A handful of smaller films will begin to test audience enthusiasm for theaters without big tent poles. It’s been a rocky summer for special releases, and an uphill climb as arthouses emerge from the Covid tremors with franchise films sucking up oxygen and screens. But superheroes take a break.
“There’s not huge competition from tent poles,” said Howard Cohen, co-president of Roadside Attractions. “Overall, it’s good. Of course, if you have Top Gun, it sucks the air out of the marketplace. It is still better – for the niche market – to have three or four indies than one huge release. Exhibitors are nervous about the sudden lack of new wide releases this month and next, but they’ve also called for more box office breadth. (“We can’t just live off dinner. We also need breakfast and lunch,” Marcus CEO Greg Marcus told Deadline recently.)
“We’ve seen signs of life in our sector,” Cohen said. Recent strong performances: A24’s blowout Everything everywhere at once ($70M US), its Marcel Skallen with shoes on ($5.1M), Focus Features’ Mrs. Harris goes to Paris ($8.4 million). A24p Body Body Body cleaned up on six screens last weekend (now $300+K) and expands to over 1,200 locations. RRR ($11.2M) was a crossover hit.
But plenty of others “came and went,” noted another distributor. “Who knows?”
Cohen’s Roadside and Vertical Entertainment open thriller starring Aubrey Plaza Emily the criminal in 473 cinemas. “I’m really optimistic. It’s a great star turn by a beloved actress from TV and indie films,” he said. It skews younger than a lot of Roadside movies. Younger demos are back in force.
Plaza plays Emily, a former art student crushed by college loans and locked out of the job market because of a minor criminal record. Desperate, she takes a shady gig as a “dummy shopper,” buying goods with stolen credit cards supplied by a handsome middleman named Youcef (Theo Rossi). Seduced by the fast cash and illicit thrills of black market capitalism and increasingly drawn to Youcef, they take their business to the next level. Written and directed by John Patton Ford. Also starring Megalyn Echikunwoke, Gina Gershon. (It’s Mubi’s pick of the week, which never hurts.) Deadline review here.
Specialty plus: Lionsgate’s Fall opens 1,548 locations. Directed by Scott Mann. Written by Mann and Jonathan Frank. It’s on track to open in the $1.5 million range, according to sources, and cost an estimated $3 million. Best friends Becky (Grace Caroline Currey) and Hunter (Virginia Gardner) love to push their limits. They are stranded after climbing 2,000 feet to the top of a remote, abandoned radio tower with no way down, putting their expert climbing skills to the ultimate test. With Mason Gooding and Jeffrey Dean Morgan.
Fall is also the first test run for director Mann’s AI company Flawless, which took an R-rated movie and used its “vubbing” TrueSync technology to tone down profanity and turn it into a PG-13 movie without reshooting.
Bleecker Street opens James Pondsoldt’s Summary on 259 screens. Featuring, in billing order, Lia Barnett, Lake Bell, Sarah Cooper, Ashley Madekwe, Madalen Mills, Megan Mullally, Eden Grace Redfield, Sanai Victoria. Four best friends face the uncertainty of growing up and the discovery of a dead body in the last summer days before starting junior high school. A kind of Stand by me with a fantastic young cast was shot in Utah, debuted at Sundance and has had a strong festival run since. It targets Millennial and Gen X mothers and their children. Deadline review here.
GKIDS opens Masaaki Yuasa’s animated feature Inu-Oh around 350 locations. The film follows the titular Inu-Oh, the legendary 14th-century Noh artist born with unique physical characteristics that cause horrified adults to cover his body with clothing, including a mask. He meets Tomona, a blind biwa player, and discovers an incredible ability to dance. They become business partners and inseparable friends, surviving on the fringes of society while song after song brings them fame and propels them to stardom.
Well Go USA presents Han Jae-rim’s Korean hit Emergency declaration on 42 screens. Investigating a terrorist threat that goes viral online, Korean authorities discover that a suspect has recently boarded an international flight bound for the United States. When a healthy passenger on the same flight suddenly dies a gruesome death of unknown cause, panic breaks out both during the flight and on the plane. land. Starring Song Kang-ho (Parasite), Lee Byung-hun (Squid Game, GI Joe), Jeon Do-yeon (The maid, secret sunshine), Kim Nam-gil (Those who read the hearts of evil), Kim So-jin (The king), Im Si-wan (Drive on, Misaeng). Screened at Cannes out of competition in 2021.
Mubi presents Sundance documentary Free Chol Soo Lee, the 20-year-old Korean immigrant accused of a gang-related murder in San Francisco’s Chinatown in 1973 and wrongfully imprisoned, inspiring a pan-Asian American social justice movement to free him. Directors Julie Ha and Eugene Yi excavate this largely unknown but essential story five decades later with a portrait of the complex man at its center. Premiering in NYC at the IFC Center today, it will be released to over 150 theaters nationwide beginning August 17th, the week of Chol Soo Lee’s 70th birthday.
Greenwich Entertainment presents We are like gods, David Alvarado and Jason Sussberg’s documentary about Stewart Brand. (“We’re like gods and might as well get good at it,” Brand wrote in 1968.) The Zelig-like pioneer of LSD, modern environmentalism, cyberspace and futurism calls on people to use their god-like powers to fight extinction by reviving lost species, but his former allies in the environmental movement promise to stand in his way. Opens at Roxie in SF and Smith Rafael Film Center (Marin). Los Angeles theatrical release premiering at Laemmle Monica Film Center September 2nd. On demand September 6.
IFC Films presents Rogue agent by Declan Lawn & Adam Patterson on nine screens. Written by Michael Bronner. Starring Gemma Arterton, Sarah Goldberg, James Norton. The terrifying story of career con artist Robert Freegard (Norton) and Gemma Arterton (Archer), the woman who brought him down. On nine screens and AMC+ Deadline review here.
Beach Releases gifts Girl picture, in NY, LA, Seattle, San Francisco and Chicago, expansion to follow. By the Finnish director Alli Haapasalo. Questions and answers Fri./Sat. at IFC. Starring Aamu Milonoff, Linnea Leino and Eleonoora as three young women whose lives take new directions when they meet. Sundance Audience Award in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition.
Juno Films opens Antonio Tibaldi’s We are living things with Jorge Antonio Guerrero (Roma) and Xingchen Lyu at Quad Cinema ahead of a national rollout. After a chance meeting, two undocumented residents discover that they are both in search of intelligent life in the universe. Solomon (Guerrero) lives in the back of a recycling facility in Brooklyn, obsessed with connecting with aliens who he believes abducted his mother years before. Chuyao (Lyu), who fled China, believes she was abducted as a child. When Solomon discovers that Chuyao is controlled by a brutal pimp, he takes drastic action.