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Specialty B.O.: ‘Begin Again’ Continues Strongly, But Hard Rollout For ‘Hard Day’s Night’

By | Sunday July 6, 2014 @ 11:06am PDT

Specialty B.O.: ‘Begin Again’ Continues Strongly, But Hard Rollout For ‘Hard Day’s Night’Begin Again continued its strong beginning as it expansed and Snowpiercer did decent business in the second week of a truncated theatrical release as Weinstein-owned companies had solid box-office performances in the Specialty arena amid other titles’ tepid troubles on a rain-soaked holiday weekend. Newcomers, including a doc about Roger Ebert and the 50th-anniversary re-release of the Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night, had mixed results at best

A Hard Day's Night movie poster vertical
Janus Films re-released A Hard Day’s Night, but this time the influential Richard Lester-directed quasi-doc/musical/proto-music video struggled to get the kind of reception that packed the London Pavilion back in 1964. The Beatles feature grossed $20K in its first week back in ’64 at the Pavilion. This week, it made eight times as much but needed 102 theaters to do it, grossing $160K for a $1,569 PTA. Janus said the film sold out shows “coast to coast” and acknowledged that the July 4th weekend is tricky to maneuver. Said Janus’ Peter Becker: “To rack up this kind of gross with a classic film on a busy holiday weekend is astounding, especially since two-thirds of these screens were special-event bookings with only one or two shows. After the strongest repertory opening of the year at New York’s Film Forum and the incredible word of mouth from all across the country, this is just the beginning. We expect to see excited crowds of all ages lining up for A Hard Day’s Night all summer long.” Janus will add 30 theaters in the next week with further expansions planned throughout the summer.

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Specialty B.O. Preview: ‘Life Itself’, ‘Me And You’, ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, ‘The Girl On The Train’

By | Wednesday July 2, 2014 @ 4:18pm PDT

Specialty B.O. Preview: ‘Life Itself’, ‘Me And You’, ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, ‘The Girl On The Train’Perhaps the most beloved film critic will get his starring spotlight on the big screen this holiday weekend. Filmmaker Steve James, one of many directors who was discovered in part because of Roger Ebert and his partner (and rival) Gene Siskel, looks at Ebert’s life in Life Itself, which opens July 4 in select cities via Magnolia Pictures. The doc will go up against a trio of studio blockbusters over the long weekend along with the latest from Oscar-winning director Bernardo Bertolucci, Me And You, which will open as the fourth Italian film under an initiative with Emerging Pictures. A re-release by Janus Films will be the weekend’s “largest” Specialty release. Acclaimed 1964 Beatles film A Hard Day’s Night will roll out into 100-plus theaters with more cities expected into July. And thriller The Girl On The Train will open with two runs from Monterey Media.

life itself posterLife Itself
Director: Steve James
Subjects: Roger Ebert, Chaz Ebert, Gene Siskel, Ava DuVernay, Errol Morris, Ramin Bahrani, A.O. Scott, Werner Herzog, Martin Scorsese
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures

Filmmaker Steve James first met Roger Ebert at the Sundance Film Festival in 1994 where his doc Hoop Dreams debuted. Ebert and Gene Siskel championed the film, which went on to receive an Oscar nomination the following year. “Like many, I had a relationship with him though he didn’t with me. I watched the show when I first fell in love with movies,” said James, referring to Siskel and Ebert’s show At The Movies. “I had hoped to one day make them as well.” James had formed a professional relationship with Ebert and that status remained so up to his involvement with the big screen version of Life Itself, which is based on the 2011 memoir penned by the critic about his life. Read More »

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Roger Ebert’s Final Hollywood Premiere: Can A Movie About A Movie CRITIC Be Oscar Bound?

By | Friday June 27, 2014 @ 3:25pm PDT
Pete Hammond

Roger Ebert’s Final Hollywood Premiere: Can A Movie About A Movie CRITIC  Be Oscar Bound?Before the screening began at last night’s Hollywood premiere of director Steve James’ Roger Ebert documentary Life ItselfEbert’s remarkable wife Chaz shared something with the packed crowd of industry notables that her late husband told her as they were embarking on the shooting of the film. “Roger said, ‘Make sure Steve doesn’t make a movie I don’t want to see’,” she laughed. Mission accomplished, but in a cruel stroke of irony for the world’s most famous film critic, he didn’t live to see it completed.

