Brian Brooks is managing editor of MovieLine.

A film starring Nicole Kidman, Zac Efron, Matthew McConaughey, Macy Gray, and John Cusack may sound like a packaged star vehicle of some sort, but apparently it’s not. It’s Lee Daniels’ follow-up to his 2009 Oscar-favorite Precious and it has divided audiences with wild supporters and vocal dissenters at festivals since debuting in Cannes. The Paperboy will be hitting theaters after its NY Film Festival debut this week and the rest will be box office history. Veteran actor Matthew Lillard will open his pic, Fat Kid Rules The World, about a suicidal high school dropout who is recruited to join an upstart punk band through self-distribution beginning in New York. Doc The Revisionaries, meanwhile, will use its Texas base to drive a later national roll out. And Magnolia is hoping to scare up audiences with its multi-filmmaker title, V/H/S.

Fat Kid Rules The World
Director: Matthew Lillard
Writers: Michael M.B. Galvin, Peter Speakman, K.L. Going (novel)
Cast: Jacob Wysocki, Matt O’Leary, Billy Campbell, Dylan Arnold
Distributor: Outsider Films

Veteran actor Matthew Lillard made his first foray into directing with a short in 2009 before going behind the camera again for his comedy Fat Kid Rules The World. But he had long considered the filmmaker hat when he first optioned the book 10 years ago. “Finding an opportunity to get it made took so long,” he said. Before launching into his acting career, he took on directing as a high school kid. But, getting the deal done on Fat Kid Rules The World, of course, took more than simply the desire. After the film won an Audience Award at the SXSW Film Festival, Lillard and his producers thought they’d be off and running into distribution. “But all we got was a bunch of options to release it on VOD,” he said. “Looking at it and understanding where we were at, we figured we were probably not going to make our money back, but I decided not to stop until we broke even.” So Lillard and crew turned to crowd funding site Kickstarter and promptly raised $158K in 33 days to help self-distribute the title. “We realized we had a pretty extensive reach in the social media world,” Lillard said. “I have fans, [Pearl Jam lead guitarist] Mike McCready who did the music for the film does as well, so we knew we could reach that [audience].”

After making an additional $33K, they set out to release their title using TUGG, a distribution model launched earlier this year which allows filmmakers a chance to open their film at a participating location after a certain number of tickets have been sold. Again, the key is spreading the word through social media. Working under the Outsider Films label, the film will open in New York this weekend and then head to L.A., San Francisco, Palm Springs, Portland, Seattle and Chicago. “My dream is of course that we’d do a lot of TUGG screenings and a Searchlight will come to us, but that hasn’t happened,” said Lillard. “But what has happened is that theater owners are coming to us.”

The Paperboy
Director-writer: Lee Daniels
Co-writer: Peter Dexter (novel and screenplay)
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Zac Efron, Matthew McConaughey, John Cusack, Macy Gray
Distributor: Millennium Entertainment

The early morning press screening for The Paperboy at the Cannes Film Festival met with a mixture of loud boos and wild applause. The premiere that night included a long standing ovation, but the title does divide audiences. “People either just love it or go out of their way to say they don’t care for it,” said Millennium Films’ head Mark Gill. The story had been shopped around to a number of directors including Spain auteur Pedro Almodovar before Lee Daniels came on board. Set in the early ’70s, the story revolves around a reporter who returns to his Florida hometown to investigate a case involving a death row inmate.

Daniels’ Best Director Oscar nomination back in 2010 gave the director leverage to attract an A-list cast for his follow-up, though he still had to work on a shoe-string budget. Before the U.S. premiere at the New York Film Festival Wednesday, Nicole Kidman revealed she had to do her own make-up and even shopped around New Orleans second-hand stores to pick up period outfits for her character, Charlotte. “Lee [Daniels] is an actors’ director and they all know it and have heard he’s wonderful to work with,” said Gill. “A lot of it is his charisma and…the good thing about being an Oscar-nominated director is that people want to meet you. He has the access. But the script is also very attractive. These are things none of these people have done before. Macy Gray is a sassy Southern maid. John Cusack is an unbelievably crazy man. From an actors POV this is attractive.” The Paperboy will open on 11 screens in five cities this weekend including New York, L.A., Chicago, Washington, D.C. and San Francisco. “Each week thereafter we’ll be adding more screens within some of those markets with expansion out to additional cities,” said Gill.

The Revisionaries
Director-writer: Scott Thurman
Co-writer: Jawad Metni
Subject: Don McLeroy and the Texas State Board of Education
Distributor: Kino Lorber Films

Director Scott Thurman happened to come across two film producers while he working on his graduate school thesis. He set out to do a film about then Texas State Board of Education head Don McLeroy. “They were fascinated by the universality of his film and to his access,” said fellow producer Daniel Chalfen. “Scott [Thurman] is from a religious-right family in small town Texas.” The state’s board of education happens to be the biggest buyer of text books in the country and because of their size, they have an impact around the country. Publishers eager for their contract will yield to their conservative demands on creation and American history with the result that other states’ textbooks reflect the Texas board’s desires.

“With one producer from London and another from New York, [Thurman] was a bit shocked to have two fish out of water showing up on his campus,” said Chalfen. “He had professors helping him with his contracts.” The film won a Special Jury prize at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year where Michael Moore gave it a shout-out, calling it the “scariest film showing at Tribeca this year.” Still, Thurman’s ambition, according to Chalfen, is for the film to be non-partisan. The film, will open in Dallas, Houston and Austin this weekend and will expand to New York and Los Angeles on October 26th followed by a further expansion. “The aim is to get Texas on board and the news from Texas to drive [the release],” noted Chalfen.

V/H/S
Directors: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, David Bruckner, Tyler Gillett, Justin Martinez, Glenn McQuaid, Radio Silence, Joe Swanberg, Chad Villella, Ti West, Adam Wingard
Writers: Simon Barrett, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, David Bruckner, Tyler Gillett, Justin Martinez, Glenn McQuaid, Radio Silence, Nicholas Tecosky, Chad Villella, Ti West
Cast: Calvin Reeder, Lane Hughes, Adan Wingard, Hannah Fierman, Mike Donlan, Joe Sykes, Jas Sams, Joe Swanberg
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures/Magnet Releasing

V/H/S is told through disparate segments tied together with one connective story. It also tied together a number of indie directors who have made their way around the festival circuit over the years. Magnolia picked up the title out of Sundance in January after its debut. “They had a really amazing screening,” said Magnolia’s Matt Cowal. “It’s scary and an unsettling movie, which is fairly rare these days. It’s an anecdote to the ‘found film footage’ horror.” Cowal said that his company, which releases a fair amount of genre titles mostly through its Magnet Releasing label, looks for “strong concept” when films are void of star power to help drive a release. “A lot just don’t deliver, but V/H/S really does deliver,” he said.

Cowal said the feature launched on VOD August 30th. As typical for distributors, he would not give numbers but said, “We’re very happy with how it’s going. It’s definitely one of our better titles of this year. The film will open 15 markets in one theater each this weekend including New York and Los Angeles and will be expanding throughout October to “pretty much every major market,” according to Cowal.