Brian Brooks is managing editor of MovieLine.
Foreign and domestic titles from the festival circuit will make their theatrical debuts this weekend. Bernadette Peters and French actress Isabelle Huppert will open their latest respective films Coming Up Roses and In Another Country. Starlet with Dree Hemingway has a San Fernando Valley adult film industry bent, while Citadel won SXSW Festival’s Audience Midnight section prize. Film sales outfit Submarine releases the climate-change documentary Chasing Ice via its distribution label Submarine Deluxe, scoring talk show attention as a result of Hurricane Sandy’s devastation, while Magnolia’s A Royal Affair will get a traditional theatrical rollout.
Director: Jeff Orlowski
Writer: Mark Monroe
Subjects: James Balog, Svavar Jonatansson, Adam LeWinter
Distributor: Submarine Deluxe
Hurricane Sandy’s devastation resulted in some attention for this documentary which focuses on climate change. “Because of the storm, we were able to get on the Bill Maher Show,” Submarine Deluxe’s Dan Braun said. “The film is about beauty and one person’s personal obsession. We don’t have an actual tagline, but it’s also about capturing the world’s climate change” on film.
Submarine had a previous relationship with Chasing Ice producers, after selling the Oscar-winning doc The Cove to Roadside Attractions at Sundance. Chasing Ice initially went to Oscilloscope, but changes at that company lead the title back to Submarine and its distribution label which also released Being Elmo last year. The title will open in New York and Los Angeles before expanding to 10 other markets. “We’re doing a fairly traditional release with VOD planned later,” said Braun. “We are marketing it with other organizations and have a robust ground-game for this one. North Face is partnering and advanced group sales with other organizations have been great.”
Director-writer: Ciaran Foy
Cast: Aneurin Barnard, James Cosmo, Wunmi Mosaku
Distributor: Cinedigm/Flat Iron Film Company
Citadel producer Katie Holly had long admired director Ciaran Foy’s short films and was inspired by the filmmaker’s experience with agoraphobia — a theme in this movie about a father who teams with a renegade priest to save his daughter from twisted feral children. The project received public funds from the Irish Film Board and the plan initially to shoot exclusively in Dublin. But circumstances in Dublin prompted the filmmakers to look elsewhere to capture the urban grit they imagined. The group headed to Glasgow, Scotland, and that country also kicked in some financial aid. Citadel’s interiors were shot in Dublin, where post-production also took place.
“Casting was a mix, the key role is Tommy,” said Holly. “We were able to cast from many different places which we thought added to the eeriness of it all.” She said a casting director pointed them to Aneurin Barnard, who “blew us away” as Tommy. James Cosmo, who played the priest, is an established Scottish actor. “We shot the film in late November and early December two years ago, but then we got hit with some of the worst weather in Scotland and Ireland in years,” said Holly. “Places we wanted to shoot were completely inaccessible. We wanted to get stark streets, but they were covered in snow which made them look pretty, but the snow did add to the coldness of it.”
Citadel debuted at the 2012 SXSW Film Festival where it won the Audience Prize in the Midnight section. It also traveled to other festivals, including the recent London and Doha Tribeca Film Festivals. Citadel will open this weekend at the Angelika in New York and then will head to three LA screens. In the coming weeks, it will expand to 16 theaters or more depending on initial performance.
Coming Up Roses
Director-co-writer: Lisa Albright
Co-writer: Christina Lazaridi
Cast: Bernadette Peters, Rachel Brosnahan, Peter Friedman
Distributor: Dada Films
Director Lisa Albright based Coming Up Roses on her youth. In the film a daughter and her theatrical mother fantasize about a better life despite facing money troubles, a dangerous neighborhood and depression. “I dealt with a mother figure who was dealing with single motherhood and clinical depression and she had a theatrical background,” said Albright. Good luck headed her way as she took the story to the screen when she met her co-writer Christina Lazaridi, her casting director Margi Simkin and actress Bernadette Peters.
“Financing was very haphazard. I sold random objects and put my money in and I convinced some angel investors who had been involved with me to put money in,” said Albright. “Once Bernadette came in, it helped. She’s Broadway royalty and has Hollywood royalty, but she slept in a camper in freezing rain in Queens, NY while shooting.” The filmmakers headed to Queens to give it a feeling from 1985. “They were dealing with some of the same issues people are dealing with now – high unemployment and economic strife,” said Albright. Coming Up Roses screened at the Woodstock Film Festival. Based on Peters’ performance, AMC Entertainment has committed to a New York theatrical run this weekend. Dates in LA and other cities will be determined by its initial performance.
