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Specialty Box Office: ‘Gimme The Loot’ Rakes It In, ‘The Sapphires’ Solid In Debut

By | Sunday March 24, 2013 @ 11:46am PDT

Brian Brooks is a Deadline contributor.

Indie FilmsSundance Selects scored in the specialty arena this weekend, opening Gimme The Loot at its IFC Center in Greenwich Village with a solid $23,400. The movie, which IFC Films’ Sundance Selects label picked up last year out of the SXSW Film Festival, reported sold-out screenings Friday and Saturday nights, boosted by Q&As with former The Daily Show personality Wyatt Cenac. It premiered at MoMA on Tuesday with Sofia Coppola, Mike Birbiglia , Elizabeth Olsen, and Josh Safdie among the attendees. Loot next weekend will head to Chicago’s Music Box, L.A.’s NuArt and the Jacob Burns Center in Upstate New York. The Weinstein Company launched Cannes 2012 entrant The Sapphires in 4 NYC/LA theaters with a decent $10,232 average. Among other openers, Paladin debuted My Brother The Devil with two runs, averaging just over $6K. Starbuck is an original that DreamWorks Sudios is adapting to star Vince Vaughn. It was a hit at home north of the border, but opened comparatively quietly here, averaging $5,482 in three theaters. Next month, distributor eOne will take it to the top 30 to 50 markets. Archstone’s A Resurrection took in $7,250 at a single cinema. Read More »

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Specialty B.O. Preview: ‘The Sapphires,’ ‘Gimme The Loot,’ ‘Hunky Dory,’ ‘Come Out And Play,’ ‘Starbuck,’ ‘New World’

By | Thursday March 21, 2013 @ 11:02pm PDT

Brian Brooks is a Deadline contributor.

Only a handful of new specialty movies opened during the early part of 2013, but spring has brought an onslaught of indies and foreign titles. The Weinstein Company opens the Cannes debut The Sapphires this weekend, while two titles from last year’s SXSW, Hunky Dory starring Minnie Driver and Gimme The Loot from Sundance Selects, bow in select locations. Thriller Come Out And Play makes its way to theaters after a very unconventional production. Paladin’s My Brother The Devil enjoyed the support of Sundance but faced riots during its filming in London. Entertainment One brings a French-Canadian comedy that has already landed an English-language remake deal, and Well Go USA will launch New World, hoping once again to capitalize on past successes with Korean thrillers.

The Sapphires
Director: Wayne Blair
Writers: Tony Briggs, Keith Thompson
Cast: Chris O’Dowd, Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Shari Sebbens, Miranda Tapsell
Distributor: The Weinstein Company

TWC picked up the biographical comedy/drama ahead of its Cannes Film Festival premiere in the Official Selection last year, picking up U.S. rights and other territories for low seven figures. “It’s a really, really strong film with great performances,” said TWC president of theatrical distribution & home entertainment Erik Lomis. “Chris O Dowd is terrific”, said Lomis. Set against a backdrop of racial strife in Australia in the late ’60s, the film centers on four Australian Aboriginal girls who form a group and head out to entertain U.S. troops in Vietnam, escaping the tensions and limitations of their rural community. “It plays well to an audience and hopefully will crack the formula,” said Lomis. “It’s not a four-quadrant movie, but it’s has appeal across the spectrum. It’s an audience pleaser and it has scored through the roof.”

TWC tested the feature in New York and in the Midwest where Lomis said audiences in both regions responded well. “The trick is getting them in,” he noted. “We’re hoping word-of-mouth will propel its theatrical run.” The Sapphires will have a traditional first weekend opening in New York and LA, playing at two locations in each city before expanding.
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Clean Sweep For ‘The Sapphires’ At Australian Academy Awards

