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Specialty Box Office: ‘Stoker’ Stellar, ‘War Witch’ Modest, ‘Leviathan’ Solid In Debuts

By | Sunday March 3, 2013 @ 11:10am PST

Brian Brooks is a Deadline contributor.

Indie Films

Fox Searchlight’s Stoker just may bring some fresh air into a specialty field that’s been monopolized in 2013 on the money side by two titles, Quartet and Amour. Park Chan-wook’s Nicole Kidman starrer averaged $22,500 in 7 runs. For comparisons, Amour opened in 3 theaters as well, averaging $22,755 (a Christmas period release) while Quartet bowed January 11 in two theaters with a $23,561 average. Both have continued solid runs. This weekend also has a number of other newcomers, including Oscar-nominated War Witch. That film, which won awards at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival and was picked up by the festival’s distribution wing Tribeca Film, grossed $10,260 for a $5,130 average. It’s a terrific film, and hopefully word of mouth will carry it further, but its bow is modest. Two other newcomers beat War Witch out in terms of PTA although they were single showings. Cinema Guild’s Leviathan took in just over $10K, while International Film Circuit’s Hava Nagila grossed $9,521.

But it was a Stoker weekend in the limited release arena following the climax of the long, long awards season. Korean director Park Chan-wook found a loyal following in the U.S. with titles Old Boy and I’m A Cyborg, But That’s OK, and Stoker is his first English-language outing. Starring Kidman, Matthew Goode, Mia Wasikowska, and Oscar nominee Jackie Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook), the feature will add a dozen or so theaters in its current markets next week.

Canadian filmmaker Kim Nguyen’s Foreign-Language Oscar nominee War Witch will head to LA next weekend before expanding to 30-plus markets later this month and into April (in addition to VOD). Fellow newcomer A Place At The Table did not fare so well in its bow despite some foodie and Hollywood star power. The doc took in $84K for a $2,400 average, although distributor Magnolia did put the title in 35 theaters. The film, which exposes the crisis of hunger in America featured Jeff Bridges and Tom Colicchio with the backing of Participant Media. Magnolia and Participant worked together on doc Food Inc., which opened in June 2009 in 3 theaters, averaging $20,171 in its opening weekend. Table may find its legs in the coming weeks, although hunger may be a tough sell. At this weekend’s doc-focused True/False Film Festival, one industry insider noted about the challenges Table faced compared to Food, Inc: “It’s about people who are marginalized and are poor vs. foodies with cash facing down the vagaries of the food industry.”

The True/False Fest is also screening two specialty holdovers this weekend in Columbia, Mo which are holding their own in the overall market. Sony Pictures Classics’ foreign-language Oscar-nominee No added 5 locations in its third weekend, averaging a positive $10,013, while fellow SPC release The Gatekeepers added 27 theaters, averaging $5,549. Last weekend it averaged $8,084 in 19 locations.


A Place At The Table (Magnolia Pictures) NEW [35 Theaters] Weekend $84K, Average $2,400

The End Of Love (Variance) NEW [2 Theaters] Weekend $2,400, Average $1,200

Hava Nagila (The Movie) (International Film Circuit) [1 Theater] Weekend $9,521

Leviathan (Cinema Guild) NEW [1 Theater] Weekend $10,018

Stoker (Fox Searchlight) NEW [7 Theaters] Weekend $158K, Average $22,500

War Witch (Tribeca Film) NEW [2 Theaters] Weekend $10,260, Average $5,130

Welcome To Pine Hill (Oscilloscope) NEW [1 Theater] Weekend $4K
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Specialty Preview: ‘Stoker’, ‘War Witch’, ‘A Place At The Table’, ‘Genius On Hold’, ‘The End Of Love’

By | Thursday February 28, 2013 @ 9:06pm PST

Brian Brooks is a Deadline contributor.

The first weekend after Oscars brings a variety of specialty films making their U.S. theatrical debuts. South Korean auteur Park Chan-wook‘s first English-language thriller Stoker, starring Nicole Kidman, hopes to lure Park fans and new converts, while Tribeca Film hopes to draw audiences for its award winning and Oscar-nominated film War Witch. Celebrity chef Tom Colicchio and Jeff Bridges are just two of the marquee names behind hunger documentary A Place At The Table, which Magnolia Pictures rolls out Friday. Fellow doc Genius On Hold looks at a troubled father-son relationship (one a telecommunications genius, the other a jewel thief) in what may be a precursor to a bigger narrative feature down the road. Variance Films also taps the father-son relationship in the drama The End Of Love.

