Brian Brooks is Managing Editor of MovieLine.
New arrivals to the specialty market don’t include any marquee Oscar contenders compared to recent weeks. What we have is a hodgepodge of cross-genre fare. Abramorama’s Addicted To Fame takes a behind-the-scenes look at a film set with a troubled star. Magnet Releasing’s Universal Soldier: Day Of Reckoning is a follow-up to the previous Jean-Claude Van Damme pic which took a circuitous route to the big screen. China Lion’s Back To 1942 may find appeal beyond its core Chinese American audience with the participation of Adrien Brody and Tim Robbins, while Pantelion Films/Lionsgate’s Hecho En México rolls out in Los Angeles with Mexican culture in the spotlight. And Ex-Girlfriends aims to capitalize on micro-budget DIY marketing.
Addicted To Fame
Writer-director: David Giancola
Subjects: Anna Nicole Smith, David Giancola, John James
When David Giancola directed Illegal Aliens (2007) starring Anna Nicole Smith, he assigned cameramen to shoot behind-the-scenes footage. “He possibly anticipated [Smith's] unfortunate deterioration…” noted Addicted To Fame executive producer Richard Abramowitz. “It kept getting worse because her circumstances kept getting worse.”
Abramowitz, who teaches a film class in addition to his producing and distribution responsibilities, said he’d like to show Addicted To Fame to his class because “they don’t teach you this,” he said. “How do you deal with this on set with a star who is functionally illiterate and has personal, emotional problems?” Abramowitz said the filmmaking team is mindful that the movie could come across as opportunistic, and they are trying to release the title “respectfully while not disguising what it is.” Addicted To Fame will open in 10 markets today and will be available via VOD. Added Abramowitz: “We’ll see how it goes as far as results. We’re poised to take it as far as it goes. It’s not the easiest thing to do theatrical this time of the year, but that’ s how it happened to work for VOD. It’s safe to say there’s nothing like it out there.”
Back To 1942
Director: Xiaogang Feng
Writer: Zhenyun Liu
Cast: Adrien Brody, Tim Robbins, Fan Xu
Distributor: China Lion
Niche distributor China Lion has handled past releases from Chinese director Xiaogang Feng including If You Are The One 2, which the company said is one of the biggest grossing Chinese films in North America. “I completed arrangements for [Back To 1942] at AFM,” noted China Lion’s Milt Barlow. The distributor initially will target its core Chinese-American audience but hopes for crossover into the art house crowd with Adrien Brody and Tim Robbins’ participation. “This would require a separate and longer workup and would probably not go to these markets until early 2013,” added Barlow.
Back To 1942 centers on the deadly famine in China’s Henan province during the war against Japan. China Lion will open the movie in markets with large Chinese populations including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Toronto, Vancouver and Seattle. “We are looking at expansion to IMAX from December 7 in key areas and will look to expand to Western/art house audiences,” noted Barlow.
Director-writer: Alexander Poe
Cast: Jennifer Carpenter, Kristen Connolly, Alexander Poe
Distributor: Film Buff/Self-Distribution
After leaving Columbia Film School, filmmaker Alexander Poe began tackling projects with a micro-budget approach in order to capitalize on profitability. He collaborated with Kristen Connolly who co-stars in the film about three New Yorkers who struggle to uncover the truth behind their romantic entanglements. Poe sought participants he already knew, including his actors, although a week before shooting his lead actress dropped out to do a TV show. Connolly’s manager at Untitled Entertainment offered up a list of actors, and Jennifer Carpenter (Dexter) came on board. “She was totally game,” said Poe. “We made our own sandwiches and held extras in a basement.”
After raising money through crowd-funding sources and assembling an early cut, he sent the film to Cinetic, which took on the project via digital release label Film Buff. It opened the Austin Film Festival and opens at New York’s Cinema Village this weekend. It will also be available via iTunes and other platforms and VOD. Ex-Girlfriends will head to other cities theatrically based on performance.
Hecho En México
Director: Duncan Bridgeman
Subjects: Diego Luna, Kinky, Lila Downs, Héctor Aguilar Camín, Amandititita , Sergio Arau
Pantelion partner Grupo Televisa came aboard this project which offers a portrait of some of contemporary Mexico’s iconic musical artists. “Televisa is one of two partners in Pantelion [along with Lionsgate] so we’ve been involved with this since the beginning,” said Pantelion COO Edward Allen. The documentary “spans across genres of Mexican music and it’s something that has been well-received outside Mexican culture itself.” Allen said the film performed strongly in Mexico where it was released two months ago. “To reach the Latino audience, we’ve been going through Univision and the Latin Grammys, which is one of [the network's] biggest shows,” said Allen. “Artist Lila Downs performed at the show that’s also in the documentary and re-created the piece visually. That was our kickoff in the U.S. and we’ve been supporting the release via Univision both locally and nationally.”
Hecho En México will open this weekend in Los Angeles, the U.S. market with the largest Mexican-American population. After that it will head to 15-20 additional cities with two to three theaters apiece.
Universal Soldier: Day Of Reckoning
Director: John Hyams
Co-writers: Hyams, Doug Magnson, Jon Greenhalgh, Moshe Diamant
Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Scott Adkins, Kristopher Van Varenberg
Distributor: Magnet Releasing
As a follow-up to Universal Soldier: Regeneration (2009), the idea for another installment came after the first gained a following in home video release. Momentum built in the form of unit sales for Sony, which then looked into doing a follow-up. “I had gone from doing documentary and television to doing a direct-to-video movie,” said director/co-writer John Hyams. “The phone never rang…but my agency called and asked about doing another Universal Soldier. They said to write a spec script, which I did, but wasn’t being paid.” Hyams said he felt extra pressure since the main actors in the first installment – whose cooperation for a second one would be crucial – had veto power. Additionally, the movie had a budget of $7 million to $8 million and a shorter shooting schedule compared to the $10M to $12M budget and shooting schedule for the earlier film that was 17 days longer. “Additionally, this one would be in 3D, so on a scale perspective, this would be very different,” said Hyams.
Adjusting for the scale, Hyams made it more of a horror and mystery story with less spectacle than the first pic. After an initial script veto, he met with producers in Louisiana and took on another short project while working on a re-write. After getting final approval, Universal Soldier: Day Of Reckoning went into pre-production. The group shot in March 2011 over 30 days although they lost most of one day after a 3D camera malfunctioned. Magnolia Pictures’ genre label Magnet Releasing will open Day Of Reckoning in New York, LA and Austin this weekend. Expansion will be based on performance.