Related: Sundance: Roger Ebert Docu Debut Draws Cheers & Tears

James, best known for his 1994 documentary Hoop Dreams, has made a tough, entertaining, unsentimental and enormously moving film that everyone should want to see. It’s not just about a"Life Itself" - Los Angeles Premiere blue-collar kid from Chicago, who turned into a Pulitzer Prize-winning movie critic. It’s mostly an unflinching and unapologetic account of a man determined to keep on keepin’ on after devastating cancer robbed him of his speech and ability to eat but not his mind, his love for movies or, most of all, his love for Chaz, his wife of 20 years who stood by him and kept him going long after others would have given up. “Roger lived his life out loud, even when he lost his physical voice,” she said. Of the movie, which is brutally honest about his illness and never looks away, my wife said, “It’s the greatest love story I have ever seen”. It is that too. Just before rolling the film, Chaz noted that she had an empty chair in the front row at the Arclight that said simply, ‘Reserved for Roger’ because “he told me I’ll always be in the front row cheering you on”.

Related: Hot Trailer: Roger Ebert Docu ‘Life Itself’

Magnolia will release the film next week, and though the Academy’s documentary branch often ignores movies about the movies, this one is irresistible. Wouldn’t it be ironic if a movie about a film critic who wrote books called I Hated Hated HATED This Movie and Your Movie Sucks (among many others more positive to the medium) were to win an Oscar? I spotted plenty of Academy voters in the audience last night, including Acad President Cheryl Boone Isaacs. Read More »

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Hot Trailer: Roger Ebert Docu ‘Life Itself’

By | Wednesday May 21, 2014 @ 7:43pm PDT

Life Itself Roger Ebert documentaryHis career is pretty much summed up in this trailer’s first words: “Roger Ebert was the definitive mainstream film critic in American cinema.” Life Itself is the new documentary about the Pulitzer winner’s career as a lover, defender and eviscerator of movies. The pic follows his career from scripting Russ Meyer’s Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls and writing for the Chicago Sun-Times through his perfectly mismatched pairing with Gene Siskel and the illness he braved until the end. Oscar-nominated Hoop Dreams documentarian Steve James gets some boldfaced names to talk about Ebert, including Martin Scorsese, who gives the critic two thumbs up: “He made it possible for a bigger audience, a wider audience, to appreciate cinema as an art form.” Magnolia Pictures, which acquired the film after its Sundance premiere, will open it day-and-date on the Fourth of July in theaters and on VOD and iTunes. It later will air on CNN. The curtain’s up, so check out the coming attraction:

Related: Sundance: Roger Ebert Docu Debut Draws Cheers & Tears

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Roger Ebert To Headline 2014 Ebertfest; Spike Lee, Oliver Stone To Attend

By | Thursday March 20, 2014 @ 1:09pm PDT

lifeitselfThe 16th annual Roger Ebert‘s Film Festival, also known as Ebertfest, will kick off April 23 with the critic himself. The Ebert documentary Life Itself, from director Steve James (Hoop Dreams), will open the annual film festival held in Champaign-Urbana, IL where special guests Spike Lee, Oliver Stone, Patton Oswalt, Ramin Bahrani, Brie Larson, Sony Classics co-president Michael Barker, Fandor’s Ted Hope, and critics David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson will be in attendance. Established as a haven for overlooked but praiseworthy films, Ebertfest this year will screen Lee’s Do The Right Thing, Stone’s Born On The Fourth of July, Jason Reitman’s Young Adult starring Oswalt, Bahrani’s Goodbye Solo, and last year’s acclaimed SXSW winner Short Term 12 featuring a breakout turn by Larson, whose co-star Keith Stanfield will also be in attendance. New Orleans blues musician Henry Butler is set to close out the fest with a special performance in honor of jazz singer and pianist James Booker. Chaz Ebert will host the festival created by her late husband, who passed away last April. Here’s the full slate: Read More »

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Sundance: Magnolia Acquires Roger Ebert Documentary ‘Life Itself’

Mike Fleming

ebeMagnolia Pictures acquired the Sundance documentary Life Itself, which covered the life of beloved film critic Roger Ebert. Steve James of Hoop Dreams fame directed the picture, which is being eyed for summer release followed by a broadcast on CNN.

