A steady flow of specialty films starts this weekend with the return of a key player to cinemas and a broader arthouse slate that will expand steadily into awards season. This is still a weird theatrical landscape but independent distributors and theater owners have agreed for months that there’s no recovery without a brisker pace of new releases
Indie distributors also appreciate that the weekend’s big studio release, The Woman King with Viola Davis, is a classic battle epic, yes, but also a story for adults, and for women. Another wide release, A24’s XXX prequel Pearl, skews young but — it’s still indie.
“I think we are starting to get a full complement of movies to see. Adult movies that are smart and funny,” says one specialty distribution executive. It’s been a long wait. “Patience is a virtue we need to have a lot of. These may not [all] be huge movies, or Oscar movies but they can be stepping-stones, and all steps are in the right direction.”
Searchlight Pictures is back in cinemas with a wide release for the first time since Nightmare Alley last December after having a handful of films head to Hulu. It opens Agatha Christie-esque whodunnit See How They Run on 2,400 screens, bigger than specialty-sized, but not all will open as wide.
Ton George’s feature directorial written by Mark Chappell is set in the West End of 1950s London. Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell) and eager rookie Constable (Saoirse Ronan) investigate when plans for a movie version of a smash-hit play come to an abrupt halt after the Hollywood director is murdered. The film topped the U.K. and Ireland box office last weekend with £1.1 million ($1.3 million). Stateside, it’s opening a mix of commercial and arthouses: AMC Lincoln Square and Union Square in NY, Thoroughbred in Nashville, AMC Century City and the Grove in LA. Also the Hillcrest in San Diego, Cinema Arts in Long Island NY, AMC Kabuki in San Francisco, Alamo Drafthouses, and Landmarks.
Banshees got a 15-minute standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival. (That’s before the ovation jokes started – and this was one of the longest between Venice and TIFF.) Directed by Martin McDonagh, starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson. See Deadline review.
The Menu debuted at TIFF. Deadline review. Mark Mylod’s psychological thriller is written by Seth Reiss and Will Tracy, and stars Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor Joy.
And Olivia Colman-starring Empire Of Light world premiered at Telluride – Deadline review here — and also screened at TIFF.
We’ll revisit these as they open theatrically.
Walt Disney’s chief financial officer Christine McCarthy even gave Searchlight a rare shout-out during a Q&A at a Wall Street investor conference last week. Responding to a query on motion picture strategy, she talked up Marvel then added, “And Searchlight. I just want to mention. Searchlight it is not an IP brand, but it is a genre brand. I know there are film festivals right now, and some of the content that is being shown at those venues is from Searchlight. Very, very well received. And we know that they have kind of been a magnet for awards. It’s really high quality, lesser budgeted, more adult dramas. But it’s definitely, when you see Searchlight, you kind of know what you are getting.”
New specialty openings: Neon presents the Brett Morgen-written, directed and produced David Bowie extravaganza Moonage Daydream on 170 Imax screens in North America. The unique documentary on Bowie’s life and genius uses kaleidoscopic, never-before-seen footage, performances and music. Morgen (The Kid Stays in the Picture, Cobain: Montage of Heck, Jane) offers a feature length, experiential cinematic odyssey guided by Bowie’s own narration. It’s also the first officially sanctioned film on the artist. Debuted at Cannes (Deadline review). Premiered to a sold-out Imax audience at TIFF this week.
Focus Features presents The Silent Twins at 279 domestic locations. This is a challenging drama that premiered at the Cannes Film Festival’s Un Certain Regard section, Deadline review here. Letitia Wright and Tamara Lawrance are June and Jennifer Gibbons, twin sisters in Wales who communicated only with one another to escape the complex reality of their lives. Written by Andrea Seigel from a best-selling book by Marjorie Wallace (played by Jodhi May). It’s the English language debut of director Agnieszka Smoczyńska, and Wright’s first producing role.
The Gibbons’ gripping story had two BBC adaptations and a stage play before the book. There most likely won’t be a windfall here – could be something similar to the June release of Sundance film Brian & Charles. That opened on the same number of U.S. screens to $216k for a gross of $431K.
IFC Films opens thriller God’s Country on about 790 screens. Directed by Julian Higgins. Starring Thandiwe Newton, Joris Jarsky, Jefferson White, Jeremy Bobb, Kai Lennox, Tanaya Beatty. Newton is a grieving college professor who confronts two hunters she catches trespassing on her property and is drawn into an escalating battle of wills with catastrophic consequences. Premiered at Sundance. Deadline review here.
Sierra Pettengill’s Riotsville USA from Magnolia Pictures opens at NYC’s Film Forum. In LA 9/23, in Chicago and Washington, D.C. on 9/30. Explores a major turning point in American history when the protest movements of the late 1960s came into conflict with increasingly militarized police departments. Unearthed military training footage from fake, Army-built model towns called “Riotsvilles,” where military and police were trained to respond to civil disorder, tells the story. The fake towns came out of the Kerner Commission — created by President Lyndon B. Johnson to explore the causes of unrest — which recommended increasing local police department budgets. Pettengill’s doc reconstructs the formation of a national consciousness obsessed with maintaining law and order by any means necessary, drawing insight from a time similar to our own. Debuted at Sundance, see Deadline’s Sundance Studio.
Greenwich Entertainment, which opened documentary Hockeyland in 60+ Minnesota and Midwest theaters, will start expanding in week 2 to 154 screens nationwide. New markets this weekend include Atlanta, Chicago, Cincinnati, Columbia, Detroit, Kansas City, Miami, LA, Nashville, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Seattle and Washington, DC.