Brian Brooks is a Deadline contributor.
Magnolia Pictures will bow two Specialty titles this weekend including the latest by David Gordon Green who made a return to a relative micro-budget film he shot quickly earlier this year starring Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch. Prince Avalanche was adapted from an Icelandic film he saw at a New York film series last year. Magnolia will also open comedy I Give It A Year by Borat scribe, Dave Mazer. UTV Communications will open Chennai Express, one of India’s most anticipated blockbusters in North America in a comparatively large number of theaters numbering under 200 targeting the South Asian audience here. Oscilloscope and doc filmmakers Donal Mosher and Michael Palmieri take on pharmaceuticals in Off Label, while Roadside Attractions’ In A World is possibly a showcase for rising talent, Lake Bell.
Austin-based director David Gordon Green returns to his indie roots with his latest film Prince Avalanche, albeit with a couple of recognizable names in the form of Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch. The filmmaker adapted the story from Icelandic film Either Way which he caught at a festival spotlighting the country’s cinema at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Rudd and Hirsch star as two highway workers spending the summer of ’88 away from the city in an isolated landscape where their misadventure finds them at odds with themselves and the women they left behind. “We conceived of the movie in February ’12 and we were sound mixing by July,” said Green who added that the planned 18-day shoot finished two days ahead of schedule from a loose 65-page script. Green decided to adapt Either Way to Bastrop, TX in an area that had been devastated by fire. “It’s a conflict of characters and you turn it on its ass and find out that they’re not what you expect them to be,” said Green. “I also wanted to take what you know about Paul Rudd and what you comedically know about Paul and show the depth and tenderness to him. And I wanted to take what you know about Emile from watching his movies, the dramatic side to him, and show you how funny that kid is…”
To fund the project, Green and his long-time producer Lisa Muskat used a structure similar to a movie both produced by fellow indie filmmaker Craig Zobel, which Muskat said fit well with Prince Avalanche: “David and I were producers on Compliance, so we thought of using the same model in terms of the financing structure. We thought that model would work if we locked in Emile and Paul. It was completely independently financed. It wasn’t like other indie films I’ve worked on in terms of agencies, it was able to flow and move quickly. We worked directly with actors and their people and financiers.” Muskat added that few knew Prince Avalanche was in production though when the news broke there were immediate inquiries by distributors. “Magnolia was a distributor we thought would work well,” added Muskat about the company that also released Compliance in 2012. They picked it up at Sundance. “They can flex their muscles for theatrical and then use star power for long life on VOD.” Prince Avalanche will open at IFC Center and Lincoln Plaza in New York as well as the NuArt in L.A. as well as locations in San Francisco, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, San Diego and other cities for a 15-theater bow in addition to day and date/VOD. It will expand August 16th and will be in most major markets by the end of the month.
The biggest Indian release to date in North America, action-comedy Chennai Express has been on UTV’s slate for two years. Shot in India mostly last year, the film stars one of the south Asian country’s biggest stars, Shah Rukh Khan in a feature directed by one of India’s biggest directors, Rohit Shetty. ” We wanted to bring the two talents together and saw the script and co-produced with Shah Khan’s company,” said UTV’s Lokesh Dhar, executive director distribution and syndication. “It’s a highly anticipated film.” The 141-minute title centers on a man who journeys to a small town to fulfill the last wish of his grandfather and en route meets a woman who he falls in love with. Ahead of the film’s North American rollout, which also happens to coincide with the title’s Indian release, UTV has done some of the usual marketing to its primarily South Asian target audience, in addition to localized appeals. “We’ve hosted press conferences in New York with the lead actor via satellite and we’re doing a lot of contests and some innovative things,” said Dhar. “We’ve also re-branded food trucks that serve Indian communities and their menus with names from the film.”
