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The Memorial Day holiday is a fairly busy one this year for Specialty films. Headlining the weekend’s new limited release titles is writer-director Noble Jones’ Sundance debut The Tomorrow Man, starring John Lithgow and Blythe Danner via Bleecker Street. The title began its roll out on Wednesday. Following up his successful documentary Dior And I, director Frédéric Tcheng is out this Friday with Halston, about the famous American designer. 1091, known as The Orchard when it released Dior and I, is taking Halston to theaters Friday. Oscilloscope’s 2018 Tribeca fest doc, Jill Magid’s The Proposal about architect Luis Barragán, has an exclusive New York run before heading to L.A. next weekend, while Greenwich Entertainment will play L.A. exclusively with doc Echo In the Canyon before heading East in its second frame. Blue Fox Entertainment, meanwhile is opening Slamdance 2018 tragic comedy Funny Story day and date Friday.
Other limited releases set for the long weekend include PBS Distribution’s Woodstock: Three Days That Defined A Generation with two runs in New York, followed by other cities around the country throughout May and June. Q Ball from Fox Sports Films follows the lives of the San Quentin Warriors, teammates and inmates at California’s San Quentin State Prison aka The Q. The title will launch in L.A. Friday followed by New York next weekend.
The Tomorrow Man
Director-writer: Noble Jones
Cast: John Lithgow, Blythe Danner, Derek Cecil, Katie Aselton, Sophie Thatcher, Eve Harlow
Distributor: Bleecker Street
The Tomorrow Man is the third feature Bleecker Street has worked on with actor Blythe Danner, who stars with John Lithgow. Written and directed by Noble Jones, the drama-romance debuted at Sundance in January where Bleecker Street picked it up.
“We were happy to [acquire this] for a number of reasons including that James Schamus is a producer,” said Bleecker Street’s president of Distribution, Jack Foley. “It’s exciting to work with him again and he knows the business.” Foley along with Bleecker Street founder Andrew Karpan worked with Schamus at Focus Features before all departed earlier this decade.
“This is the first time to work with John Lithgow, which is a real thrill,” added Foley. “You have two of the best actors living now in a film together. They deliver the entertainment and that’s what this film is all about.”
The Tomorrow Man follows Ed Hemsler, who spends his life preparing for a disaster that may never come. Ronnie Meisner, meanwhile, spends her life shopping for things she may never use. In a small town somewhere in America, these two people will try to find love while trying not to get lost in each other’s stuff.
Bleecker Street has primarily focused on an older audience leading up to this week. The title began its roll out Wednesday. “The trailer played extremely well in late winter into spring,” said Foley. “We’ve tapped with the core audience through every media communication we can.”
Foley added that May was particularly good for female-driven films. He noted that their work with Danner’s previous release, I’ll See You In My Dreams, as an example. Bleecker Street released the title in May, 2015, eventually totaling $7.44M. The Waitress, a Searchlight release in May, 2007 with Keri Russell and Adrienne Shelly (who also wrote and directed) cumed $19M.
Added Foley referring to the summer tentpoles: “It’s the beginning of ‘alternative programming’ season, it’s a great month.”
The Tomorrow Man bowed in four New York and Los Angeles locations Wednesday in addition to a Phoenix location. The title will then head to about five markets next weekend with more markets added in June.
Director-writer: Frédéric Tcheng
Subject: Roy “Halston” Frowick
Sundance 2019 premiere Halston spotlights one of America’s first superstar designers, Roy Halston Frowick, better known simply as Halston. France-born filmmaker Frédéric Tcheng has spotlighted other fashion mavericks including Valentino: The Last Emperor (2009), in which he served as co-producer and co-editor as well as directorial debut Dior And I, which 1091 predecessor, The Orchard, released in 2015, totaling over $1M at the box office. 1091 came on board after seeing it at Sundance.
“We were thrilled that Halston was also a beautiful and elegant work of cinema, and very excited to partner with him again,” noted 1091’s SVP, Acquisitions and Strategic Partnerships Danielle Digiacomo. “We are also thrilled to partner with CNN for the third time, as they will broadcasting Halston in October.”
