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OSCARS: An Early Look At The Best Picture Race – Frontrunners In A Crowded Field

Pete Hammond

A recent, and unsolicited, email from a producer friend of mine demonstrates what a lot of people are saying about this year’s best picture race: “Now this is a year for film! Tremendous. Going to be a fun one, my friend.” It is going to be a fun one. Nearly every Academy member to whom I have spoken seems excited about the level of quality in this year’s race, which is a strong indication that this could be the first year 10 films are nominated since the rules changed to allow a variable number. Just consider what’s already out there in theaters or on Blu-Ray: 12 Years A Slave, Gravity, Captain Phillips, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Dallas Buyers Club, Blue Jasmine, All Is Lost, Fruitvale Station, Prisoners, Rush, Blue Is The Warmest Color, Before Midnight, Mud and The Place Beyond The Pines.

The fact is, this is a year in which there could be room for 20 films. Consider those yet to open or just opening: Philomena, Saving Mr. Banks, Nebraska, Inside Llewyn Davis, August: Osage County, The Book Thief, Her, Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, Lone Survivor, Labor Day and The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty. All of those films have played the fest circuit, and most pundits—including this one—already have seen them and can say definitively that it’s a formidable list. Of those yet to be seen by just about anyone outside of rarefied circles are The Wolf Of Wall Street and American Hustle, both December releases expected to be major players in several races.

Related: OSCARS: Fest Circuit A Must For Majors Chasing Award Season Gold

With this kind of lineup, it is no wonder some movies once thought to have awards aspiration—such as Foxcatcher, Grace Of Monaco, The Immigrant and George Clooney’s The Monuments Men—have all opted out. And why not? Read More »

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Deadline’s Best Film Stories Of The Week

If you didn’t read some of Deadline’s Top Film stories this week, here’s your chance today:

‘Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston Will Next Play Blacklisted Scribe Dalton Trumbo
By Mike Fleming Jr – EXCLUSIVE: When he completes his tour de force run in Breaking Bad, Bryan Cranston will play the title role in the Jay Roach-directed Trumbo, the fact-based feature of the man who broke the Hollywood blacklist.

‘Prisoners’ Breaks Out For #1 With $21.4M; ‘Battle Of The Year’ #5 For Bleak $4.1M
By Nikki Finke - SUNDAY 1 AM, 4TH UPDATE: With the 65th Emmys broadcasting this weekend, Hollywood is only talking television, television, television. Read More »

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OSCARS: Roadside Attractions’ ‘Mud’ Becomes First Official 2013 Screener Sent To Academy Voters

By | Saturday September 21, 2013 @ 10:50am PDT
Pete Hammond

EXCLUSIVE: The Emmys aren’t even over yet, but the  race to be the first movie awards DVD screener of 2013 to land in Oscar voters’ mailboxes is over. And the winner is…..Mud. The Roadside Attractions (with Lionsgate)  late April release starring Matthew McConaughey has been sent to all Academy members with some reporting they received it yesterday. The Blu-Ray/DVD came out in early August and at that time Roadside sent it to some bloggers who confused the issue by saying it was then the first Oscar screener to be sent.  Of course Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences rules are very clear in this regard and commercial Blu Ray/DVDs cannot be sent to Academy members as part of a campaign. It must be special, generally very plain, packaging without review quotes etc. That is what Academy members are receiving this weekend.

The Jeff Nichols-directed movie is one of the top independent releases of 2013 earning over $21 million at the box office. In fact until Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine surpassed it recently, it was the number one indie. Roadside picked up the film in August 2012 but held it for a Spring launch rather than rushing it out to compete in last year’s Oscar race. The distributor hopes Oscar voters will remember the film, which played in the 2012 Cannes Official Competition, and by getting the screener out first knows it is already on top of the pile of one for voters who have yet to see it. Being first is a mixed bag as far as ultimate results go. Last year The Weinstein Company sent its French import The Intouchables out as the first screener in Mid-October but it failed to land any nominations. In 2011 Summit won the screener race with an early September mailing of A Better Life  and was rewarded for its efforts with a Best Actor nod for Demian Bichir, considered a long shot at the time (Roadside virtually tied for first out that year too with The Music Never Stopped, but it came up empty). Read More »

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Do Oscar Voters Have Short Memories? Bradley Cooper Hopes Not

Pete Hammond

If your movie was released in March or April, and has Oscar aspirations, it requires every trick in an Academy consultant’s publicity handbook to try to keep it alive against the massive onslaught of competition unleashed in the back eight months of the year. Very few films released before May at the earliest make the cut these days, at least in the major categories. Oscar voters tend to have short memories. It’s an uphill climb that requires money for big campaigns, a tall order for independent films with limited budgets.

