Indie Films Jump In Between Hollywood Tentpoles As ‘Crimes Of The Future,’ ‘Watcher,’ ‘Benediction’ Open – Specialty Preview

Indie distributors, grabbing a frame between Top Gun: Maverick and Jurassic World Dominion, are out with a handful of decently wide releases for the specialty space including Neon’s Cannes title Crimes of the Future (127 screes), IFC Midnight thriller Watcher (764) and Roadside Attractions’ WWI period piece Benediction (87). Sony Pictures Classics launches Phantom of the Open in four theaters in NY and LA.

Netflix is taking Hustle to 275 screens as the industry looks for signs that big streamers are warming to theatrical.

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Yash Raj Films opens historical Bollywood epic Prithviraj in over 400 theaters as the steady flow of Indian fare remains a bulwark for U.S. cinemas.

The David Cronenberg written and directed dystopian sci-fi body-parts drama Crimes of the Future with Léa Seydoux, Viggo Mortensen and Kristen Stewart debuts fresh off a six-minute standing ovation in Cannes, As the human species adapts to a synthetic environment, bodies undergoes transformations and mutation. Together, Saul Tenser (Mortensen), a celebrity performance artist, and his partner Caprice (Seydoux) publicly showcase the metamorphosis of his organs in avant-garde performances as Timlin (Stewart), an investigator from the National Organ Registry, obsessively tracks their movements. Deadline review here.

Chloe Okuno’s debut feature Watcher was written by Zack Ford and Okuno and stars Maika Monroe as Julia, a young American actress just moved with her half-Romanian husband (Karl Glusman) from the States to Bucharest for his job. Lonely and at odds, she notices a mysterious stranger (Burn Gorman) watching her from across the street as a serial killer called The Spider stalks the city. The film had its world premiere at Sundance this year. Deadline review here.

“Chloe is the real deal as a filmmaker, a great director,” said IFC Films distribution chief Arianna Bocco. The genre is an “evergreen.” This one has a feminist twist. It’s pretty wide for IFC, which decided to give it push on as many screens as possible in the three weeks before it goes to digital. As counterprogramming, it’s younger and female — to Top Gun’s older males.

Roadside Attractions, after opening in the top ten last month with the $4M-grossing faith-based comedy Family Camp, takes another tack entirely this weekend with Benediction, a biopic written and directed by Terence Davies about legendary English World War I poet Siegfried Sassoon, played by Jack Lowden. There’s a gay storyline and it’s timed in part to Pride Month. “We are sort of proud of our eclecticism. For us, or it’s been a plus to be able to pivot and do all kinds of movies,” said Roadside co-president Howard Cohen.

Benediction on nearly 90 screens is also “a little bigger that the art film patterns of yore. We’re trying to get our moment between Top Gun and Jurassic World,” Cohen said. Many arthouses have been playing wide release films since Covid so screens can be tight.

Sony Pictures Classics presents The Phantom of the Open by Craig Roberts, with Mark Rylance, Sally Hawkins, Rhys Ifans. Rylance is Maurice Flitcroft, a dreamer and unrelenting optimist who managed to gain entry to The British Open Golf Championship Qualifying in 1976 – after hearing about the prize money on TV — and subsequently shot the worst round in Open history, becoming a folk hero in the process. A true story writer by Simon Farnaby from his own book of the same name co-authored by Scott Murray.

Missing Adam Sandler? Netflix opens his basketball drama Hustle. Sandler is a down-on-his-luck veteran basketball scout who finds a potential superstar in Spain. With Juancho Hernangómez, Queen Latifah. On the streamer next Wednesday. Directed by Jeremiah Zagar. Deadline review here.

Yash Raj Films US and Canada present Hindi-language action pic Samrat Prithviraj by Chandraprakash Dwivedi. Showing in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu. The story of the heroism of the fearless King Prithviraj Chauhan as he faces off against Muhammad of Ghor. (Star Akshay Kumar has 62 million followers on Instagram.)

