Studio brass wowed theater owners this week with Maverick: Top Gun, Avatar: The Way of the Water and Spider-Man: Through the Spider-Verse among other tent poles. But they were also clear at the just-concluded CinemaCon that a resurgent box office requires a wide array of content.
“If we reduce what we bring to theaters, our audience will decrease,” said Jim Orr, head of theatrical distribution for Universal Pictures. “We need an industry that creates and impacts culture every weekend [with] personal stories, original ideas,” he said — a sentiment that resonated throughout the four-day conference in Las Vegas.
Universal, short of superheroes, has a lot of traction with Jurassic World Dominion, Minions: The Rise of Gru and Halloween ends and movies like She says and Nope. Its specialist distributor, Focus Features, has promised to win back elusive old demos with Downton Abbey: A New Eraand presented a slate including Mrs. Harris goes to Paris, Armageddon time and Tar. Focus distribution chief Lisa Bunnell has pledged to produce 15 films a year and continue to “champion emerging filmmakers with unique voices that need to be heard” – a critical role that Focus distributors and specialty/arthouse play in the wider ecosystem.
Neon Casting Manager Elissa Federoff Unveiled David Bowie’s Spectacular Documentary Lunar Reverie, by David Cronenberg Future Crimes and the documentary fire of love. “We are an ecosystem that survives on the success of our peers,” Federoff said.
Are the art and essay demos generally ready to return to the cinema? The consensus was, yes, with a relatively steady stream of interesting products.
Here are the novelties of this specialized weekend:
Magnolia Pictures presents Anais in love. The French comedy directed by Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet and with Anais Demoustier and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi starred at Cannes 2021. Deadline notice here. It follows the fiery and romantic thirty-year-old Anaïs (Demoustier) in a maniacal search for stability. Late on her rent, considering breaking up with her boyfriend, and struggling to finish her thesis, Anaïs is looking for insigh while hurtling through lovers. When her affair with an older book publisher, Daniel (Denis Podalydès), causes her to fall in love with his life…in partner Emilie (Tedeschi), a brilliant and luminescent novelist, things get particularly messy. In 50 rooms.
Utopia presents Gaspar Noé’s Vortex, hailing from Cannes and the New York Film Festival. Deadline review here. It opens today at the IFC Center in New York and, according to Utopia, has an estimated weekend opening of around $15,000 beginning Friday. (The sold-out Thursday previews yesterday were driven by a young cinephile audience that Utopia has connected to on recent releases like Shiva baby, we’re all going to the world’s fair and The scary sixty-first.) The meditative split-screen psychological drama about an elderly couple stars legendary filmmaker Dario Argento in a rare on-screen acting role, Françoise LeBrun and Alex Lutz. It is expanding to select theaters including Regal, AMC, Alamo and Landmark, as well as art houses nationwide through May and June.
In the Horror of Hanna Bergholm outbreak, Presented by IFC Midnight, 12-year-old gymnast Tinja (Solalinna) is desperate to please her image-obsessed mother (Sophia Heikkilä), whose popular blog “Lovely Everyday Life” presents their family’s idyllic existence as manicured suburban perfection. One day, after finding an injured bird in in the woods, Tinja brings her strange egg home, snuggles it in its bed and nurtures it until it hatches. The creature that emerges becomes her closest friend and a living nightmare. From Sundance.
Gkids presents Pompo the movie buff by Takayuki Hirao. Pompo, a film producer, has shot one B-grade entertainment movie after another. When an assistant spots a script and is moved by the story, she tells him to direct it. On 88 screens this weekend after fan events in over 700.
Flint from Anthony Baxter’s Cargo Film & Releasing. A look at arguably the worst man-made poisoning in American history. The film comes out exactly eight years after the tragedy began in Flint, MI. Baxter was Michigan’s first town filmmaker in 2015 before the water disaster and the last to leave. He returned this year to speak with residents and healthcare professionals who first exposed the devastating impact of a cost-cutting measure to switch Flint’s water supply from Lake Huron to a locally contaminated river. With Mark Ruffalo. Reported by Alec Baldwin.
Cohen Media presents The will to see in four cinemas: the Quad in New York and Landmark in LA, DC and SF. Philosopher/filmmaker/journalist Bernard-Henri Lévy and co-director Marc Roussel examine humanitarian crises around the world. Lévy will be visiting all markets for Q&A to support the film and talk about the current crisis in Ukraine. CMG has partnered with Ukrainian non-profit organization Razom at screenings to help raise funds for war relief in Ukraine.
Zeitgeist Films Presents Daniel Raim The Fiddler’s Journey to the Big Screen narrated by Jeff Goldlum at the Angelika Film Center in New York, expanding to LA (Laemmle’s Royal and Laemmle’s Town Center 5 and Playhouse 7) next weekend and other markets thereafter. Raim captures the humor and drama of director Norman Jewison’s quest to recreate the lost world of Jewish life in Tsarist Russia and reimagine the beloved stage success as a big-screen epic – which turned 50 last fall. Featuring behind-the-scenes footage and original interviews with director, cast, composer John Williams, production designer Robert F. Boyle and lyricist Sheldon Harnick.
Opening of Greenwich Entertainment Hello Bookstore at the Film Forum/NYC, expanding from there including LA on May 13. A portrait of a longtime beloved bookseller in Lenox, MA. who turns to crowdfunding to stay in business and is overwhelmed by the response. Greenwich promotes the doc to independent bookstores.