One way to do it is get your Blu-ray out there in August with some fresh television advertising, well before screener season begins, and hope that voters have a chance to check it out before the tsunami of movies start bombarding them in the Fall. For Roadside AttractionsMud which was released in theatres April 26th  and Focus FeaturesThe Place Beyond The Pines which debuted March 29th, their dueling road to Oscar continues this week with the release of their Blu-ray and DVD. The films have the current distinction of being the two top grossing independent films of 2013, both in the $21 million range, with Mud this week just slightly overtaking Pines for the lead but it remains a dead heat. Read More »

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OSCARS: At 2013′s Halfway Point Does Anything Have A Best Picture Shot?

Pete Hammond

Almost exactly one year ago, Fox Searchlight released Beasts Of The Southern Wild. The Sundance sensation was significant in many ways, but it also stood out as the only 2012 Best Picture Oscar nominee to have been released in theatres in the definitely NOT Oscar-friendly first half of the year — and coming at the tail end of June it made that distinction by the skin of its teeth. The fact is, in Oscar’s modern era at least, it’s just not wise to risk a release in the first half of the eligibility year if you want to have a serious shot at Best Picture or other major Oscars. In the last five years only seven films have managed to buck the trend (Hurt Locker and Up in June 2009; Winter’s Bone and Toy Story 3 in June 2010; and Midnight In Paris and The Tree Of Life in May 2011 were the others), and that’s only because the Academy doubled its potential Best Pic noms from five to 10. In 2008, the last year there were only five nominees, no film was nominated in the top category that wasn’t released in the second half of the year.

Of course there are exceptions to every rule, and the long list of Oscar’s Best Picture winners have included early-release films that forced voters to have longer memories: Hurt Locker, Crash (May 2005), Gladiator (May 2000), Braveheart (May 1995) and Silence Of The Lambs (February 1991). The latter was particularly impressive since you would have to go back to Patton in 1970, during Hollywood’s road show era where films played a year on a single screen, to find another Best Pic winner released as early as February. That one definitely went against the grain of thinking in the modern era of Oscar campaigns.

So with the 2013 Oscar race hitting the halfway point this week, and assuming Friday’s crop of The Heat and White House Down are not Best Pic caliber, is there anything that has hit theatres pre-July that looms as a serious Best Picture contender? I wouldn’t bet the farm on it. Read More »

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Specialty Box Office: Sarah Polley’s ‘Stories We Tell’ Opens Strong; ‘Mud’ Sticks

By | Sunday May 12, 2013 @ 9:59am PDT

Brian Brooks is a Deadline contributor.

Indie FilmsCanadian filmmaker/actress Sarah Polley‘s documentary Stories We Tell is leading the pack of specialty releases among titles reporting early Sunday afternoon ET. The Venice/Telluride/Toronto ’12 debut, which headed into release with strong word of mouth and festival acclaim, grossed a solid $31K in two locations and saw its grosses shoot up Friday to Saturday by a spectacular 172%. The feature, which is a personal account of Polley’s family, received a 92 score on Metacritic and 94% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

“The opening is in the range of openings of last year’s doc hits Searching For Sugar Man from SPC ($9153 a screen opening on 3 screens in NY/LA, $3,657,684 final gross) and Queen Of Versailles from Magnolia ($17,109 a screen opening on 3 screens in NY/LA, $2,401,999 final gross), which is right where we want to be,” said Roadside Attractions Sunday.

The film will head into 20 runs in the top 7 markets next weekend.

Also opening with decent numbers is Zeitgeist’s doc One Track Heart: The Story Of Krishna Das, which took in $7,500 in one Manhattan theater. IFC Films’ comedy/thriller hybrid Sightseers languished with a $4,200 average in its debut in two runs, while Anchor Bay’s No One Lives opened in an ambitious 53 theaters but only scraped together an $866 average.
Read More »

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UPDATE: Michael Shannon To Reteam With ‘Mud’ Helmer Jeff Nichols On Warner Bros Project

By | Wednesday May 8, 2013 @ 5:21pm PDT
Mike Fleming

UPDATE: Took awhile, but I’ve gotten clarity on this Jeff Nichols Warner Bros project, and it was worth the wait. Michael Shannon, the Boardwalk Empire star who turned in a powerhouse performance in Nichols’ Take Shelter and appeared more recently in Mud, will star in Midnight Special, which Nichols wrote and will direct at Warners. Described to me as a contemporary science fiction chase film, the pic will be produced by Sarah Green and Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, with Glen Basner and Christos V. Konstantakopoulos the exec producers. Shannon just played a hitman in The Iceman, and he plays General Zod in the Superman reboot Man Of Steel, so he is absolutely on the Warner Bros radar. Read More »

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Specialty Box Office: ‘Mud’ Slings A Snazzy Debut; ‘Kon-Tiki’ Sails While ‘Arthur Newman’ Flails

By | Sunday April 28, 2013 @ 10:46am PDT

Brian Brooks is a Deadline contributor.

