Brian Brooks is a Deadline contributor.
Ryan Gosling teams up with director Derek Cianfrance in their first collaboration since Blue Valentine. Focus Features will open The Place Beyond The Pines in a traditional roll out, with expectations that its stars will be as strong a draw as its filmmaking prowess. Cohen Media Group’s Blancanieves will likely be the highest profile silent film (perhaps the only one?) to hit the big screen since Oscar powerhouse The Artist. Australian-born P.J. Hogan reunites with Toni Colette for Mental, their first collaboration since Muriel’s Wedding helped launch both of their careers. IFC Films’ long-time exec Ryan Werner gives the lowdown on his final release with the distributor, Room 237. Werner leaves IFC Films this week. And Drafthouse Films will open Wrong, which it picked up out of Sundance last year.
Filmmaker Derek Cianfrance directed Ryan Gosling in 2010 drama Blue Valentine, which scored well at the box office with a domestic take of just over $9.7 million (and an Oscar nomination for co-star Michelle Williams). This time around, he adds Bradley Cooper and Eva Mendes to the mix. The film centers on a motorcycle stunt rider turned outlaw who robs banks in order to provide for the son he didn’t know he had, but runs afoul from an ambitious rookie cop. “It’s filmed by a filmmaker. He’s the deal,” said Focus chief James Schamus. “He really brought back the kind of ambition you saw with filmmakers from the 70s. It doesn’t have to be a big budget movie for it to be ambitious.” Focus picked up the film out of last year’s Toronto International Film Festival. To spread the word, Focus sent Cianfrance on an extensive promotional tour. “It is publicity, but he’s been amazing. Some directors don’t enjoy talking about their work, but he’s so infectious,” noted Schamus.
Last time Ryan Gosling showed off his on screen prowess behind the wheel, he grossed over $35 million domestically in 2011 in Drive. That return remains to be seen, but Schamus ultimately sees the filmmaking as The Place Beyond The Pines’ ultimate trump card. “It’s great to have movie stars, but to make movies with this kind of intensity and specificity of vision — it’s all about he movie,” said Schamus. “It’s great to get the conversation starting with Gosling, Cooper and Mendes but the movie delivers.” Schamus said Focus will do an “old school-style” roll out of the film, with 2 New York and 2 L.A. runs this weekend. It will expand in both cities and add markets in the coming weeks. “It will cross 200 screens in the next 3 to 4 weeks,” said Schamus. “It might not be as slow a roll out as was [last year's Focus film] Moonrise Kingdom, but it won’t go to 2000 screens instantly.”
Blancanieves writer-director Pablo Berger became inspired to pen what would become his feature after viewing photos of Spanish villages and bull fighting. “Something struck me to put Snow White into a photo,” said Berger. “And the other element is my obsession with silent cinema.” But that didn’t mean getting Blancanieves into production mode was easy. Set in the 1920s, the twist on the Snow White fairy tale takes place in Seville, centering on a female bullfighter. “When I showed the producers this script that was silent and black and white, they started laughing,” said Berger. “But I had patience and fought and wanted to achieve my dream. It took 8 years to get this off the ground. Nobody believed it could be commercial…My hair is white now, if you see photos of Pablo Berger five years ago, I look different. But I’m not jaded, I enjoyed the journey.”
The producers were not the only crowd hesitant to take on a silent film. Potential cast were also not inclined to take on the project. “Big actors were scared to make a silent film. They’re used to preparing for dialog and do what they’ve always done,” noted Berger who added that after finding cast, challenges still existed. “They were confused with the tone etc. I told them not to be concerned whether it’s silent. We recorded the sound, but we weren’t going to use it. I told them not to do pantomime or over the talk acting. Once the rules were set, it worked really well.” The shoot took place under the blistering sun over seven weeks, with temperatures easily reaching 100 degrees F. Blancanieves won 10 Spanish Goyas and has had triumphant runs in France and Spain. Cohen Media Group will platform release Blancanieves in two locations each in New York and L.A. this weekend before expanding the following week in both cities and adding Santa Barbara, San Diego, Chicago and Seattle the following week. It will hit more cities across the U.S. April 12th.
Producers Janet and Jerry Zucker produced filmmaker P.J. Hogan’s first American film, My Best Friend’s Wedding and came on board Mental, which they said had long been Hogan’s “passion project.” The film is a dark comic re-telling of his own life experiences when his mother suffered a nervous breakdown and his father picked up a female hitch-hiker who became his nanny. Financing for the film came from a consortium of Australian organizations and state and federal funding sources in addition to banks and foreign pre-sales. He also chose Australia for his shoot, the first time he returned there since 1994′s Muriel’s Wedding. The pair brought on Australian producer Todd Fellman who helped get the project underway. “We sold the film to Universal Australia who strongly supported the film from the very beginning,” said the Zuckers. “When it came to cast, PJ had written the script with Toni [Colette] already in mind. She couldn’t wait to work with P.J. again for the first time since Muriel’s — the film that launched both their careers.”
Shooting took place over the summer of 2011 in Queensland and New South Wales. Cohen Media Group will open Mental in 10 markets Friday and is also available via VOD.
IFC Films first saw documentary Room 237 at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival where it debuted. The distributor picked up the title out of the festival where it continued to make the round of international events including Cannes, Locarno (where it won a jury prize), Toronto, Deauville, Fantastic Fest, New York Film Festival and Mar del Plata ahead of its theatrical roll-out this weekend. Described as a “subjective documentary,” the film explores the many theories and hidden meanings within Stanley Kubrick’s classic The Shining.
“It’s an amazing film that says so much about the way we watch movies today,” commented IFC Films’ SVP of Marketing Ryan Werner. “Many of us are big Kubrick fans here so that was a big draw.” The film will be the last IFC Films roll out for Werner as its SVP of Marketing and Publicity. He is departing the New York-based distributor after seven and-a-half years at the end of the week. “I don’t think you have to see any of Kubrick’s films to watch the film. However, you will want to see them all especially The Shining afterwards,” added Werner. IFC Films will release Room 237 at IFC Center and the Elinor Brunin Munroe Film Center in New York exclusively this weekend and will be available via digital platforms including iTunes, Amazon, Xbox, Playstation and Sundancenow.com.
Drafthouse Films also picked up its weekend release out of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. The comedy centers on a man who loses his dog, but during his quest to find him, he radically changes the life of others and risks his own sanity. “[The film] stuck out as one we wanted to go after in our hit list,” said Drafthouse Films Creative Director Evan Husney. “We like Quentin’s style and we’re always looking for visceral unusual films for our brand. He’s someone who is unconsciously dimension building and he leans toward these ‘bizarro’ progressive comedies. When we were all there, we definitely knew it was it. We struck a deal soon after [the festival].”
Drafthouse Films is utilizing its built-in audience and social media to spread the word about Wrong, and it hopes to grow its reach beyond core fans. “We know this will be a niche audience but we’re still going for as wide an audience as possible,” said Husney. “People who like experimental alternative comedy, David Lynch etc. are [prime] audiences. This is theatrical and still believe it’s the best way to experience the movie and want to give it the opportunity to allow that to happen.” Drafthouse will open Wrong in 15 markets in 18 theaters this weekend before rolling out further throughout April. “We’re playing the film in a network of independent theaters that are ‘like-minded’ cinemas and looking collaboratively with them,” added Husney.