Director: Park Chan-wook
Writers: Wentworth Miller, Erin Cressida Wilson
Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode
Distributor: Fox Searchlight

Wentworth Miller penned the screenplay for Stoker under a pseudonym, which eventually made its way to producer Michael Costigan and his colleagues. The story centers on India, whose mysterious Uncle Charlie comes to live with her and her unstable mother following the death of her father. India suspects that her charming uncle has ulterior motives although she also becomes increasingly infatuated with him. “We wondered whether [Park Chan-wook] would read Hollywood scripts as did Searchlight,” Costigan said of the Korean-based filmmaker. “So we thought, ‘let’s give it a shot’. Fortunately his group in the U.S. liked it and he wanted to talk about it. And not only did he want to talk, he started pitching ideas.” Read More »

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Global Showbiz Briefs: Oscar Nominees ‘War Witch’ & ‘Buzkashi Boys’ In LA, New 007 Novel, French Critics ♥ ‘Amour’, & More

By | Wednesday February 20, 2013 @ 11:24pm PST

‘War Witch’ Actress Granted Visa For Oscars
Rachel Mwanza, who won best actress prizes in Berlin and Tribeca last year for her lead performance in War Witch, has been granted a visa to travel from Congo to North America in order to attend the Oscars on Sunday and other awards shows. War Witch is nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. Mwanza was a non-pro when she was discovered living on the streets of Kinshasa and was cast in the movie about a 12-year-old girl who is kidnapped by African rebels, forced to kill her parents at gunpoint and then fight as a child soldier against the government. According to Tribeca Film, which acquired War Witch for North America, the filmmakers continue to provide her with a caregiver and oversee her education. The film is directed by Kim Nguyen is also nominated as Best International Film at Saturday’s Independent Spirit Awards, has 12 nominations for Canadian Screen Awards on March 3 and 9 nominations for Québec’s Jutras on March 17. Tribeca is platforming the film starting March 1 in New York, then March 8 in Los Angeles and in select cities thereafter. It will be available VOD from February 26.

Afghan ‘Buzkashi Boys’ Arrive In LA For Oscars
After an Internet campaign raised money for expenses and Turkish Air Lines donated tickets for them and a shaperone, the two teenage stars of the Oscar-nominated short film from Afghanistan arrived in Los Angeles today. The 28-minute film is the first to be produced by the Afghan Film Project, a non-profit that aims to train filmmakers in Afghanistan. It focuses on two children growing up in Kabul who dream of becoming Buzkashi riders, horsemen who compete in the dangerous Afghan national sport similar to polo in which riders try to carry a headless goat across a goal line. The film earned U.S. director Sam French a nomination for Best Live Action Short Film. Producers said they launched the campaign because they lacked a travel budget for Fawad Mohammadi and Jawanmard Paiz, who will attend the Oscars Sunday night. Read More »

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Hot Featurette: Best Foreign Language Film Oscar Nominee ‘War Witch’

By | Friday February 15, 2013 @ 9:55am PST
Pete Hammond

EXCLUSIVE: Although Amour, which is also one of the rare Foreign Language nominees also to be simultaneously nominated for Best Picture, is a heavy betting favorite to be named this year’s Best Foreign Language Film, the field is a rich one with the final five coming from a record 71 entries from around the world. Norway’s Kon-Tiki, Chile’s first-ever nominee No, Denmark’s A Royal Affair and Canada’s War Witch also provide for a varied and exciting blend of some of the best international cinema 2012 had to offer. Standing out as perhaps the most unique entry is War Witch because there is hardly anything on the surface that is obviously Canadian about it. From Quebec-based director Kim Nguyen, it tells the story of a young 12-year-old girl who is kidnapped by African rebels, forced to kill her parents at gunpoint and then fight as a child soldier against the government. With an extraordinary central performance  by Rachel  Mwanza that won her the Silver Bear for Best Actress at the 62nd Berlin Film Festival, the film will open in NY on March 1st through Tribeca Films and expand after that. First, it is going to the Oscars. Here’s an exclusive featurette.

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OSCARS: Foreign Language Nominees Linked By Intensely Personal Narratives

By | Wednesday February 13, 2013 @ 8:00pm PST

David Mermelstein is an AwardsLine contributor

If one thing links all five of this year’s nominees for the foreign film Oscar, it’s that the director of each picture was driven to make his movie because of strong, deeply personal feelings. These five films — a varied batch if ever there was one — have nothing in common in terms of where and when they are set, but they all deal, unapologetically, with powerful emotions. And those feelings are expressed not only by the characters in these films but also by their creators.

Perhaps the most obviously personal is Michael Haneke’s Amour, which achieved the rare feat of earning best picture and director noms, as well. The film has been cited for, among other things, its unblinking look at the degradations inflicted by illness on an aged couple. The German-born writer-director says that his recollections of a beloved aunt’s increasing infirmity inspired him to make the film. “I was forced to look on as someone very close to me suffered, someone for whom I cared very much”, he says, noting that the specifics of his aunt’s condition were not replicated in the movie. “What’s shown in the film is the product of lengthy research and my imagination”.

Yet one especially chilling aspect of his aunt’s situation — her asking him to assist in her suicide — was strongly echoed in the film. “Of course I had to tell her I was unable to do it”, Haneke recalls, “because I would have been put in jail if I had done it. I was grateful for that alibi, for I don’t know if I would have had the strength to do it otherwise. But she did it anyway, without my help”.