Indie FilmsMud kicked up the dirt in the specialty realm with a hefty opening and some decent audiences to boot. The Roadside Attractions release directed by Jeff Nichols and starring Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon bowed with $2.185 million in a release strategy Roadside says is the new path for certain indie/specialties featuring named talent. The Weinstein Company launched Kon-Tiki in one theater each in NYC and LA, taking the weekend’s highest per screen average with $11,167 among limited releases. Another big specialty release, Arthur Newman, however, tanked with a $435 average in 248 theaters. The weekend happened to coincide with the most beautiful weather in New York City in what seems like years. It was a crowded space with many new specialty releases and the lure of staying outside. But roll out they did. Sony Classics’ At Any Price had a slight opening in four theaters, IFC Films fared better with Venice opener The Reluctant Fundamentalist in three theaters, and Paladin/108 Media’s Salman Rushdie-written Midnight’s Children opened with $12,200 in two theaters. Meanwhile one film, which almost didn’t have formal distribution at all — An Oversimplification Of Her Beauty — scored a solid opening with no stars.

Roadside Attractions has verbally called out the traditional NY/LA two-to-four (or so) platform release strategy that has been the norm for many-a-specialty release. Believing it can capitalize on a blitz of media, when the film has at least one star, and a flurry of social media, the distributor has forgone the traditional limited release roll out and opened — at least in indie world numbers — fairly widely. Mud had a $6,022 average. Not gargantuan, but it debuted in 363 theaters. McConaughey and Witherspoon star in the pic, which factored into Roadside’s strategy. For comparison’s sake, Roadside’s Emperor with Tommy Lee Jones opened March 8th in 260 theaters with just over $1 million. That was nearly one-third of its come, which has topped out at a bit under $3.3 million to date. “The world moves fast. Emperor frankly didn’t have amazing reviews but had a million dollar opening,” said Roadside chief Howard Cohen. “I think the old model has come outdated especially when the PR is front loaded.” Cohen noted that their strategy with a release like Mud works when the film includes named talent. The traditional mode is still a good one theatrically when there isn’t”.
Read More »

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Specialty B.O. Preview: ‘Mud’, ‘Arthur Newman’, ‘At Any Price’, ‘Kon-Tiki’, ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’, ‘An Oversimplification Of Her Beauty’, ‘Aquí Y Allá’, ‘Sun Don’t Shine’

By | Thursday April 25, 2013 @ 9:55pm PDT

Brian Brooks is a Deadline contributor. 

This weekend boasts a big number of Specialty Releases ranging from star-powered features to smaller offerings with non-pro actors. Jeff Nichols’ Mud with Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon opens in over 300 theaters courtesy of Roadside Attractions, while Cinedigm’s Arthur Newman stars Emily Blunt, Colin Firth and Anne Heche. Sony Classics will platform release At Any Price, which stars Dennis Quaid, Kim Dickens, Zac Efron as well. The Weinstein Company with its Pacific adventure, Kon-Tiki. Mira Nair’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist with Kate Hudson, Liev Schreiber and Kiefer Sutherland had a wild ride before it finally opened the Venice Film Festival last August and Terence Nance’s An Oversimplification Of Her Beauty received new life after winning a Gotham Award. Joining the fray this weekend are Torch Films’ Aquí Y Allá and Factory 25′s Sun Don’t Shine which will open in L.A. and New York respectively.

