Gotta hand it to Harvey: When he sees an angle to boost the profile of his movies, he goes for it. The Weinstein Company is placing an ad in tomorrow’s New York Times referencing the skirmish between NY Post reviewer Kyle Smith and the real-life Philomena Lee, the subject of the distributor’s Oscar-season pic Philomena directed by Stephen Frears and starring Judi Dench as Lee. That’s the rift Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr. told you about first last week by publishing Lee’s response to Smith’s review that called the pic among other things an attack on Catholics. The NYT ad excerpts Lee’s letter to Smith that Fleming ran full and comes complete with a a call to action — “Decide For Yourself” — even though the movie’s been in the marketplace since the week before Thanksgiving. Click over for the ad: READ MORE »
‘Fast & Furious’ Star Paul Walker Killed In Car Crash
By The Deadline Team – The Santa Clarita office of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department just issued an update on the fatal car accident involving actor Paul Walker, declaring that “speed was a factor in the solo vehicle collision” and listing the car involved as a red 2005 Porsche Carrera GT.
‘Catching Fire’ Holiday Haul Puts It On Track To Be Biz’s Next Billion Dollar Grosser; $573 Million So Far
By Mike Fleming Jr. – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire has blown past expectations once again, and has earned $573 million in worldwide gross. This after a $28.5 million Saturday night.
DeMille Award Recipient Woody Allen Not Expected To Attend Golden Globes
By Nellie Andreeva – It looks like Woody Allen will be staying true to his principles of shunning awards shows (and Los Angeles). I hear that the Oscar- and Golden Globe-winning filmmaker is not expected to attend the Golden Globes in January, where he will be the recipient of the Cecil B. DeMille Award. I hear the Hollywood Foreign Press Association made the decision to honor Allen without securing a commitment from him that he would attend.
OSCARS: Scorsese And DiCaprio Back In The Race As ‘Wolf Of Wall Street’ Makes A Raucous Debut
By Pete Hammond – The last shoe to drop in the 2013 awards race hit Saturday as Martin Scorsese‘s much-awaited The Wolf Of Wall Street was unveiled to SAG voters at a couple of screenings at the WGA theatre in Beverly Hills. I caught the film earlier at a small 10 AM screening for some of the cast members on the Paramount lot and then moderated the Q&A following the 6:30 PM screening of the 3 hour film. To say it was rapturously received would be an understatement.
Specialty Box Office: ‘Mandela,’ ‘Philomena’ Holiday Pushes Pay Off For TWC; Spike Lee’s ‘Oldboy’ Bombs (UPDATED)
By Deadline’s Brian Brooks and Jen Yamato.
Thanksgiving weekend yielded a box office bounty for The Weinstein Co. and a turkey for FilmDistrict and Spike Lee in a holiday weekend with slim competition from indie comers. TWC made a pair of bold moves, opening awards hopeful Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom on 4 screens to a strong $100,306 take averaging $25,076 per screen; the drama starring Idris Elba as South African president Nelson Mandela built up word of mouth on the fest circuit at Toronto, Mill Valley, The Hamptons, Chicago, and AFI Fest. TWC also seized the chance to bump last week’s Judi Dench-starrer Philomena from 4 theaters to 835 theaters and the pic subsequently broke into the Top 10 with a $4,538 average and a $3.789M weekend. Dench stars alongside Steve Coogan in the true story of a woman searching for the son she gave up for adoption decades earlier, a heartwarming family tale that was primed for holiday viewing. Alas, Thanksgiving weekend wasn’t quite so kind to FilmDistrict’s Oldboy which in its own bloody way is also about the ties that bind. Spike Lee‘s remake of the brutally violent Korean thriller from Park Chan-Wook, stars Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Samuel L. Jackson, and Sharlto Copley in a vengeance saga with extreme twists and turns not for the faint of heart. It took in a paltry $850K on the weekend, averaging $1,458 in 583 theaters.