Halston captures the life and times of legendary designer Roy Halston Frowick, the man who wanted to “dress all of America.” Tcheng weaves rare archival footage and intimate interviews with Halston’s friends, family, and collaborators including Liza Minnelli, his niece Lesley Frowick, filmmaker Joel Schumacher, and the Halstonettes. The feature frames Halston’s story as an investigation using scripted scenes featuring actress and writer Tavi Gevinson as a young archivist diving into the Halston company records.
“We are marketing to a similar audience to Dior in many ways, but we are also very excited to introduce Halston to a younger generation,” explained 1091’s Julie Dansker, Chief Revenue Officer. “Through our radio, print and digital campaign we are targeting an older skewing audience who is already familiar with the iconic American designer while also introducing his story to a younger generation though socials and digital.”
1091 said that it’s “re-targeting” Dior And I fans “using insights and data from that campaign,” adding: “Halston was such a pioneer, as America’s first superstar designer, and we believe his fascinating story of ascent while building his empire, his rise and fall, will resonate with many audiences, even beyond our core demo.”
Halston is opening at the Quad in New York this weekend, followed next weekend with the Nuart in L.A., Kendall Square in Boston in addition to Hot Docs Cinema in Toronto. In its third frame, the title will expand to other key markets including Philadelphia, Austin, Miami, and Chicago and continue to expand slowly throughout the U.S. and select Canadian markets.
Director: Jill Magid|
Subject: Luis Barragán
Oscilloscope caught documentary The Proposal by artist/filmmaker Jill Magid following its debut at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival. The company was interested in the issues explored in the feature and its potential to breakout of its core.
“Given the film’s topic, it’s easy to pigeonhole The Proposal as a film whose sole audience is that ‘rarefied’ arthouse moviegoer who, given the choice, would prefer to consumer their films at a museum rather than a multiplex,” explained Oscilloscope exec Andrew Carlin. “While that audience will absolutely enjoy this movie, we really think it has the potential to break out beyond that. Jill herself has described the film as part thriller, part romance– who wouldn’t want to see that”
The Proposal centers on Luis Barragán, known as “the artist among architects,” and is among the world’s most celebrated architects of the 20th century. Upon his death in 1988, much of his work was locked away in a Swiss bunker, hidden from the world’s view. In an attempt to resurrect Barragán’s life and art, artist Jill Magid creates a proposition that becomes an artwork in itself—a high-wire act of negotiation that explores how far an artist will go to democratize access to art.
“The primary thesis of Jill’s film is whether one corporation should be allowed to single-handedly control how the public can view and interact with an artist’s work,” observed Carlin. “Much like Jill’s goal of unlocking and democratizing Barragan’s archive, we similarly felt that her film needed to be viewed by as wide a theatrical audience as possible.”
The company said it sees a “nice hole” in the market for an art-focused documentary now. The Proposal will bow at IFC Center exclusively this weekend and then head to L.A. May 31 at the Monica. Oscilloscope said it has lined up engagements in top markets throughout June.
Next up for Oscilloscope is Stephen Wilkes’ doc Jay Myself about American artist and photographer Jay Maisel on July 31. That will be followed by Sundance’s Ms. Purple by Justin Chon on September 6.
Added Carlin about this weekend’s launch of The Proposal: “It’s worth noting that the pre-sales figures at IFC Center are actually very encouraging. I think we’ll be able to parlay the success of this weekend into a very robust theatrical release.”
Echo in the Canyon
Director-writer: Andrew Slater
Writer: Eric Barrett
Subjects: The Beach Boys, The Birds, Eric Clapton, David Crosby, Jakob Dylan, Fiona Apple, Lou Adler, Jackson Browne, The Mamas and the Papas, Justine Bennett, Beck, Norah Jones
Distributor: Greenwich Entertainment
Greenwich Entertainment caught music doc Echo in the Canyon at the Los Angeles Film Festival last September. The film celebrates the explosion of popular music that came out of LA’s Laurel Canyon in the mid-’60s as folk went electric and The Byrds, The Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield and The Mamas and the Papas gave birth to the California Sound. It was a moment (1965 to 1967) when bands came to LA to emulate The Beatles and Laurel Canyon emerged as a hotbed of creativity and collaboration for a new generation of musicians who would soon put an indelible stamp on the history of American popular music. Featuring Jakob Dylan, the film explores the beginnings of the Laurel Canyon music scene. Dylan uncovers never-before-heard personal details behind the bands and their songs and how that music continues to inspire today.
