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Specialty Box Office: ‘Marley’, ‘Darling Companion’ Lead Limited Debuts

Magnolia Pictures appears to have another strong documentary on its 2012 slate. The distributor bowed Kevin Macdonald’s documentary Marley at 42 locations Friday 4/20 (a coincidental date?) to impressive numbers theatrically, averaging over $6K per site and a taking a weekend gross of more than a quarter million dollars. Magnolia has also spun box office gold with doc Jiro Dreams Of Sushi, which has had a seven-week run, topping out over $1.5 million. Marley was No. 1 “in all but a handful of complexes and usually by multiples over the next highest film,” Magnolia president Eamonn Bowles told Deadline, “which is great news for expanding in the next couple of weeks. In addition, we were the number six film in all iTunes on Friday, which bodes extremely well for the digital and VOD platforms. This looks to be an extremely profitable film for us.” Marley opened as Screen Gems’ Think Like A Man became North America’s number one movie, averaging $16,377 in 2,015 theaters.

The specialty weekend’s per screen average winner, however, goes to Sony Pictures Classics’ debut of Darling Companion, which averaged $11,574 from four locations. Directed by Lawrence Kasdan, Darling Companion producer Anthony Bregman told Deadline that unlike his previous baby boomer films, this one had to be made as an independent film. In other openers, Sundance Selects’ Goodbye First Love bowed more modestly also at four locations, averaging $5,300, while its sister label IFC Midnight opened The Moth Diaries in two theaters, averaging a sluggish $1,200. Entertainment One’s Jesus Henry Christ launched comparatively stronger, but nevertheless mildly, with an average just over $3K at three locations. Read More »

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Toronto: Magnolia Acquires U.S. Rights To Fernando Meirelles Drama ’360′

Mike Fleming

Magnolia Pictures bought U.S. rights to 360, the Fernando Meirelles-directed ensemble drama that stars Rachel Weisz, Anthony Hopkins, Jude Law, Ben Foster, Jamel Debbouze and Moritz Bleibtreu. The film is a series of intersecting storylines that deal with love and infidelity, written by Peter Morgan and inspired by Arthur Schnitzler’s Reigen, the play most famously turned into the 1950s film La Ronde. 360 was high on buyer lists coming into Toronto, but despite the pedigree and starpower, many of the distributors found the subject matter too challenging to see a wide release. The film recently was chosen as the opening-night film of the BFI 55th London Film Festival. “Fernando Meirelles and Peter Morgan are two exceptional talents that have crafted a unique and truly special picture,” Magnolia president Eamonn Bowles said. He called it “a stunningly well made film, and a fantastic showcase for some of the most talented actors from around the world.” The film was produced by Andrew Eaton and David Linde, with Chris Hanley, Danny Krausz and Emanuel Michael. UTA Independent Film Group made the deal.

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Toronto Recap: No Drunken Spending A Good Sign For Indie Film Resurgence

Mike Fleming

Was the 2011 Toronto Film Festival a good one for dealmaking? Even after organizers announced a 20% uptick in film deals last Friday (the festival includes foreign territories in its count), the sales kept coming. A long-expected deal with Lionsgate on the Jennifer Westfeldt-directed comedy Friends With Kids finally got done (in partnership with Roadside Attractions, which will actually release the film), and Music Box announced overnight it had acquired the Rachel Weisz-starrer The Deep  Blue Sea. Lionsgate was hotly pursuing another film, the Midnight Madness sensation You’re Next, which of all the festival films seems to have the best chance of approaching the box office turned in by Toronto 2010’s breakout Insidious. There have been about 20 acquisitions so far and that many more could come in the next few weeks.

Still, can you call the Toronto acquisitions marketplace “solid” when no films have been bought so far by The Weinstein Company, Sony Pictures Classics, Focus Features, or Fox Searchlight (yeah, I revealed that they bought Shame during Toronto, but it was a deal all but sealed in Venice), or for that matter FilmDistrict, Open Road or Relativity Media, each of which jumped into the distribution business to release films that can play on upwards of 2000 screens? Buyers and sellers said it was a pretty good festival at least. One filled with mostly small deals and a show of distributor discipline that is a positive sign for an indie film sector that just started pulling out of a nosedive this time last year. Read More »

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Toronto: As Magnolia Turns 10, Owner Todd Wagner Says It’s Not For Sale And That VOD Strategy Is Thriving