In Another Country
Director-writer: Sang-soo Hong
Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Kwon Hye Hyo, Jung Yu Mi
Distributor: Kino Lorber
Distributor Kino Lorber bought In Another Country out of Cannes this year. “It is a unique achievement that blends experimental narrative with an engaging and charming storyline that’s sparked by a comedic performance by Isabella Huppert,” said Company chief Richard Lorber. “It’s a thinking person’s comedy.” The film, which screened a few days ago at AFI Fest in LA, ran out of tickets for its free screenings. Kino Lorber will take it to paying audiences beginning with Lincoln Plaza in New York.
Additional screens “will be confirmed once they see the New York grosses,” added Lorber. “We usually take foreign films like this to 30 to 40 cities, so that is our reasonable expectation. We booked this at Lincoln Plaza right after Cannes. We were fortunate especially for this time of the year which can be tough with all the awards pushes going on.”
A Royal Affair
Director-co writer: Nikolaj Arcel
Writers: Bodil Steensen-Leth, Rasmus Heisterberg
Cast: Alicia Vikander, Mads Middelsen, Mikkel Boe Folsgaard, Trine Dyrholm, David Dencik
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
This one debuted at this year’s Berlin Film Festival where it took Best Actor and Best Screenplay. But Magnolia Pictures picked it up in Cannes based on a promo reel. A Royal Affair had galas in Toronto and Telluride and has had overseas box office success ahead of its weekend rollout Stateside. “It’s performed terrifically in other English territories including UK and Australia, so we’re feeling good about the release here,” said Magnolia’s Matt Cowal who added that the “smart” period drama is “the perfect classic art house film. It’s not stuffy and has a modern sensibility.” Filmmaker Nikolaj Arcel and co-writer Rasmus Heisterberg are longtime collaborators who co-wrote the screenplay for the original Danish adaptation of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.
Magnolia is not using VOD for the initial rollout. A Royal Affair will open two theaters in New York City and on screens in Santa Monica, Pasadena and Irvine CA, followed by a big expansion in its second weekend. It will add additional markets on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.
Director-co-writer: Sean Baker
Co-writer: Chris Bergoch
Cast: Dree Hemingway, Besedka Johnson, James Ransone, Asa Akira
Distributor: Music Box Films
Producer Blake Ashman and director/co-writer Sean Baker have collaborated before. Baker approached Ashman with the idea for this film with a 35-page script. “He wanted to do it on shoestring budget,” said Ashman. “He was frustrated about the lack of progression on other projects and I immediately jumped on because I have faith in him. We knew we could round up a small but passionate group. It’s something I wouldn’t do for anyone else.” The film centers on the unlikely friendship between 21 year-old Jane and elderly Sadie after Jane discovers a hidden stash of money found inside an object at Sadie’s yard sale. “We spent a lot of time in LA researching the adult film industry and going to sets there getting to know the day to day life of adult film workers. We took elements from that and inserted them into the script. Everyone we met was very helpful.” The idea originally was to cast a porn star in the role of Jane, which is played by Hemingway, but that didn’t work out. “Three weeks before shooting, Dree Hemingway came on board,” said Ashman. “That worked well because she happened to be in LA. For the Sadie character, we wanted to bring someone [pro] out of retirement, and we approached a lot of people. We had a very low budget so it was tough to get people’s attention. We had one person on board but she had to drop out. But we then found Besedka Johnson after approaching her at a gym.”
Financing came together through a number of sources that joined by way of individual investments to the tune of $25K to $50K at a time. “All of us had one or two sources to get small investments,” said Ashman. Producer “Ted Hope also introduced us to other investors. He’s a fan of Sean’s past work…It’s amazing how difficult it is to put together a micro-budget film because people don’t want to be involved with something that small. They want a big return.” The film debuted at SXSW and screened in competition at the Locarno Film Festival this summer as well as other fall events including AFI Fest which just closed. Starlet will open in New York at the Elinor Brunin Film Center and the Sunshine and on four screens in Los Angeles. It will add five or six more locations the following week, with 29 theaters confirmed through mid-December.