“The movie smartly and movingly captures and celebrates a unique time…of musical innovation and a sense of cross-pollinating artistic community that remains richly inspirational and influential not only for the surviving participants but for anyone with a fondness for this quintessential sixties American music,” noted Greenwich Entertainment’s Ed Arentz. “We’ve focused on where people listen and talk about music [including] radio and social media and let people’s delight in the music do much of the messaging.”
Added Arentz: “In the process we’ve been working closely with the record label BMG who will be releasing the soundtrack album concurrent to the documentary release with joint music/film publicity and promotions campaigns.”
In the lead-up to the release, BMG has released a single cover of The Mamas and the Papas’ “Go Where You Wanna Go.” Noted Arentz: “The band led by executive producer Jakob Dylan and featuring Cat Power and Jade Castrinos among others performed on Jimmy Kimmel and NPR’s World Cafe. SiriusXM Satellite Radio has also been particularly supportive.”
Greenwich is expecting its core audience to be the aged 60-plus folks who were at the center of the period, but it is expecting to get “healthy interest” from younger music fans as well.
“Exhibitors throughout the country have been supportive and the appeal of this music was not exactly isolated to L.A.,” explained Arentz. “Although L.A. is where the story is set and where the music industry is based, the mid-’60s Southern California and the California Sound evoked by let’s say, The Mamas & The Papas’ “California Dreamin'” still has a fairly widespread hold on the national imagination.”
Echo in the Canyon will begin in Los Angeles at The Landmark and the Arclight Hollywood featuring select Q&As including musical performances by Jakob Dylan, Cat Power, Jade Castrinos and special guests playing music of the period. In its second weekend, the title will expand in L.A. and head to New York. Added Arentz: “Advance ticket sales have been robust and we’ll see very strong per screen averages.”
Director-writer: Michael Gallagher
Writer: Steve Greene
Cast: Matthew Glave, Emily Bett Rickards, Jana Winternitz; With Nikki Limo, Lily Holleman, Jessica Diggins, Aschleigh Jensen, Jacob Wysocki, Pete Gardner, Reginald VelJohnson
Distributor: Blue Fox Entertainment
Producer Jana Winternitz packed with filmmaker Michael Gallagher through her company Cinemand to develop tragic comedy Funny Story, in which she also appears. The project, which stars Matthew Gave and Emily Bett Rickards, began four-and-a-half years ago.
“I helped develop the story with Michael Gallagher,” said Winternitz. “It’s the kind of producing I like to do — shepherd the project from the start. We wanted to create a story that’s for an adult audience… It took a while to make the film, but once we had the green light, it came together pretty quickly.”
Funny Story centers on Walter Campbell, an aging heartthrob struggling to keep up appearances – especially with his estranged adult daughter Nic. In an attempt to reconnect with his family, he invites himself to crash her vacation in Big Sur. Offering a ride to her friend Kim, the two bond in unexpected ways that are sure to ruin the lives of everyone in their path.
Originally, the idea was to use an outline of the story and then film through improvisation. The filmmaking team had assembled a cast, but then the project came to a halt. “We had some false starts,” said Winternitz. “We had cast it but then something happened and it all fell through. Then Michael Gallagher wrote an [actual script] with Steve Greene in 2016. Cinemand fully financed the project.”
Gallagher and Winternitz cast the new version of the project. The key was to find the right dynamic among a trio. “It’s hard because there’s a love triangle,” she explained. “You need to find the right chemistry, so it’s important to get the people into a room.”
With stars on board, the title shot over 13 days in Topanga Canyon, which substituted for Big Sur, CA where the film is set. “This was nice because we could use our regular crew and didn’t have to travel,” said Winternitz. A smaller crew did go up to Big Sur for extra shots.
Funny Story debuted at the 2018 Slamdance Film Festival and had a lengthy festival run over the year, picking up over a dozen prizes. Blue Fox Entertainment came on board for its release. The title opens day and date with a theatrical roll out in L.A. and San Francisco this weekend with other locations planned.