RELATED: Does ‘Amour’ Have A Shot To Make Academy History?

Asked whether he himself — now age 70 — worries about a fate similar to that faced by the principal characters in Amour (portrayed with uncanny and moving effect by octogenarians Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, who earned a best actress nomination for the role), Haneke responds wryly and invokes another, very different, master filmmaker. “Billy Wilder was asked a similar question”, Haneke says, “and he responded by saying that the bombardments, so to speak, are coming ever closer”.  Read More »

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Tribeca Film Acquires ‘War Witch’

By | Wednesday June 13, 2012 @ 9:17am PDT
Mike Fleming

Tribeca Film bought U.S. rights to War Witch, a film shot in the Congo that won Best Actress for its star Rachel Mwanza at the Tribeca Film Festival, and the same award at Berlin. The Kim Nguyen-directed film tells the story of a young girl who’s kidnapped by African rebels at age 12, is forced at gunpoint to murder her parents and fight as a child soldier. An ability to see ghosts that warn her of approaching enemies, she is called War Witch by the leader of the rebels, but her challenge is to escape her fate and resolve her brutality of her past. A multi-platform release is planned for 2013.

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Cannes Roundup: ‘War Witch’, ‘Ill Manors,’ ‘Yossi’, ‘Mystery Road’, John Boorman Doc

By | Wednesday May 9, 2012 @ 10:38pm PDT

Films Distribution heading into Cannes tells Deadline it is in full-blown negotiations for the U.S. on War Witch, which is Kim Nguyen’s Tribeca winner. The label’s co-founder Nicolas Brigaud-Robert also tells Deadline the company is on track to close the U.S. on Israeli drama Yossi. It has international sales on Maddened By His Absence (which has a special screening in Critics’ Week), 30 Beats (though Lionsgate has U.S.), and SXSW Midnighter Audience Award winner Citadel (Cinedigm and New Video have U.S. rights).

Bankside Films has taken worldwide sales rights to iLL MANORS, the directorial debut of British rapper Ben Drew who’s better known as Plan B. Revolver is releasing in the UK on June 6. The film was developed through Film London Microwave, a scheme set up in partnership with BBC Films and with support from Skillset to develop emerging London talent.

Arclight Films has boarded writer-director Ivan Sen’s Mystery Road. The $A2 million pic was financed by Screen Australia, Screen Queensland, and the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Arclight has world sales rights outside Australia/NZ where the film will be released by a new distributor, Michael Wrenn’s Management of Doubt. Sen is the vanguard of a group of Aboriginal filmmakers who are making distinctive films. Read More »

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2012 Tribeca Festival Honors ‘War Witch’, ‘Una Noche’ Actors, Director

By | Thursday April 26, 2012 @ 5:12pm PDT
Mike Fleming

[April 26, 2012 – New York, NY] – The 11th annual Tribeca Film Festival, co-founded by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff, and presented by founding sponsor American Express, announced the winners of its competition categories tonight at a ceremony hosted at the Conrad New York in New York City. The Festival runs through April 29, 2012.

Following are the winners, awards and details on the jury who selected the recipients:


The jurors for the 2012 World Narrative Competition were Patricia Clarkson, Dakota Fanning, Mike Newell, Lisa Schwarzbaum, Jim Sheridan, and Irwin Winkler.

· The Founders Award for Best Narrative Feature – War Witch, directed by Kim Nguyen (Canada). Winner receives $25,000 and the art award “The Wrinkles of The City, Los Angeles, Carl revealed on wood, 2011” by JR. Sponsored by AKA. The award was given by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Larry Korman, President of AKA.

Jury Comments: “This indelible character study of a girl who becomes a woman before our eyes in the midst of harrowing war gives words to the unspeakable. Riveting, heartbreaking, vivid, and eloquent, the movie balances scenes of crazy enemy hatred with moments of luminous private love.”

Best Actor in a Narrative Feature Film – Dariel Arrechada and Javier Nuñez Florian as Raul and Elio in Una Noche, directed by Lucy Mulloy (UK, Cuba, USA). Winners split $2,500. The award was given by Patricia Clarkson.

Jury Comments: “We give the award for Best Actor in a Narrative Feature to Dariel Arrechada and to Javier Nuñez Florian in Una Noche, for potent individual performances that together are even greater than the sum of their parts. Playing Raul and Elio, young Cuban men who goad each other on in a dream of fleeing Havana for a fantasy of Miami, Dariel locates Raul’s danger and sexual power as precisely as Javier taps into Elio’s essential sweetness. Both young actors are nonprofessionals who took great risks to tell a daring story. Each won our hearts.”

Best Actress in a Narrative Feature Film – Rachel Mwanza as Komona in War Witch, directed by Kim Nguyen (Canada). Winner receives $2,500. The award was given by Jim Sheridan.

Jury Comments: “A nonprofessional actress, this remarkable young woman—barely a teenager when the movie was shot—so fully inhabits her role that there are no borders to her stunning performance, no distance at all between the actress and the unforgettable character Komona.”

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