This Friday’s specialty releases run the gamut from Being Flynn with stars Robert DeNiro, Julianne Moore and Paul Dano, which Focus will begin to roll out over the weekend, to much smaller titles Boy and Black Butterflies with much more limited release plans. Most of this week’s specialty offerings, however, faced long roads to the big screen and fluctuating production budgets. Below are a snapshot of this week’s new limited releases.
Director: Paul Weitz
Writer: Paul Weitz, Nick Flynn
Cast: Paul Dano, Robert DeNiro, Julianne Moore, Olivia Thirlby
Distributor: Focus Features
It’s been a lengthy road for Being Flynn to get to theaters this weekend. The feature starring Robert DeNiro, Julianne Moore, Paul Dano and Olivia Thirlby traveled an eight year journey starting out as a Sony project before heading to Fox 2000 and finally landing at Focus Features. Along the way co-writer/director Paul Weitz wrote thirty drafts of the script, evolving along the way. “We were fortunate to have Robert DeNiro from the point we were working with Fox 2000 and he stayed [with the project] after the budget became tighter,” producer Andrew Miano told Deadline, adding that an actor who originally was to play the role of DeNiro’s son in the film had to drop out, which eventually lead to Paul Dano joining the project. “We weren’t forced to do certain casting with an actor who could sell the film in Germany or Africa,” said Miano adding that Focus gave the production leeway on finding Dano. “He’s an actor who has worked opposite Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood and The Ballad Of Jack And Rose and we knew he could do this with DeNiro,” said Miano.
Based on Nick Flynn’s 2004 memoir Another Bullshit Night in Suck City: A Memoir, Dano portrays Nick Flynn, a young writer who misses his mother (Julianne Moore) and seeking to define himself. Suddenly facing eviction, he reaches out to his estranged father (DeNiro), a man who has long styled himself a “master storyteller.” Focus opens Being Flynn Friday March 2nd at Lincoln Square and the Sunshine in New York as well as the Arclight in Hollywood and Landmark in West Los Angeles. The film will expand to Chicago, Washington, D.C., Boston, San Francisco and Dallas the following week.
Director: Taika Waititi
Writer: Taika Waititi
Cast: Taika Waititi, James Rolleston, Te Aho Eketone-Whitu
Distributor: Paladin, Unison
The Boy production had high expectations for the opening in its native New Zealand. Producer Emanuel Michael told Deadline they had “high expectations” the film would top $1 million at home. Its first weekend, the film beat out Alice In Wonderland and Clash Of The Titans even though those titles were on 95 screens vs Boy‘s 30. “We thought we could do more screens but people thought it wouldn’t work,” Michael told Deadline.”We eventually got up to 88 screens by week five. The whole experience was to get the distributor to have the faith in the film there. It was a film that broke the mold.” Abroad, Boy took audience awards at AFI Fest, Berlin, Sydney and Melbourne, but it had difficulty finding takers overseas including the U.S. “It’s an interesting reflection on where we are,” he said. “Is it about what the audience likes or is it about what [distributors] think they’re capable of selling?”
For the U.S., the project raised $103,000 for P&A funds on Kickstarter. The film centers on an 11 year-old Michael Jackson fan who gets to know his father who has returned to find a bag of money he buried years prior. It will open New York’s Anjelika Theater and the Film Center at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, followed by the Laemmle Santa Monica and Pasadena next week. “The strategy is to go with Taika and myself to all the cities we’re going to and do Q&As to promote the film” said Michael. “I’ll will be saying to the audience, ‘we don’t have ads going, the only ads will be coming from your mouths.’ Does that technology still work? Are there still water coolers?”
Director: Paula Van Der Oest
Writer: Greg Latter
Cast: Carice van Houten, Liam Cunningham, Rutger Hauer
Distributor: Tribeca Film
Initially a producer wanted to do a documentary, but it eventually morphed into a narrative starring Dutch actress Carice van Houten who picked up a Best Actress win at the Tribeca Film Festival last year. The film focuses on the story of South African poet Ingrid Jonker, hailed as the country’s ‘Sylvia Plath.’ “It took a very long time to develop,” director Paula van der Oest told Deadline, adding that a myriad of funding sources were only part of the long trajectory of the project that eventually took seven years to finish. Eventually getting money from funding boards in the Netherlands, Germany and South Africa, development remained on the slow track in order to craft a script that felt comfortable to the production. “The scriptwriter needed a very long time to do research on Jonker, but we were also raising money. Luckily our crew were very dedicated to Ingrid Jonker’s memory, so they were happy to remain with the film.”
As a Dutch filmmaker, van der Oest said she felt strange initially going to another country to do a story about a person in another country. “It’s like an American or Australian coming to the Netherlands to do a movie about Anne Frank, which of course is happening,” she said. She overcame those fears and the six week shoot took place in and around Cape Town, South Africa. “After a lot of research, I felt I could do this story,” she added. Black Butterflies is currently available on demand and begins an exclusive engagement at Cinema Village in New York.
Last Days Here
Director: Don Argott and Demian Fenton
Distributor: Sundance Selects
Veteran documentary filmmakers Don Argott and Demian Fenton got around funding for their latest film spotlighting ’70s rocker Bobby Liebling, lead singer of heavy metal band Pentagram. Last Days Here was meant to be the filmmakers’ follow up to 2005′s Rock School, but the project took on a much longer path. “It just took a long time for things to develop the way they did,” Argott told Deadline. “It was an old school documentary approach, like Hoop Dreams. One of the reasons it’s so great is that it took so long as this one did. Not having that pressure to finish was the only way it could be made.” Argott and Fenton funded the film themselves, using equipment already in place at their production company. That coupled with an mostly open-ended finishing timeline allowed the filmmaking duo to pick up and go as needed. IFC Films’ Sundance Selects label picked up the film following its premiere at last year’s SXSW Film Festival. The distributor also released the filmmakers’ lauded film The Art Of The Steal last year.
Sundance Selects will do a limited theatrical release in New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. It will be available On Demand March 16th.
Tim And Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie
Directors: Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim
Writers: Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim
Cast: Eric Wareheim and Tim Wareheim
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
Magnolia Pictures inherited Tim And Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie from their sister company 2929 Productions, part of Mark Cuban’s media holdings. He’s also an executive producer on the project about two guys who are given a billion dollars to make a movie, but they soon fall of course. In order to rehabilitate their finances, they decide to fix up a rundown shopping mall. Billion Dollar Movie premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and launched into VOD immediately after the festival. “We’re very happy with its performance,” Magnolia’s Matt Cowal told Deadline, though as with most things VOD, Magnolia as well as other distributors decline to give numbers. “Tim [Heidecker] and Eric [Wareheim] spent a good part of the month on a multi-city tour,” said Cowal.”They activated their big fan base and did advance screenings. There were a shocking number of people who saw the film on VOD and then bought tickets for these screenings.” The production happened to find an abandoned mall near Palm Springs, CA, which happened to be a source of good luck for the project though it was a “local fiasco,” noted Cowal.
Magnolia will open Time And Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie on 25 screens Friday and will expand it through March.