For much of 2013 Derek Cianfrance‘s complex drama, The Place Beyond The Pines was the number one grossing independent film of the year. But at one time after it was bought by Focus Features at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival where it was the hot acquisition title, producers had hoped that it would be released in time to be part of last year’s awards season run. Focus decided to wait and opt for a Spring release which turned out to be a good decision for the box office. Now it’s in the mix this awards season. Sitting on the Focus panel, Cianfrance shared some of the secrets of the film, particularly co-star Ryan Gosling‘s real-life plans to rob a bank, for an audience of AMPAS and Guild members at Deadline’s THE CONTENDERS event earlier this month.
The Contenders 2013: ‘Place Beyond The Pines’ Director Derek Cianfrance Details Ryan Gosling’s Dream To Rob A Bank (Video)
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 Attractions‘ Mud which was released in theatres April 26th and Focus Features‘ The 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.
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.
Brian Brooks is a Deadline contributor.
This weekend’s specialty newcomers performed blasé at best and that’s despite the debut of a new film by a director who is all but a patron saint to the cineaste crowd. Topping the report Sunday morning is LD Entertainment’s Disconnect. Starring Jason Bateman and Hope Davis, the Santa Barbara Int’l Film Festival opener averaged $8,240 from 15 runs, pulling ahead of Terrence Malick and Ben Affleck’s debut, To The Wonder, which averaged $7,647 in 17 theaters. Sundance Selects opened Ken Loach’s Cannes 2012 title The Angels’ Share in 3 theaters, averaging $7K, while Oscilloscope’s It’s A Disaster also opened in a trio of locations, averaging $5,667. But the real good news came from Focus Features’ The Place Beyond The Pines. The Derek Cianfrance-directed feature showed off its box office prowess, averaging a solid $8K in over 500 theaters.
Word on the street was that To The Wonder was Malick’s “most accessible” film, but the film failed to measure up to his comparatively less user friendly previous film Tree Of Life. That film, which opened in 2011 in 4 theaters, averaged a cool $93,230 though it went on to cume $13.3 million. Hopefully the film will show some legs going forward. “I think it’s better outside a festival context and works better on its own,” said Magnolia’s Matt Cowal. “It’s sparking an incredible dialog. You can’t expect it to be liked by everyone. Some hate it, some adore it. And that’s expected in a work of art – it’s fascinating.” iTunes had some good news for To The Wonder this weekend. It topped its Independent charts all weekend. Magnolia will open the film in nearly every major market over the next two weeks.
Brian Brooks is a Deadline contributor.
Ryan Gosling teams up with director Derek Cianfrance in their first collaboration since Blue Valentine. Focus Features will open The Place Beyond The Pines in a traditional roll out, with expectations that its stars will be as strong a draw as its filmmaking prowess. Cohen Media Group’s Blancanieves will likely be the highest profile silent film (perhaps the only one?) to hit the big screen since Oscar powerhouse The Artist. Australian-born P.J. Hogan reunites with Toni Colette for Mental, their first collaboration since Muriel’s Wedding helped launch both of their careers. IFC Films’ long-time exec Ryan Werner gives the lowdown on his final release with the distributor, Room 237. Werner leaves IFC Films this week. And Drafthouse Films will open Wrong, which it picked up out of Sundance last year.
Filmmaker Derek Cianfrance directed Ryan Gosling in 2010 drama Blue Valentine, which scored well at the box office with a domestic take of just over $9.7 million (and an Oscar nomination for co-star Michelle Williams). This time around, he adds Bradley Cooper and Eva Mendes to the mix. The film centers on a motorcycle stunt rider turned outlaw who robs banks in order to provide for the son he didn’t know he had, but runs afoul from an ambitious rookie cop. “It’s filmed by a filmmaker. He’s the deal,” said Focus chief James Schamus. “He really brought back the kind of ambition you saw with filmmakers from the 70s. It doesn’t have to be a big budget movie for it to be ambitious.” Focus picked up the film out of last year’s Toronto International Film Festival. To spread the word, Focus sent Cianfrance on an extensive promotional tour. “It is publicity, but he’s been amazing. Some directors don’t enjoy talking about their work, but he’s so infectious,” noted Schamus.
2ND UPDATE: Focus Features has confirmed Deadline’s scoop. Release is at the bottom of the story
UPDATE: I’m told that Focus Features indeed closed a distribution deal for one of Toronto’s hottest acquisition titles, the Derek Cianfrance-directed The Place Beyond The Pines. The negotiations between the Focus …
Just read on a rival site that The Weinstein Company is moving aggressively toward a deal after making an offer on Derek Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond The Pines. Only problem, I’m told by sources inside The Weinstein Company, is …
The Place Beyond The Pines is perhaps the most eagerly awaited acquisition title of the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival. And Friday night it premiered to an enthusiastic reception from a sold-out crowd. With stars Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper and Eva Mendes lighting up the Princess of Wales theatre’s Red Carpet, there was much anticipation about this unique crime thriller from director and co-writer Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine also starring Gosling). At the 19 Mercer Street after-party, producer Jamie Patricof (Lynette Howell and Alex Orlovsky co-produced with him for Sidney Kimmel Productions) told me they have kept this film under lock and key until the TIFF showing. Because no one had seen it, a lot of distributors were in the audience eager to get a look. Patricof and helmer Cianfrance both said they are looking for a company who is most passionate about the film. Whether it gets out this year (in time for the Oscar race) or later is secondary to that. Cianfrance did add that his natural inclination is always to “have the film out tomorrow” if he could.
A snap poll of reaction after the screening indicated the film had true impact. There’s no doubt buyers will be circling this one – and snapping it up fast. Clearly the movie has a lot of marketing potential with Gosling and Cooper in the leads. Gosling said that working with Cianfrance “has changed my life and changed me as an actor”. He plays a bank robber and said he always had a fantasy about making his getaway by riding a motorcycle into a U-Haul truck which was incorporated here. Cooper might have the most difficult role. ”But I was ferocious in wanting to work with these two guys. It was one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had acting,” he said.