Check Out Our New Look

Specialty Box Office: ‘Flying Swords’ 3D IMAX Tops Newcomers; ‘Samsara’, ‘Sleepwalk With Me’ Expand Strong

Brian Brooks is managing editor of MovieLine.

New specialty movies mostly coasted through the holiday weekend, with newcomers ranging from fairly solid to weak in their Labor Day bows. Indomina Releasing’s IMAX 3D opener Flying Swords Of Dragon Gate soared to the top of the pack with a decent $8,333 average for its opening in 15 locations, while Millennium’s Little Birds launched in one theater, grossing $8,314. “This is a solid opening”, said Indomina’s Rob Williams. “The fans came out to see Flying Swords the way it should be seen – on the giant IMAX 3D screen”. Indomina will expand on September 14th.

Focus Features opened For A Good Time, Call… in 23 theaters, averaging $8,090. Focus plans to let word-of-mouth drive its rollout. Mostly young females turned out for the feature Focus picked up out of Sundance. “According to exit polls, rating and recommend scores with females under 25 were above average – a good sign as we continue to expand through September”, a Focus spokesperson said. Millennium Films landed Little Birds in one NYC theater, grossing just under $6K. The film will open in Los Angeles September 14th. IDFA/Sundance doc The Ambassador debuted Stateside in 4 theaters, averaging a modest $3,818. The feature will expand to about a dozen markets next week. And China Lion’s The Bullet Vanishes bowed at 14 locations, averaging a slower $3,642. The distributor is targeting Mandarin-speaking audiences in the U.S. and Canada.

Among holdovers, Oscilloscope’s Samsara reigned supreme among the second weekenders, averaging a hefty $15,749 in 9 locations for the 4-day frame. IFC Films’ Sleepwalk With Me expanded to 29 locations with an average of $14,103. In solo debut at IFC Center last weekend the film broke a house record, taking in $65K. Read More »

Comments (4)

‘The Ambassador’, ‘For A Good Time, Call…’ ‘Little Birds’: Specialty Box Office Preview

Brian Brooks is managing editor of MovieLine.

The dog days of summer are coming to a close as Venice, Telluride and Toronto gear up with dozens of titles that will eventually make their way to U.S. screens — at least those that receive a theatrical release. For Labor Day weekend audiences, a string of past festival pics are headed for their box office run. Sundance titles The Ambassador, For A Good Time, Call and Little Birds make their bows this holiday. Austrian filmmaker Karl Markovics’ Breathing debuts in the U.S. after screening last year at Cannes. China Lion’s The Bullet Vanishes heads to North America, targeting Chinese audiences.

The Ambassador
Director: Mads Brügger
Writers: Maja Jul Larsen, Mads Brügger
Cast: Mads Brügger
Distributor: Drafthouse Films

Documentary filmmaker Mads Brügger made a splash Stateside back in 2010 at the Sundance Film Festival where his The Red Chapel won the World Cinema documentary prize. His latest, The Ambassador, features the Danish filmmaker-journalist posing as a European diplomat as he goes under cover to investigate the blood diamond trade in Africa. “[We] were big fans of Mads because of Red Chapel, and The Ambassador was one of our big targets for Sundance this year,” Drafthouse Films exec James Shapiro said. “Corruption in Africa isn’t a revelation but he really throws himself in the thick of it and risks everything including his life to show an account of modern day colonialism. It hit us right in the gut and … next thing we know, we’re making an offer to Trust Nordic,” the sales company. Read More »

Comments (0)

Elgin James Resumes Movie Career With Deal To Direct Indie Thriller ‘Come Sundown’

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Elgin James has been set to direct Come Sundown, a drama scripted by Justin Marks that will shoot in the fall. Jamie Patricof and Lynette Howell of Electric City Entertainment are producing the thriller about a family taken hostage by desperate fugitives determined to get across the border. It becomes a struggle between a father trying to protect his family while hanging onto his humanity, and a hardened criminal with nothing to lose.

It will be the first project for James after spending almost a year in the Los Angeles Metropolitan Detention Center (he spent eight months behind bars, and another three in a halfway house). If you recall, James grew up on the rough streets around Boston and after getting thumped plenty, helped form the rough street gang FSU that battled skinheads and other ethnic gangs, and robbed drug dealers for money and gave half the proceeds to charity. James came to Hollywood with a film deal to tell his story, but after he made a vow to his girlfriend (now his wife) that he would swear off violence and embrace pacifism, he blew off that deal because he was embarrassed by his past actions and knew they would be glamorized in a Robin Hood-like story. Instead, he wrote the script Little Birds, found an advocate in Blue Valentine producer Patricof, and then got accepted into the Sundance Labs program. He made his directing debut on Little Birds, … Read More »

Comments 28

Cannes: Sundance Title ‘Little Birds’ Lands With Millennium Entertainment

Mike Fleming

Little Birds, the Elgin James-directed drama about two restless teenage girls who leave their dying Salton Sea hometown to  take a dangerous road trip to Los Angeles with three street kids, has been acquired for North American distribution by Millennium Entertainment. The film stars Juno Temple, Kay Panabaker, Kate Bosworth and Leslie Mann. James is the reformed former gang member who in March was sentenced to spend a year in jail by a federal judge in Chicago. James had to answer for an incident from his past, the charge involving a 2005 attempt to extort $5000 from a man. I met James at Sundance, and found him to be very honest about himself, his rough upbringing, and in how he had turned his life around with a decision to embrace non-violence. Seeing his movie get a chance to reach audiences has to be a spot of good news in an EKG year in which he debuted the film at Sundance to acclaim, started getting hired to write studio films, and then drew the jail sentence. The plan is to release the film in the fall, and timing will be key here, because James is eligible to be freed 10 months into a sentence rendered in early March. Will he be released before his film is? Read More »

Comments (2)

Gang Past Rears Up For Sundance ‘Little Birds’ Director Elgin James, Who’ll Spend Year In Jail

By | Wednesday March 9, 2011 @ 5:45pm PST
Mike Fleming

Elgin James, who wrote and directed the 2011 Sundance Film Festival entry Little Birds and just got his first major studio writing job, was yesterday sentenced to spend a year in jail by a federal judge in Chicago. The sentence stems from a 2005 attempt to extort $5000 from a man. A life he put behind him has come back to haunt James, whose early success came after he ended a long cycle of violence. That cycle defined his early life, from when he was on the receiving end of beatings as a child to when he formed a rough street gang dedicated to thumping rival neo-Nazi gangs and robbing drug dealers. According to the Chicago Tribune, James is eligible for release in 10 months.

James’ Sundance film, about two 15-year-old girls from Salton Sea who dangerously follow three boys to the Los Angeles streets, hasn’t been acquired but is expected to find a distributor. That film got him representation at WME and his first major studio job writing Low Riders, an 8 Mile-style drama about a parolee who tries to put his past behind him as he immerses in the low rider car sub-culture. James is scripting the film for Ricardo de Montreuil to direct for Universal Pictures and Imagine. James will hang onto that job, and write while incarcerated.

I had lunch with James hours before his movie premiered in Park City in January, expecting to write his unlikely … Read More »

Comments 38