In other openers this weekend, IFC Films’ doc The Punk Singer bowed to a $24K gross in three locations from Friday to Sunday. The company noted that the doc “sold out multiple shows in New York and LA for its debut. The documentary on punk singer icon Kathleen Hanna will roll out to the top 10 markets in December. And Vitagraph opened Caught In The Web in one location. It was a slow start with a $330 gross.
IFC Films added three additional theaters for Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy? in its second frame, grossing just under $20K for a $3,390 PSA. The feature averaged $10,620 in its opening last weekend in a trio of locations.
The Real ‘Philomena’ Answers New York Post Critic Who Condemns Her Film As An Attack On Catholics And Republicans
EXCLUSIVE: It sure isn’t easy being a Catholic these days, especially on a movie screen. Philomena Lee, subject of the just-released Oscar season film Philomena, has taken the unusual step of directly answering a New York Post critic who slammed the Stephen Frears-directed adaptation of her story as an attack on the Catholic faith, as well as Republicans.
Lee is played in the film by Judi Dench, and her story is a crusher: She was sent to a Catholic abbey in Ireland as a teen after she got pregnant and, as was the custom then, was compelled to sign away her rights to the child. She still cared for him for the first three years of his life while she worked as an indentured laundry lady, and then saw her son given up for adoption. The movie is about how, after keeping this a shameful secret for 50 years, she teamed with a disgraced journalist named Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) to find that son. Since it’s an exceptionally personal story, she has chosen to speak out about a particularly nasty review by Kyle Smith of The New York Post that has become a Twitter hot-button topic.
The Weinstein Company’s Philomena and holdovers The Great Beauty, 12 Years A Slave, and Dallas Buyers Club lent some zest to the Specialty Box Office this weekend, with Philomena platforming in New York and L.A. in four theaters and grossing $133,716 for a strong $33,429 average. Ahead of the Stephen Frears-directed feature’s roll out Friday, TWC said they expected the film would pique audience attention, especially among the sometimes lucrative mature movie-going set. TWC’s president of theatrical distribution Erik Lomis said the title had very positive word of mouth screenings in various parts of the country including the Midwest, which has motivated the distributor to open the film fairly wide after this weekend.
“It’s right in the range where we were hoping it would be,” said Lomis Sunday morning.”It plays to an older audience, and we knew it would. We think we’re positioned well as it expands nationally next weekend.” Lomis said the film’s exit polls were “through the roof” with 94% giving it an “excellent” or “very good” reaction. Philomena lead Judi Dench starred in 2012 hit The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, scoring heavily with mature audiences. Fox Searchlight released Marigold to box office acclaim, grossing over $46.4 million domestically last year. On a straight screen average comparison, Philomena‘s opening weekend is actually higher, coming in at $33,429 vs Marigold‘s initial $27K PSA, though that film opened in 27 theaters. TWC, naturally, is hoping to follow some of that film’s success.
Specialty B.O. Preview: ‘Philomena,’ ‘Weekend Of A Champion’, ‘Narco Cultura’, ‘Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy’, ‘Bettie Page Reveals All’
Documentaries take the spotlight this weekend ahead of next week’s Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S. The Weinstein Company, however, is bucking that weekend trend with Stephen Frears’ Philomena, which it hopes will lure the frequently lucrative older demographic into theaters. Roman Polanski’s “lost” documentary Weekend Of A Champion, which has been re-discovered and given a clean-up and a present-day update for its bow four decades later this weekend. The film looks at Formula One racing through champion Jackie Stewart in post ’60s Monaco. Sundance’s Narco Cultura joins the non-fiction offerings via Cinedigm along with Michel Gondry’s animated Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy?. The IFC Films title is closing out this year’s DOC NYC event Thursday night. Last year, DOC NYC featured Bettie Page Reveals All, which also hits theaters this weekend, giving a big screen look at one of the world’s most famous pinup figures.