Elsewhere in specialty, Kino Lorber presents Neptune Frost, a deep dive into Afro-Futurism from Anisia Uzeyman and Saul Williams. With Bertrand Ninteretse, Cheryl Isheja, Elvis Ngabo. Deadline review here. Premiered at Director’s Fortnight in Cannes last year, an official selection at the Toronto and New York film fests. Set in Rwanda, this is a musical that follows Matalusa, a poverty-stricken miner, and an intersex hacker, Neptune, and who find one another through cyberspace.

Quiver Distribution presents Small Town Wisconsin with Bill Heck, David Sullivan, Kristen Johnston, Tanya Fischer, Cooper J. Friedman. Directed by Niels Mueller from a script by Jason Naczek. The film, exec produced by Alexander Payne, sees perpetual teenager Wayne Stobierski (Sullivan) lose a custody battle and steal his son away for one last father-son weekend in the city of their dreams: Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A light-hearted adventure transforms into a journey of profound redemption. In 20 theaters.

Momentum Pictures presents TIFF selection and Host director Rob Savage’s horror Dashcam. From Blumhouse Productions, with Amar Chadha-Patel, Angela Enahoro, Annie Hardy. Viewed through her livestream, an abrasive musician’s night takes a dangerous turn after she agrees to help transport a frail elderly woman out of town.

Oscilloscope Laboratories presents music psychodrama Poser a satirical take on the underground music community and podcast culture. Entirely filmed and set in Columbus, Ohio, from local filmmakers Noah Dixon and Ori Segev, Oscilloscope is opening the film in Columbus first this weekend (at the Gateway Film Center) ahead of its opening in NY/LA June 17. Film follows Lennon Gates (Sylvie Mix), who creates a podcast to interview local artists she adores. She develops a fast friendship with striking, confident performer Bobbi Kitten (playing herself), discovers her own musical ambitions and in the process creates an identity not wholly her own that lead her down a path of dark obsession.

Well Go USA presents Sundance selection and kids sci-fi adventure Maika: The Girl from Another Galaxy. After losing his mother to illness and his best friend to an unexpected move, a young boy discovers a crashed spaceship and makes a new friend with awesome powers. Directed by Ham Chan. With Diep Anh Chu, Phu Truong Lai.

Gravitas presents the feature directorial debut of writer-director Malachi Smyth, The Score, a musical with Will Poulter, Johnny Flynn and Naomi Ackie and Lydia Wilson. From the producers of Danny Boyle’s Yesterday, the film follows two small-time crooks on a mission for the ‘score’ they expect will transform their lives. As they wait for a rendezvous hand-over at a roadside café, one falls in love with the waitress and begins to question his life choices. Features songs by Flynn, who is also lead singer and songwriter for the band Johnny Flynn & The Sussex.

Dark Star Pictures and Bloody Disgusting present Raúl Cerezo, Fernando González Gómez-directed The Passenger on two screens, the Film Noir Cinema in NYC and Laemmle Glendale. Written by Luis Sánchez-Polack. With Ramiro Blas, Cecilia Suárez, Paula Gallego, Cristina Alcázar as a group of strangers sharing a ride who have their trip interrupted when the driver hits a woman hiking in the dark of night. They decide to help her, but quickly regret it.

Redbud Studios presents Sean Patrick Flanery’s Frank and Penelope with Billy Budinich, Caylee Cowan, Kevin Dillon, Jonathan Schaech and Flanery. The story of two soulmates who had nothing to live for who find themselves in a violent battle in a small desert town where nothing is what it seems.

RLJE Fiilms presents The White Elephant by Jesse V. Johnson. Written by Johnson and Erik Martinez. With Michael Rooker, Bruce Willis, Olga Kurylenko, Vadhir Derbez and John Malkovich. When an assassination attempt is witnessed by two cops, Gabriel Tancredi, an ex-marine turned mob enforcer is ordered by his mob boss (Willis) to eliminate any and all threats. Five screens.

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