Director-writer: Jeff Nichols
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland, Reese Witherspoon, Sarah Paulson
Distributor: Roadside Attractions

Writer-director Jeff Nichols had the idea for Mud back in college during the ’90s. The film follows two teenage boys who encounter a fugitive (McConaughey) and form a pact to help him evade the bounty hunters on his trail and to reunite him with his true love. “I was thinking who I’d like to hang out with on an island on the Mississippi River and that was Matthew McConaughey”, joked Nichols who spoke at the Apple Store in SoHo last weekend in New York. “And I liked him in Lone Star”. “He is the DNA of the project”, said McConaughey. “I’ve done over 40 films and I’ve never done one in which we stayed so closely to the script as on this film”. The Cinema Society hosted the New York premiere of Mud last Sunday and Nichols and McConaughey were joined by Reese Witherspoon and Sarah Paulson at the event and party at nightspot Harlow. Witherspoon did not join the Apple store conversation and she also notably cancelled scheduled appearances on GMA and Fallon following her recent arrest in Georgia. Asked if he thought Witherspoon’s turn from the public eye might affect the film’s opening weekend, Roadside Attractions chief Howard Cohen sounded upbeat. “We’re doing a big television buy and we have Matthew out everywhere”, he said. “We’re totally focused on the great things we’ve done and she’s great in the movie. It happened and it’s played out, but she’s great and did a ton of press ahead of time and she also attended the premiere and I don’t think it will have an impact”. Read More »

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Sundance London Adds 3 Features To Program Lineup

By | Friday March 22, 2013 @ 2:19am PDT

Sundance London, the film and music festival whose sophomore edition kicks off next month, has added three features to its roster. Stuart Zicherman’s A.C.O.D. starring Adam Scott, Richard Jenkins, Catherine O’Hara, Amy Poehler, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Clark Duke; Sean Ellis’ Sundance Audience Award winner Metro Manila; and Jeff Nichols’ Mud, which premiered in Cannes last year before bowing Stateside in the Spotlight section of Sundance 2013, will join previously announced titles. The festival, which showcases American indie cinema, runs April 25-28 at London’s O2 Arena.

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Hot Trailer: Matthew McConaughey In ‘Mud’

By | Friday January 18, 2013 @ 4:15pm PST

Writer-director Jeff Nichols’ third feature is screening at Sundance starting tomorrow. The tale which debuted last May at Cannes involves a pair of teenage boys who discover a boat wedged in a tree on an island in the Mississippi River. A drifter played by Matthew McConaughey intrudes and complications ensue. Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland play the teens and Reese Witherspoon co-stars as a soulful character named Juniper.

Watch this video on YouTube.

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Hot Trailer: Jeff Nichols’ ‘Mud’

By | Thursday January 17, 2013 @ 12:59am PST

Jeff NicholsMud premiered in competition at the Cannes Film Festival last year. Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions later jointly acquired it for the U.S. with a release coming this spring. Before that, it will premiere Stateside as part of the Spotlight section of Sundance which kicks off today. In the film, two teenage boys encounter a fugitive and help him to evade the bounty hunters on his trail and reunite him with his true love. Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland star.

WATCH IT ON YOUTUBE: Jef Nichols’ “Mud” – Official Trailer #1

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Pete Hammond’s Cannes Wrap-Up: Video

By | Tuesday May 29, 2012 @ 7:28pm PDT

Deadline Awards Columnist Pete Hammond hopped off his flight from France and immediately (well, after a coffee) sat down with ENTV to break down the just-completed Cannes Film Festival. Pete was in the crowd Sunday when Michael Haneke’s drama Amour was awarded the coveted Palme d’Or and says the film’s reception was among the most heartfelt he can remember at any festival.

Related: Cannes: The Jury Talks And Hammond’s Analysis Of The Winners

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‘Mud’: Did Cannes Save One Of The Best For Last? McConaughey, Witherspoon Speak Up

Pete Hammond

Judging from the bad buzz that has haunted it since a 2PM buyers screening on May 16, the first day of the 65th Cannes Film Festival, you might have thought FilmNation’s and Everest Entertainment’s  Mud was as appealing at its title. One published report a couple of days later said despite the fact it is one of the few movies with major stars still up for grabs and looking for distribution that “it didn’t take long for the theatre to start clearing out” including Harvey Weinstein who supposedly “left after 20 minutes” according to the report. (Actually that reporter got it wrong according to a well-placed source with knowledge of the situation. Weinstein stayed an hour before leaving but had told the filmmakers in advance he couldn’t stay for the entire duration of the film).

Well, those guys may have blown it. Now on the last day of official competition screenings Mud, which features big names like Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon and was directed and written by Take Shelter‘s Jeff Nichols, finally had its long-awaited press screening Saturday morning (official premiere is tonight) as the last of the 22 entries to be shown to the media and the response was clearly a lot more enthusiastic than what came out of that ill-fated first buyers screening (a second one was held a few days later). In fact it received by far the biggest applause I have yet heard at one of these 8:30AM screenings. Usually there’s just a trickle, … Read More »

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