Director-writer: Stephen Frears
Writers: Jeff Pope, Martin Sixsmith (book)
Cast: Judi Dench, Steve Coogan, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Mare Winningham, Barbara Jefford, Ruth McCabe
Distributor: The Weinstein Company
A best screenplay winner in Venice and the best narrative feature audience award winner at the Hamptons International Film Festival, Stephen Frears’ drama centers on a world-weary political journalist. He follows the story of a woman’s search for her son who was taken away from her decades ago after she became pregnant and forced to live in a convent. “We screened it and we knew we had something really special — Judi and Steve Coogan are great,” said TWC’s president of Theatrical Distribution.
Scottish director David Mackenzie’s prison drama Starred Up was acquired for U.S. distribution last week by Tribeca Film. Today, the movie scored eight nominations for the 16th annual Moët British Independent Film Awards. Clio Barnard’s Cannes Directors’ Fortnight title, The Selfish Giant, follows with seven nods, and three films picked up five each: James McAvoy-starrer Filth; the UK’s Foreign Language Oscar entry, Metro Manila; and Roger Michell’s Le Week-End. Save for Filth, the above titles are selected in the Best British Independent Film category along with Stephen Frears’ Philomena. The latter also scored mentions for lead actress Judi Dench and lead actor Steve Coogan. Coogan is also nominated with Jeff Pope for the film’s screenplay which won the pair a prize in Venice. Another Venice title, Under The Skin, divided critics on the Lido, but received a series of nominations today including for lead actress Scarlett Johansson. Tom Hardy man-in-crisis-in-a-car movie, Locke, picked up three nods for actor, screenplay and editing. Winners will be announced on December 8th at the Old Billingsgate in London. Following is a full list of nominees:
Philomena and Desert Runners took the Audience Awards for Narrative and Documentary respectively at the 21st Hamptons International Film Festival which wraps up today. One Last Hug (…And A Few Smooches) Three Days At Grief Camp nabbed the Audience Award for short docu. Clio Barnard-directed Selfish Giant, Code Black and Whale Valley were honored with Golden Starfish awards for narrative feature, docu and short, respectively. Selfish Giant‘s Conner Chapman and the ensemble cast of Kush also received special juror mentions for their performances in those films. Shana Betz took the Tangerine Entertainment Juice award, which honors outstanding narrative filmmaker, for Free Ride. This year’s documentary feature jury included producer Daniel Crown, photographer and filmmaker Michael Halsband and Zeigeist Films’ co-founder Nancy Gerstman. The narrative jury included Elle magazine’s film critic Karen Durbin, writer, director and actor Alex Karpovsky and Tony-nominated Raul Esparza. Click over for a complete list of winners:
Toronto: Weinstein’s Premiere Marathon Delivers Huge Reaction For Oscar-Bait ‘August: Osage County’ – But Will It Divide Audiences?
Just call it Weinstein Premiere-O-Rama. The company launched four movies with splashy galas at the Toronto International Film Festival in the span of 48 hours (is this some sort of weird record?). That included Saturday night’s Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom World Premiere, Sunday’s North American launch of Philomena and last night’s World Premieres of August: Osage County and One Chance directly against each other. When I saw Harvey Weinstein at the combined Soho House after-party for the Monday films I told him he obviously loves Toronto. He was moving fast between his movies showing up everywhere, including on stage for August before it began. ”Everything came together and we just thought this would be the perfect way to get these films out there,” he said clearly beaming at the reaction.
All the films won standing ovations, not uncommon in movie-friendly Toronto (people like getting up on their feet here) but even by those standards the raucous, prolonged standing O for August: Osage County was definitely the most enthusiastic I have encountered at this year’s fest. And the John Wells-directed movie adaptation of actor/writer Tracy Letts’ Tony-winning Midwestern-set Broadway play about a dysfunctional family to end all dysfunctional families played like gangbusters with much audible reaction throughout. Star Meryl Streep was a last-minute cancellation due to illness and co-producer George Clooney (with Grant Heslov) didn’t make the trek to Canada for this film or Gravity in which he co-stars with Sandra Bullock since he was back in L.A. still working on posting his latest directorial gig, Monuments Men as well as shooting Disney’s Tomorrowland. But most of the cast was there including Ewan McGregor, Juliette Lewis, Chris Cooper, Julianne Nicholson, Abigail Breslin, Dermot Mulroney and Julia Roberts, clearly the belle of this ball. When I spoke with her afterwards she was definitely on cloud nine over the reaction the film received and obviously excited to be working with this cast and opposite Streep who manages to do the impossible and tops Streep as the bitterly funny, bitingly caustic mother who lets it rip, particularly in the film’s (and the play’s ) signature dinner scene. Roberts is also at her best and both should be major Oscar contenders in the impossibly crowded lead actress category. This would make nomination #18 for Streep. Could anyone ever top her own record?