Dhar noted that the “small” rollout strategy typically doesn’t work with South Asian audiences living in the U.S. and Canada because its potential ticket buyers want to “see films as quickly as possible,” adding: “The audience is passionate. Some of the secondary centers we would normally not release in are showing this film because this is different. The actor and director are as big as they get in India and it’s even one of the largest releases ever in India. The film will open in some markets Thursday (ahead of Friday’s Indian release depending on the hour) with up to 197 locations showing Chennai Express.
Documentary filmmakers Donal Mosher and Michael Palmieri won received festival accolades and Spirit and Gotham nominations for their 2009 film October Country. They also caught the attention of filmscience producers Anish Savjani and Vincent Savino (the producers on many of Kelly Reichardt’s films) who approached the filmmaking duo about the topic of pharmaceuticals. “We did some research on it and the first articles we read were very interesting, including Drug Test Cowboys in Wired Magazine and a New Yorker article called Guinea Pigging,” said Palmieri about the exposés that spotlight people who participate in clinical trials in return for cash. “Then we started looking toward the marketing practices of [pharmaceutical] companies and that opened it up more for us.” Palmieri said that the doc “developed organically as a series of questions. The film had a sneak preview at the 2012 True/False Film Festival and played at Tribeca, Hot Docs and Sheffield later that year, though O-scope came on board in the past few months. “Every film has a slightly different release pattern, but this is weird because of it being a year later,” added Palmieri. “Anyone can relate to pharmaceutical. It’s an all pervasive topic. Half the people are on them or considering them and need them to stay alive.”
Oscilloscope will open Off Label this week at Cinema Village in New York and in L.A. at the Downtown Independent in addition to a day and date VOD digital/iTunes opening. It will head to Boulder, Chicago and Greensboro next week before adding other cities based on performance.
Sundance Screenwriting Award-winner In A World may help propel Lake Bell to a whole new realm of notoriety after audiences catch the film she directs, wrote and stars in beginning this weekend, according to distributor Roadside Attractions. The comedy revolves around an underachieving vocal coach who is motivated by her father, the king of movie-trailer voice-overs, to pursue her aspirations of becoming a voiceover star. “What we liked about it most is that it’s a resurgence of a great new screenwriter, star and director,” offered up Roadside co-president Howard Cohen. “These days that’s rare. It’s sort of a long time since we’ve had one — maybe Morgan Spurlock. She’s a significant female voice and some have compared her to Carol Lombard.” Cohen noted that Bell raised the money herself. She also has courted a good amount of press for a film this size, according to the exec. “She’s had a great amount of P.R.,” he said. “She’s been on NPR twice, The Daily Show, The View — a great array of talk shows and frankly more than we thought we would get. The story behind it and the charm of it has been great.
The film, which also includes a cast of comedy stars, was finished last year. Roadside expects the title to appeal to a core 25-55 audience with an emphasis on women, though Cohen points out it is not a “chick flick.” “Actors from Childrens Hospital on Adult Swim are also in the movie, so it also has that angle. It’s younger skewing, but also attracts some older audiences because of its good reviews,” he added. In A World will open three locations, including the Arclight and Landmark in L.A. as well as the Sunshine in New York this weekend and should be in up to 50 runs by its third week.
Magnolia Pictures first caught a glimpse of romantic-comedy I Give It A Year at AFM, picking up the title at the beginning of the year. The title follows newlywed couple Nat and Josh who are happy despite their differences, though friends and family do not believe they’ll work long-term. “It’s a hit out of the U.K.,” noted Magnolia’s Matt Cowal. “It’s comedy that combines the sensibility of Love, Actually with Dan Mazer’s raunchy humor.” Mazer, of course is known for penning the likes of The Dictator and Borat: Cultural Learnings Of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan. “For us, we thought it would be the best of both worlds,” added Cowal. “It’s already available On Demand and it’s one of our strongest titles of the year in that space. For its theatrical release, Magnolia will open I Give It A Year in New York at the Sunshine and L.A. at the Royal. It will hit an additional ten markets or so the following week before adding additional cities through the end of August. Said Cowal: “At its heart, it is more of a rom-com than Borat and with a harder edge to it.”For more estimates listed by title, see box office results here...