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Specialty Box Office: Roadside’s ‘Friends With Kids’ Debuts Solid, ‘Footnote’ And ‘Jiro’ Bow Strong

Roadside Attractions opened Jennifer Westfeldt’s Friends With Kids at 374 theaters over the weekend, by far the widest roll out of the new specialty releases. The distributor noted its cast — including Westfeldt, Adam Scott, Jon Hamm, Kristin Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Megan Fox, Ed Burns, and Chris O’Dowd — did a “firestorm of press” promoting the comedy in the run up to the film’s theatrical opening. Hamm will have another big debut later this month when the fifth season of Mad Men debuts March 25th. Friends With Kids expands to 600 locations next weekend. Sony Classics’ Footnote took the weekend’s highest per screen average among the specialty titles. The film debuted at two location, averaging just over $24,000. Documentary Jiro Dreams Of Sushi also rolled out in two theaters with a stellar $21,000 average for the Magnolia Pictures release, while Swedish director Lasse Hallstrom’s Salmon Fishing In The Yemen bowed in 18 theaters with a robust $13,333 average.

Among second week holdovers, Focus Features’ Being Flynn added 8 locations, averaging $3,555, about a 68% drop from the feature’s $11,386 opening average in 4 theaters. Paladin’s Boy added two theaters, averaging $4,713 in its second weekend, a 60% decline from its debut $11,695 average at two locations.

1. The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye (Adopt Films) NEW [3 Theaters] Weekend $9K, Per Screen Average $3,150

2. Footnote (Sony Pictures Classics) NEW [2 Theaters]
Weekend $48K, Per Screen Average $24,038

3. Friends With Kids (Roadside Attractions) NEW [374 Theaters] Weekend $2.1M, Per Screen Average $5,615

4. Jiro Dreams Of Sushi (Magnolia Pictures) NEW [2 Theaters] Weekend $42K, Per Screen Average $21,000

5. Salmon Fishing In The Yemen (CBS Films) NEW [18 Theaters] Weekend $240K, Per Screen Average $13,333
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Double Toronto TOLDJA! Lionsgate Confirms ‘Friends With Kids’ Deal

Mike Fleming

Deadline revealed during the festival that Lionsgate was bearing down on a deal to release the Jennifer Westfeldt-directed comedy Friends With Kids, in partnership with Roadside Attractions in a deal made by Cinetic and Red Granite. Lionsgate has just issued the press release:

SANTA MONICA, CA (September 21, 2011) – LIONSGATE® (NYSE: LGF), a leading global entertainment company today announced the acquisition of Red Granite Pictures’ FRIENDS WITH KIDS, directed by Jennifer Westfeldt, following its debut screenings at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival. The announcement was made jointly by Steve Beeks, Lionsgate’s President and co-COO, Joe Drake, co-COO and Motion Picture Group President, and Jason Constantine, President of Acquisitions and Co-Productions.

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Toronto: Lionsgate Acquires Hot Title ‘Friends With Kids’

Pete Hammond

EXCLUSIVE: Deadline’s Mike Fleming virtually called this deal on Tuesday (then delayed confirmation after sellers indicated that their auction wasn’t fully done). Now it’s official: Friends With Kids, the hot Toronto Film Festival romantic comedy co-starring Jennifer Westfeldt — which she directed, wrote and co-produced with longtime boyfriend Jon Hamm, who also has a supporting role — has indeed officially sold to Lionsgate. This according to Westfeldt, who broke the news to me at the late-night AMC Emmy celebration party, saying she herself learned halfway through Sunday night’s Emmy ceremony that the deal was done. “The sale just closed while the Emmys were going on — we’re thrilled,” she said, even while lamenting Hamm’s fourth consecutive loss in the Best Actor in a Drama Series category (Mad Men did win an unprecedented fourth Emmy for Drama Series). The sale certainly makes Hamm’s Emmy loss easier to take as Friends With Kids was one of the hottest titles in Toronto to still be available. Read More »

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Toronto: ‘Friends With Kids’ And ‘Killer Joe’ Deals Getting Closer

Mike Fleming

UPDATE: Sellers of Friends With Kids say I jumped the gun and their auction hasn’t concluded. I believe that Lionsgate is squarely in the mix, but they tell me others are still in it too and the outcome isn’t as certain as I’d heard last night for a deal that will be for U.S. only. Will update information as it develops.

