Brian Brooks is a Deadline contributor.
Two Sundance titles will roll out the first weekend of June. Specialty newcomers this weekend run the gamut from star vehicles to niche special interest titles. Brit Marling, Alexander Skarsgard and Ellen Page star in Fox Searchlight’s The East, which will open in several runs in a traditional platform launch. Variance Films is sending its genre-bending feature The History Of Future Folk exclusively in New York as will Zeitgeist Films for its Toronto biopic Hannah Arendt. And CBS Films will, appropriately, bow its Sundance pickup, The Kings Of Summer in New York and L.A.
The East had its debut at the Sundance Film Festival and closed out the SXSW Film Festival in March. Director Zal Batmanglij along with star (and co-writer) Brit Marling traveled to over a dozen cities for college and word-of-mouth screenings, hosting Q&As. “Given the fact that the film will be the only one in the marketplace with a strong female lead as protagonist, we feel that this smart and modern thriller is well positioned as a film unlike any others in release,” noted, SVP Domestic Distribution at Searchlight. “We will be targeting the core art house audience as well as a younger demographic including college students for The East. Our marketing will be comprised of Broadcast, Print, Radio and a targeted online effort, including social media.”
In the film, Marling plays Sarah Moss, an operative for an elite private intelligence firm whose top objective is to ruthlessly protect the interests of their A-list corporate clientele. She is assigned to go undercover to infiltrate an anarchist collective known for executing covert attacks upon major corporations. Living amongst them in an effort to get closer to their members, she starts to fall in love with the group’s charismatic leader. Searchlight will open The East on May 31 in a total of four theaters in LA and New York. The film will open in the Arclight Hollywood and Landmark West LA in Los Angeles, and in the Sunshine and Lincoln Square in New York. The film will be released on a limited platform basis expanding over the next five weeks.
Variance Films became aware of The History Of Future Folk after a film critic sent a message via Twitter to the distributor’s exec Dylan Marchetti about the film. “[He said] it seemed up our alley. He was right,” said Marchetti. “On the surface, the film is a mix of several ingredients that really shouldn’t work — indie sci-fi, comedy, bluegrass music — but the filmmakers completely pulled it off and the film manages to be funny and sweet without ever being cloying- that’s really hard to make work, and it works on Future Folk incredibly well.” The multi-genre film centers on the real-life alien bluegrass band, Future Folk, which has been playing for NYC audiences for a decade. “The challenge on this film is that is plays well to several core audiences, some of whom will find the film On Demand (it releases on VOD June 4th via FilmBuff),” said Marchetti. “It plays to the so-called ‘hipster’ crowd, but it also plays to crowds who enjoy music, sci-fi, and even to older audiences who enjoy a well-made film. So what we’ve done is create a host of very unusual marketing materials, everything from a music video to a Taxi TV spot to a ‘press conference’ we had last week.”
Variance will also have band members at theaters opening night. Opening up against After Earth, Marchetti doesn’t see that film peeling off Future Folk‘s potential audience or vice versa. “I think the signal-to-noise ratio created by the constant glut of films clearly opening in theaters only so they can qualify for the ‘In Theaters Now’ folder on VOD is a far bigger challenge,” he said. The film will open in NYC this week followed by Los Angeles the following weekend. It will head out across the country throughout summer. “We think the film is great counter-programming to a lot of what’s out there, and even though the film is available on demand, we’ll have live music and Skype Q&As in the theater plus special events to drive the audience,” said Marchetti. “This is one of those films where the more people see it, the more people will talk about it, so we’re going to take our time rolling it out.”
Zeitgeist co-head Nancy Gerstman first saw bio-drama Hannah Arendt at the Toronto International Film Festival last year, where it screened as a gala. The company had released von Trotta’s Vision previously and were pleased with what they saw in the filmmaker’s latest. The feature is a look at the life of philosopher and political theorist Hannah Arendt, who reported for The New Yorker on the war crimes trial of Nazi Adolf Eichmann. “I was also overwhelmed by Barbara’s brilliant performance and Margarethe’s powerful direction”, said Gerstman. “They had made a film about a great mind and made it in a very entertaining way…When we love a film and think that we can find an audience for it that’s how we define a good fit for Zeitgeist.” After picking up the title, Zeitgeist sent the film to a number of Jewish film festivals as well as a few key women’s film events, though Gerstman says the feature should appeal across a broad spectrum. “We had a terrific poster and trailer, postcards, flyers, website and we were discriminating about where our clips and trailer premiered, although the trailer subsequently went very viral,” said Gerstman. “Our excellent marketing team headed by Ben Crossley-Mara identified areas that we could concentrate on like philosophy, history, humanities, World War II and Holocaust studies.”
Additionally, Zeitgeist connected with the Hannah Arendt Center at Bard College and Penguin Books, which publishes her work and was key in spreading the word on a grassroots level. The company also hosted screenings of Hannah and tapped into social media. “We had no idea how many people who were interested in Hannah Arendt’s work would emerge when we started working on this project,” added Gerstman. Hannah Arendt will open exclusively at New York’s Film Forum this weekend, and the title is booked to screen in over 30 cities over the next few months with additional runs planned.
Distributor CBS Films picked up comedy The Kings Of Summer following its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. The film centers on three teen friends who decide to spend their summer building a house in the woods and living off the land. “Our acquisitions team saw the film at Sundance and immediately fell in love with the quality, intimate humor and feel good message,” noted a CBS Films spokesperson. “Rarely has the phrase, ‘they don’t make them like this anymore’, been more appropriate.” CBS Films view cinephiles as a core group for The Kings Of Summer, though it believes the “strength and the age range of the cast members means that this film can play well to any audience.”
The company sees the feature appealing to people who “prefer originals” and looking for something outside the sequel/franchise realm. “The unique nature of the film, especially amidst a sea of mega-budget CGI tentpoles means Summer could be the perfect place for our little film to play for weeks and run up solid business,” added CBS. The distributor will open The Kings Of Summer at two locations each in New York and Los Angeles. It will expand to 20 additional cities next week.For more estimates listed by title, see box office results here...