Ahead of the main prize ceremony tomorrow night, awards are starting to trickle out here at the Venice Film Festival. The International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) has given its Best Film honor to Canadian multi-hyphenate Xavier Dolan’s well-received psychological thriller Tom At The Farm. The jury praised Dolan’s “energetic, tense and sensual filmmaking.” The story of a grief-stricken young man who encounters a web of deceit at a country funeral is in Competition. FIPRESCI also named The Reunion the best film across the Horizons and Critics’ Week sections. Anna Odell directed the movie which the jury said “blurs the boundaries between fiction and documentary and speaks about marginalization, bullying, and the complicated nature of group dynamics.” (Separately, FIPRESCI announced today that its annual Grand Prize will go to Cannes Palme d’Or winner Adèle: Chapters 1 & 2 – aka Blue Is The Warmest Color). Meanwhile, Stephen Frears’ crowd-pleasing competition film Philomena won the Venice Queer Lion for bringing “relevance to issues such as homosexuality, AIDS and homophobia.” And, Jean Denizot’s family drama La Belle Vie was awarded the Europa Cinemas Label as Best European Film in the Venice Days section.
Listen to (and share) episode 5 of Deadline’s audio podcast Global Showbiz Watch With Nancy Tartaglione. Deadline’s international editor talks with host David Bloom about the Venice Film Festival, now at its mid-way point, with Stephen Frears‘ Philomena the early favorite for the fest’s top prize, the Golden Lion. Nancy also talks about Locke, the man-in-a-car movie featuring, only, Tom Hardy; the overwhelming response by Harry Potter fans to Daniel Radcliffe’s festival appearance for Kill Your Darlings; and the fabulous swan song of animation master Hayao Miyazaki, The Wind Rises.
At the midpoint of Venice last year, The Master had emerged as a clear favorite and indeed went on to scoop the directing trophy and a double best actor Volpi Cup. But, due to rules designed not to favor one film too heavily, the jury was unable to give it the Golden Lion in what became something of a scandal on the Lido. In a move that could help deter such furture controversies, the festival added a Grand Jury Prize this year. Still, the regs say that no film can win more than one award — save for exceptional cases whereby a film that’s won the directing Silver Lion, the Grand Jury Prize, the Special Jury Prize or the screenplay prize can also nab an acting nod. For that to happen, it has to be done in consultation with the festival president. But, if a movie takes the Golden Lion, that’s the only prize it can win.
This year, the press and the public have embraced Philomena. That film bowed on Saturday to rapturous applause and standing ovations. The Stephen Frears-directed pic has been praised for its deft handling of a sensitive subject. The movie, based on a true story, is about a woman searching for the son she was forced to give up for adoption while slaving away in an Irish abbey for so-called fallen women. The abbey in the film certainly brings to mind the Magdalene laundries where some 30,000 women were incarcerated between 1765-1996. The asylums were the subject of Peter Mullan’s 2002 The Magdalene Sisters, which went on to win the Golden Lion here. And yet, if Philomena were to follow that path, its heavily praised star, Judi Dench, would be ineligible for the best actress Volpi Cup. There are still eight films to screen so nothing is a certainty, but it will be interesting to keep an eye on the prizes on Saturday to see how the jury juggles a strong field of films. The Weinstein Co. is giving Philomena a December 25 limited release before opening wide on January 10.