By | Wednesday January 30, 2013 @ 1:15am PST

Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney

Nominated for 12 Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards, The Sapphires won six gongs at a ceremony hosted by Russell Crowe in Sydney on Wednesday night. The musical drama about four Aboriginal girls who formed a singing group in the 1960s won best director (Wayne Blair), lead actress (Deborah Mailman), lead actor (Chris O’Dowd), supporting actress (Jessica Mauboy) and adapted screenplay (Keith Thompson, Tony Briggs). That’s in addition to five craft awards presented on Monday. The Weinstein Co. will release the film in the U.S. on March 22. Thriller Wish You Were Here took the AACTA original screenplay award for husband-and-wife creative team Kieran Darcy-Smith and Felicity Price, and supporting actor for Antony Starr. German actress Saskia Rosendahl received the best young actor trophy for Cate Shortland’s Lore, which was Australia’s entry for the foreign language Oscar. The Byron Kennedy Award, named for George Miller’s late producing partner, went to director/animator Sarah Watt (Look Both Ways, My Year Without Sex), who died of cancer in 2011. John Edwards’ Puberty Blues, which was inspired by Bruce Beresford’s 1981 film, was named best TV drama series. Presenters included AACTA president Geoffrey Rush, Cate Blanchett, Nicole Kidman and Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters leads Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton. It was the second annual ACTAA awards, the successor to the Australian Film Institute’s awards. The complete list of winners follows: Read More »

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‘The Sapphires’ Dominates Early Australian Cinema & TV Academy Awards

By | Sunday January 27, 2013 @ 9:00pm PST

Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney.

The Sapphires nabbed five Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards in craft categories presented Monday in Sydney local time. The drama, which TWC opens March 22 in the U.S., was prized for cinematography, editing, production design, costume design and sound. The major awards will be handed out Wednesday night, hosted by Russell Crowe. Iron Sky took the visual effects award, Storm Surfers 3D was named best feature documentary and Then The Wind Changed, which chronicled a community’s struggle to rebuild following the 2009 Victorian bushfires, was best docu under one hour. In TV, tabloid newspaper satire Lowdown – Season 2 was declared best comedy series,  Agony Aunts picked up the light entertainment series gong and  The Adventures of Figaro Pho, all from the ABC, won the children’s series award. Multicultural broadcaster SBS’s  Go Back To Where You Came From was judged best documentary series. Patrick Brammall won best performance in a TV comedy for the ABC’s A Moody ChristmasJulian, which looks at a day in the life of a fearless nine-year-old schoolboy, was feted as best short fiction film and The Hunter  was best animated short. The Raymond Longford Award for lifetime achievement was bestowed on producer Al Clark, whose credits include The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Chopper, Blessed, Red Hill and upcoming musical Goddess.

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‘The Sapphires’ Gets March 22 U.S. Release

By | Friday January 25, 2013 @ 7:03pm PST

Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney.

The Weinstein Co. has confirmed The Sapphires will open March 22 in the U.S. TWC bought multi-territory rights for the musical drama at last year’s Cannes festival. Director Wayne Blair’s film based on the real-life story of an Aboriginal singing group that shot to fame in the 1960s was the top-grossing Australian film in 2012 with $A14.4 million ($14.9 million). Pic has 12 nominations for the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards, including best film, direction, actress (Deborah Mailman), actor (Chris O’Dowd) and supporting actress (Jessica Mauboy). The major awards will be presented Wednesday night in Sydney, hosted by Russell Crowe.

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‘The Sapphires’, ‘Journey’ Documentary Take Prizes At Palm Springs Festival

By | Sunday January 13, 2013 @ 1:00pm PST

Australia’s The Sapphires directed by Wayne Blair was named best narrative feature today as the 24th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival winds down. The movie that also screened in Cannes last year is based on the real-life story of an all-female Aboriginal singing group that transitioned from folk to soul with unanticipated success in the 1960s. Best documentary feature was Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey, directed by Ramona Diaz. It’s about the rock band Journey’s search for a replacement lead singer after Steve Perry quit. The fest which began January 3 and officially concludes tomorrow screened 182 films from 68 countries, including 42 of the 71 foreign language entries for this year’s Academy Awards. A complete list of winners follows:  Read More »