Related: Sundance: Roger Ebert Docu Debut Draws Cheers & Tears

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Sundance: Roger Ebert Docu Debut Draws Cheers & Tears

By | Sunday January 19, 2014 @ 7:14pm PST

Sundance2014_badge__140109214059__140116020608“I think I am so fortunate to have had one of the greatest love stories,” Chaz Ebert emotionally told the crowd tonight at the Sundance Film Festival world premiere screening of the biographical documentary about her late "Life Itself" Premiere - 2014 Sundance Film Festivalhusband Roger Ebert, who died April 4. “He would say two thumbs up, way up,” a visibly moved Chaz said when asked what Ebert would think about the Steve James-directed Life Itself. Speaking about her late husband’s love of film, Chaz Ebert told the audience that he believed that a pic did its job if “you left the movie as a truer version” of yourself. That prompted another round of applause in an evening of many. She said watching the film was “very emotional” for her. Presented by CNN Film and with Martin Scorsese among its executive producers, the intimate, nuanced, touching and often funny film combines footage of Ebert in his final months, excepts from his best-selling memoir, interviews with the likes of The Wolf of Wall Street director and archival footage.

Related: Reactions To Roger Ebert’s Death

Roger Ebert & Gene Siskel“This was the easiest film to program ever,” said festival director John Cooper before the screening started. Part of that ease is that Life Itself is a film about Ebert and in many ways about Sundance … Read More »

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Cannes: Morgan Freeman And Diane Keaton To Star In Comedy ‘Life Itself’

Myriad Pictures has tapped Richard Loncraine to direct Morgan Freeman and Diane Keaton in Life Itself, a comedy based on the Jill Ciment novel Heroic Measures. Charlie Peters wrote the screenplay, about a long-married NY couple who find themselves swept into an emotional and comical real estate bidding war when they put their beloved downtown apartment on the market — and must come to terms with the possibility of moving from the home where they have spent most of their adult lives. Freeman and Lori McCreary’s Revelations Entertainment will produce with Latitude Productions. McCreary, Curtis Burch, Peters and Tracy Mercer are producing, and Freeman will executive produce. Myriad’s Kirk D’Amico and David Ducar negotiated international sales rights to the film and the company is introducing the project at Cannes. Its slate here includes Emanuel And The Truth About Fishes starring Kaya Scodelario and Jessica Biel; The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby: Him And Her with Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy; Life Partners with Leighton Meester, Adam Brody, and Gillian Jacobs; and the Derek Martini-directed The Curse Of Downers Grove with Bella Heathcote, Lucas Till and Kevin Zegers. CAA and WME Global co-rep North American rights to Life Itself. Read More »

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Hammond On Roger Ebert – An Appreciation

By | Thursday April 4, 2013 @ 3:23pm PDT
Pete Hammond

Certainly Roger Ebert will be remembered for many things. Winning an unprecedented Pulitzer Prize in 1975 for film criticism is just one of them. For me, though, beyond that distinction Roger was far more unique in the pantheon of the truly great critics of our time, and all time. Along with Gene Siskel he figured out a way to take film criticism to the masses in a way it never really had been, at least on a national basis. With their patented ’2 Thumbs Up’ and ’2 Thumbs Down’ reviews on their pioneering PBS and later syndicated weekly TV show, this pair not only brought the job of a film critic into the national consciousness, they also made it fun. And accessible. The ‘thumbs’ signature was really the forerunner of a site like Rotten Tomatoes, an instantly recognizable label that moviegoers could use like a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval when it appeared in an ad as it did hundreds of times.

Related: Reactions To Roger Ebert’s Death

Unlike so many critics today Roger Ebert loved movies, even when he hated them, an attribute so many of today’s self-absorbed so-called critics greatly lack. In fact one of my favorite personal Ebert memories happened at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival at a mid-day screening of Vincent Gallo’s unwatchable The Brown Bunny. Not only did he call it then the worst movie in the festival’s history, he added, “I have not seen every film in the history of the festival, yet I feel my judgement will stand”. At one excruciating point in the film he even started singing “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” out loud, eliciting laughter from what was left of the audience at that point. I wondered at the time “now who has the chutzpah to do that?” only to find it was Roger. Read More »

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