veteran with bipolar disorder who was killed by officers sent to his home to check on him after his medical alert device was mistakenly activated. They were recorded taunting him, ridiculing his military service and howling racial epithets. Executive producers include Morgan Freeman. From Gravitas Ventures.
Abramorama presents Boris Karloff: The Man Behind the Monster, a documentary examining Karloff’s illustrious 60-year career in the entertainment industry and his enduring legacy as one of the icons of 20th century popular culture. Drawing from dozens of interviews including Guillermo del Toro, John Landis, Roger Corman, Ron Perlman, Sara Karloff, Peter Bogdanovich, Christopher Plummer, Stefanie Powers, Lee Grant, Sir Christopher Frayling and Kevin Brownlow. (On seven screens)