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‘The Sapphires’ Leads Australian Academy Of Cinema Award Nominations

By | Monday December 3, 2012 @ 7:02am PST

Wayne Blair’s Cannes crowd pleaser The Sapphires leads the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts feature film nominations for 2012 with 12 nods including picture, director, actor and actress. A close second is Jonathan Teplitzky’s Burning Man with 10, followed by PJ Hogan’s Mental, Kieran Darcy-Smith’s Wish You Were Here and Cate Shortland’s Lore at 8 apiece. Lore is Australia’s entry for the foreign language Oscar. AACTA held its inaugural prize ceremony earlier this year, acting as a continuum of the Australian Film Institute Awards which were established in 1958. Considered Oz’s equivalent to the Oscars, the second annual AACTA awards will be handed out in late January in Sydney. Following is the list of feature nominees: Read More »

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Toronto: UTA Signs ‘The Sapphires’ Helmer Wayne Blair

By | Saturday September 8, 2012 @ 8:13am PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: UTA has just signed Wayne Blair, who made his feature directorial debut with The Sapphires. It’s the first U.S. representation for the Australian filmmaker whose musical premiered at Cannes. The Weinstein Company bought U.S. distribution and select worldwide rights from the producers, Goalpost Pictures, shortly before that festival opened. The film just played Telluride and will screen at Toronto tomorrow. Based on a true story, The Sapphires follows four singers from the Australian Outback who are brought to Vietnam by their manager (Chris O’Dowd) to perform for U.S. troops in 1968.

Related: Weinstein Clarifies ‘Sapphires’ Remarks, Best Actor Race Heats Up On Stormy Sunday In Cannes

The film is already a box office hit in Australia, grossing over $10 million so far. Blair, who began his career as an actor and theatre director, continues to be represented by his long-time Australian agent Jean Mostyn of The Yellow Agency and UK-based agents Duncan Heath and Roxana Adle of Independent.

Related: Toronto: WME Signs ‘What Richard Did’ Star Jack Reynor

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Hot Trailer: ‘The Sapphires’

By | Thursday August 30, 2012 @ 1:57pm PDT

Here’s the Toronto International Film Festival trailer for The Weinstein Company’s Cannes pickup The Sapphires. The movie about an Aboriginal girl group stars Chris O’Dowd as an unlikely talent scout, Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Shari Sebbens and Miranda Tapsell. Screenplay is by playwright Tony Briggs, whose mother and family members were part of the original Sapphires, and Keith Thompson. Directed by actor and theater director Wayne Blair, The Sapphires is also screening this weekend in Telluride.


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‘The Sapphires’ Opens Strong In Australian Debut

By | Monday August 13, 2012 @ 9:07am PDT

Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney.

Australian musical The Sapphires rang up $A2.3M ($2.4M) in its debut Down Under this weekend, ranking 2nd behind the The Dark Knight Rises in its 4th frame and ahead of the opening of The Campaign. The film’s four-day tally bodes well for the feel-good pic which The Weinstein Co. acquired on the eve of the Cannes Film Festival in May. Last year’s Oz-made hit, Red Dog, took $1.8M in its first weekend and went on to be the biggest local picture of 2011. It was also crowned Best Film by the Australian Academy. Although The Sapphires is a sort of Aboriginal Dreamgirls that could tune up awards heat, Harvey Weinstein told Deadline’s Pete Hammond in Cannes that he doesn’t see it following in the Oscar dancesteps of The Artist. Rather, he said the film was an entertaining comedy-musical he hopes will draw good word of mouth and turn out to be a sleeper hit. Directed by Wayne Blair, it’s based on the true story of four singers from the Outback who entertained U.S. troops in Vietnam in 1968. Chris O’Dowd co-stars. The Weinstein Co. acquired worldwide rights to The Sapphires, with the exclusion of the UK & Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, France, Canada, Israel, and Portugal. There’s no date yet for the U.S.