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Along with everything else about the 2001 Toronto Film Festival, the launch of Magnolia Pictures was quickly forgotten on September 11, as co-founder Eamonn Bowles and other indie film execs scrambled to find ways to get home. Magnolia marked its 10th anniversary at 2011 Toronto. While the company still doesn’t carry the profile of some other indie distributors, Bowles and co-owner Todd Wagner said their model — mixing traditional indie theatrical distribution with emerging digital technology — has made them distinctive and profitable. VOD revenues now often outpace theatrical for Magnolia films, and they return profit to filmmakers because of low P&A spends. Bowles and Wagner have been honing the VOD model since they were branded charlatans by theater chains in 2005 when Steven Soderbergh’s micro-budget film Bubble was released simultaneously on movie screens, VOD and DVD. Wagner and partner Mark Cuban put Magnolia and other film assets under the 2929 Entertainment banner on the selling block earlier this year, but pulled them back when they didn’t get a high price. Wagner said he’s staying.

Magnolia releases 35-40 films each year now, with upcoming releases that include the 2011 Toronto title Melancholia (which got Lars von Trier banned by Cannes for making dumb pro-Nazi comments). Some Magnolia efforts follow a theatrical release cycle, others go direct to DVD. But VOD has increasingly become the distributor’s calling card and Wagner said proof of its viability came when Harvey Weinstein poached Magnolia execs Tom Quinn and Jason Janego to start a VOD venture for The Weinstein Company.

“Harvey’s been in the industry forever, and he thought it was a good enough model to hire some of our folks away,” Wagner told me. “I’m flattered. There are other people doing this now, from IFC to John Sloss. To me, it’s validation that we’ve hit on something. But we’ve got an advantage, a unique collection of assets in the Landmark Theater chain, a home video division, and HDNet. The big theater chains still absolutely won’t play Ultra VOD titles, so having a theater chain is helpful. As is having the television network for the relationships it has made us with all the MSO’s. These synergies allow us to be freewheeling in how we license content. And producers are coming back to us with films because we are cutting them checks. That rarely happens elsewhere because of all the P&A that stands in front of them.” Read More »

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Magnolia Pictures Acquires Andrew Jarecki’s ‘All Good Things’

Mike Fleming

Magnolia Pictures’ Eamonn Bowles acquired U.S. rights to Andrew Jarecki’s All Good Things and will release the film in December. The picture was originally contracted to The Weinstein Company. Jarecki bought back the picture, though Weinstein’s selling foreign territories. The film’s a murder mystery set against the 80s New York real estate dynasty that left scion Robert Durst suspected of killing his wife Kathie. Ryan Gosling, Kirsten Dunst and Frank Langella starred in the film. The film was financed by Michael London’s Groundswell Productions. Jarecki directed Capturing the Friedmans, which Magnolia distributed.

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Magnolia Will Platform Joaquin Phoenix Mockumentary By Casey Affleck Sept. 10

Mike Fleming

phoenix_narrowweb__300x453,0Magnolia Pictures has completed an acquisition of I’m Still Here: The Lost Year Of Joaquin Phoenix, the mockumentary that Casey Affleck directed about his brother-in-law’s bizarre transformation from acclaimed actor to debauched hip-hop artist. Magnolia president Eamonn Bowles tells me the film is set for a platform release on September 10, with wide release a week later. Bowles acknowledged the possibility of a festival premiere — I hear Venice or Toronto — and the Magnolia release will include a VOD component.

Phoenix has a relationship with Magnolia that includes Two Lovers, his last film before he took this odd journey. Bowles said Phoenix will be speaking about the pic in some capacity. Bowles said he made the deal after several face-to-face meetings with Affleck and acquired the film over several other bidding outlets. Bowles was among the distributors who attended buyer screenings held on both coasts by sales agent WME Global. Some distribs walked away turned off or confused. They weren’t sure if this was an Andy Kaufman-like hoax, or a great actor’s meltdown. Among other hijinks, Phoenix is seen snorting coke off the breast of a prostitute.

Bowles didn’t say whether he believed the storyline, but he came away confident this was a film he could sell, and that it introduces the work of a real filmmaker in Affleck. “No matter what I thought coming in, I came out feeling this was a pretty amazing piece of work, jaw dropping but dimensional,” … Read More »

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