EARLIER EXCLUSIVE: The deal logjam here is on the verge of clearing up. Word is rampant that Lionsgate is on the verge of tying down rights to the Jennifer Westfeldt-directed comedy Friends With Kids, with a deal worth upwards of $2 million for U.S. and five other territories. The ensemble comedy stars Westfeldt, Jon Hamm, Kristen Wiig and Adam Scott as friends whose lives are altered when they start families. Cinetic and Red Granite are selling.

In another deal taking shape, Mickey Liddell is in talks to acquire rights to the William Friedkin-directed Killer Joe, the drama that made its Toronto debut Sunday. It is the first acquisition of the festival for Liddell, whose last year acquisitions included the Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu-directed Biutiful. Read More »

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Toronto: Sellers Rush To Get Into Oscar Race But Buyers Want Them To Slow Down

Pete Hammond

The 9/11 anniversary was a strong memory in Toronto because it happened right in the middle of 2001′s film festiva – even though it was business as usual today. In fact the pace of this place just seems to be quickening. Deals, as Deadline’s Mike Fleming reports, were slow to percolate but may be picking up. Most buyers I talk to are irritated by some sellers’ insistence that their film be released this year in time for Oscar consideration. That’s a tall order and leaves little time for creating a marketing campaign, much less an awards strategy. Nevertheless, that was one of the demands made by the sellers of the controversial Shame during negotiations. Fox Searchlight agreed, others didn’t. In fact I was told that Sony Pictures Classics, which wanted the picture, came up with a smart strategy they compared to The Weinstein Company’s for Colin Firth. That consisted of Firth doing a lot of campaigning and earning a nomination for A Single Man in 2010, thus laying the groundwork for his The King’s Speech win the next year. SPC was going to put Michael Fassbender out there and get him recognition for their November release of David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method and then release Shame later in 2012 for a one-two punch that the Academy would notice. No go. The sales people behind Shame insisted it be released this year, thereby throwing the Venice Film Festival’s Best Actor winner into an already overcrowded awards race that among others includes George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Gary Oldman, and Leonardo DiCaprio who are better known — at least at this point.

One former studio head-turned-producer complained loudly to me today that this kind of strategy is not necessarily what’s good for the movie and asked, “Isn’t that what we should be concerned with over anything else?” For example, Open Road’s Tom Ortenberg is here with his first release Killer Elite but is not rushing into a year-end release if it might end up hurting the bottom line. “Isn’t the 2012 Oscar race just as good as this year’s?” he asked. He might consider putting the Liam Neeson film The Grey into a year-end qualifying run since Neeson’s performance is said to be so strong. But only if it was in the best interest of the film. When he was at Lionsgate, Ortenberg acquired Crash at Toronto but held it for a May release. Then he did a now-legendary and successful Oscar campaign almost 1 1/2 years after the Toronto buy. The same strategy worked for The Hurt Locker two years ago. Both went on to win Best Picture.

Nevertheless, several films for sale in Toronto are said to be eyeing a 2011 release in order to get into the Oscar race. These include Luc Besson’s The Lady, which premieres Monday night and which I have already seen. It contains two powerhouse performances from Michelle Yeoh who could jump into the lead actress race. There’s also David Thewlis for Supporting Actor. The Lady will certainly be part of any sales discussion, but I know of at least one mini-major who would like the film but just not for this year. As I mentioned yesterday, Barrymore with its sensational title performance from Christopher Plummer also wants to make a deal that includes a 2011 year-end release. Also director Zhang Yimou’s epic The Flowers of War (formerly Nanking) starring Oscar-winner Christian Bale had a 20-minute footage presentation here and hopes to get a domestic deal in place in time for a possible year-end run at Oscar. I am told it could certainly be ready what with its debut in Beijing in December. Read More »

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