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Christina Ricci To Go ‘Around The Block’ In Sarah Spillane’s Australian Indie

By | Friday June 15, 2012 @ 5:11am PDT

Freelance journalist Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney

Continuing a mini-boom in Australian films tackling indigenous themes, Around the Block starts shooting in Sydney on Monday. Christina Ricci stars as an American drama teacher who reaches out to a troubled Aboriginal teenager. In the vein of Dangerous Minds, the film marks the feature debut of writer-director Sarah Spillane and is set in an inner-city during rioting by the Aboriginal residents. Hunter Page-Lochard, whose credits include The Sapphires (which The Weinstein Co acquired in Cannes), plays the teen who is pressured to take part in a revenge killing. Exec producer Jack Thompson also stars along with Damian Walshe-Howling. Producers are Spillane’s Kick Pictures and Brian Rosen and Su Armstrong’s Tree Films. Arclight has worldwide sales and Rosen tells Deadline the producers will apply for funding from the agencies Screen Australia and Screen NSW as well as using the 40% producer offset. Ricci is repped by ICM Partners.

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Weinstein Clarifies ‘Sapphires’ Remarks; Best Actor Race Heats Up On A Stormy Sunday In Cannes

Pete Hammond

Despite reports to the contrary Harvey Weinstein told me he doesn’t believe the Australian musical The Sapphires is going to become another The Artist. Weinstein claims he was taken out of context in a Los Angeles newspaper report after the out-of-competition film premiered to an enthusiastic response and prolonged ovation (they all are in Cannes) at its official premiere Saturday night. He was quoted as saying “Have you seen ‘The Sapphires‘? The Artist just happened again”. At tonight’s party and concert for the film at the JW Marriott that followed a special screening, Weinstein told me he does not think the feel-good movie, a sort of Aboriginal Dreamgirls, is necessarily another Oscar contender for the company. He calls it an entertaining comedy-musical he hopes will draw good word of mouth and turn out to be a sleeper hit. He says the report was misleading and claims to have no Oscar ambitions anywhere near the level of The Artist, which (like Sapphires) was picked up right as Cannes kicked off and went on to win 5 Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Actor.

Weinstein has been on a roll so far, picking up several titles, although he says some of those deals were done before the fest opened and announced during the Cannes window (other titles revealed on Deadline include Quartet, Haute Cuisine and the Libyan doc, The Oath Of Tobruk). He and Weinstein Co. COO David Glasser told me unequivocally that they are not planning on buying anything else at this year’s Cannes. Weinstein is very excited though about his 2012 and beyond slate, and at a Majestic Hotel cocktail party tomorrow night will unveil first-look footage for the press from some highly anticipated films for which he does have high Oscar (and boxoffice of course) hopes including The Master, The Silver Linings Playbook and the Quentin Tarantino western Django Unchained. Read More »

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‘Lawless’ Premieres As The Weinstein Company Hijacks The Cannes Red Carpet

Pete Hammond

It took just four days into the 65th Cannes Film Festival but The Weinstein Company officially took over Saturday scoring both of the key night’s premiere slots at the Grand Theatre Lumiere in the Official Selection and both from Australian directors. With their August 29th release, Lawless getting the 7PM spot, Harvey Weinstein had to immediately turn around and walk back up the red-carpeted stairs for the 10PM screening of his latest pickup, Wayne Blair’s out-of-competition aboriginal soul musical, The Sapphires. Has any other other distributor ever scored this kind of double feature on the same night in Cannes? Doubtful. But with two movies how do you juggle the obligatory after-party scene? In this case, split them up. Lawless celebrated its Cannes debut partying after its screening Saturday, while Sapphires is having official press screenings plus a special showing at the Olympia theatre followed by a party at J.W. Marriott on the Croisette Sunday night. I’ll catch that one then, but I started the day off with Lawless at the 8:30AM press screening this morning and what a bloody, violent, but undeniably entertaining way to start my day than with this testosterone-driven, blood-soaked gangster flick set in prohibition-era Virginia and focusing on the turf wars in bootleger country. One of five American films in competition, its key cast showed on the red carpet (and earlier met with the press) including Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf, Jason … Read More »

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Cannes Film Festival: Directors To Watch

Cannes has a mix of newcomers and veterans this year. While no first-time directors are in the main competition, some relatively young veterans are returning after a long absence and notable debut helmers can be found in other sections. Below is a selection of directors to keep an eye on:

Nabil Ayouch: The French-born director who’s of Moroccan descent had a fest-circuit hit with his second feature Ali Zoua back in 2000. Lately, he’s focused on producing for television with his last feature as director 2007’s Whatever Lola Wants. God’s Horses, Ayouch’s Un Certain Regard entry this year, is being compared to Fernando Meirelles’ 2002 breakout. “It’s the new City Of God,” says an exec. God’s Horses is inspired by the terrorist attacks of May 16th 2003 in Casablanca.

Wayne Blair: Blair’s The Sapphires had been building buzz for several months and was acquired by The Weinstein Co on the eve of this fest. One of the vanguard of Aboriginal Australian filmmakers, he has a storied background. Not only did he play professional soccer in Oz, he’s also been a TV director and a stage actor (in 2010 he starred in a Phillip Seymour Hoffman-directed stage version of True West in Sydney). His first outing as a filmmaker, 2005 short The Djarn DJarns, netted him the Crystal Bear prize in the Kinderfilmfest section of Berlin. The Sapphires is his first … Read More »

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Cannes Acquisition Clip: ‘The Sapphires’

By | Wednesday May 16, 2012 @ 10:58pm PDT

Here’s a clip from The Sapphires, the Australian movie to which The Weinstein Company acquired global distribution rights (except for a handful of territories) as the Cannes Film Festival got under way:

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Weinstein Co Acquires Aussie Pic ‘The Sapphires’: Cannes

By | Tuesday May 15, 2012 @ 9:15am PDT

May 15, 2012 – New York, NY – The Weinstein Company (TWC) announced today that they have acquired from Goalpost Film worldwide rights, with the exception of the UK & Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, France, Canada, Israel, Portugal and airlines, to THE SAPPHIRES. The film, directed by acclaimed Aboriginal actor and theater director Wayne Blair, stars funnyman Chris O’Dowd (BRIDESMAIDS, FRIENDS WITH KIDS), Deborah Mailman (RADIANCE, OFFSPRING), who was the first Aboriginal actress to win the AFI Award for Best Actress, Jessica Mauboy (BRAN NUE DAE), an Australian pop artist who was the runner-up on Australian Idol in 2006 and breakout stars Shari Sebbens and Miranda Tapsell. The screenplay was written by Aboriginal playwright Tony Briggs, whose mother and family members were part of The Sapphires group, and Keith Thompson. Warwick Thornton, previous winner of the Camera d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for SAMSON AND DELILAH, is the film’s Director of Photography. The announcement was made today by TWC Co-Chairman Harvey Weinstein, COO David Glasser, and Co-SVPs of Acquisitions Negeen Yazdi and Dan Guando.

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Cannes Adds To Fest Line-Up: ‘Maniac’ Reboot, Singing ‘Sapphires’

As expected, the Cannes Film Festival has added a series of titles to the official selection. Two new midnight screenings are in the mix: Wayne Blair’s Australian film The Sapphires, starring Chris O’Dowd and Maniac, Frank Khalfoun’s reboot of the cult serial killer movie starring Elijah Wood. Candida Brady’s Trashed has been added as a special screening. The British film is a documentary about wastefulness. And, in Un Certain Regard, the fest has included Aida Begic’s Djeca from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Adam Leon’s buddy caper Gimme The Loot and Gilles Bourdos’ Renoir. The latter film, about the relationship between Auguste and Jean Renoir and a woman they both see as a muse, will close the UCR section. Final Cut by Hungary’s György Pálfi will close the Cannes Classics section.

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