News & Updates
August 18, 2019
Two wide releases from top directors with appeal to adult audiences are specialty films, even if their distributors opted to open them in over 2,000 theaters. Warner Bros. had strong reasons for wide-releasing New Line Cinema’s Bruce Springsteen-infused Sundance pickup “Blinded By the Light” this weekend, as did United Artists with Annapurna’s long-delayed Cate Blanchett vehicle “Where’d You Go, Bernadette.”
The question is how to find audiences for these films, as studios and indies alike wrestle with deeply rooted issues in today’s theatrical market. Even Sony Pictures Classics, which has pivoted to documentaries, found a weak initial arthouse audience for fast-frame-rate “Aquarela,” despite top-end reviews and theaters.
In wider release, “The Farewell” (A24) continues to add to its impressive totals. So does Roadside Attractions’ crowdpleasing “The Peanut Butter Falcon,” which showed a strong second weekend with non-specialized audiences as a key element.
Blinded By the Light (Warner Bros.) Metacritic: 71; Festivals include: Sundance, Seattle 2019
$4,450,000 in theaters; PTA: $1,929
Where’d You Go, Bernadette (United Artists) Metacritic: 51$3,450,000 in 2,404 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $1,438
The comparative initial response to two top-end independent films from acclaimed and successful directors is revealing. There are significant differences, as the Saturday gross for Gurinder Chadha’s “Blinded By the Light” (Warner Bros.) shows initial strong growth. Richard Linklater’s “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” (United Artists) also showed an unusual second-day increase, fueled in both cases by older audiences (who are far less likely to attend Thursday early shows).
Many observers question why these specialty-audience films opened so wide. This question came up earlier this summer when Annapurna’s “Booksmart” took that route and opened to $6.9 million. But the following week, “Late Night,” with bigger stars and a $15-million Amazon Sundance buy, had built even more anticipation than “Booksmart,” and went from a four-theater platform with a strong $61,000 PTA to a lesser initial wide result of $5.3 million. And SXSW-launched “Booksmart,” without a name cast, ultimately grossed more than $22 million, almost $7 million more than “Late Night.”
Neither “Late Night” nor “Booksmart” will likely turn a profit. With “Late Night” Amazon has a branded streaming title, while the $6 million “Book Smart” cost less.
“Blinded” and “Bernadette” both represent significant investments for their companies. New Line bought the period British-set Springsteen-themed crowdpleaser from the director of “Bend It Like Beckham” (which tallied an adjusted domestic gross close to $50 million in 2003), for around $15 million after a great Sundance response (for the world, except the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand). “Blinded” seemed to have potential, but as “Late Night” showed, even a great platform run doesn’t guarantee success. The film scored a respectable but not stellar 71 on Metacritic, brought down by a harshly negative New York Times review, which hurt the movie where it should have been strongest.
Universal took wide another similar movie from a top director with great success earlier this summer: Danny Boyle’s “Yesterday,” also set in England and featuring a young Anglo-Asian lead riffing on popular retro music, scored a surprise $75 million domestic.
Presumably, the Beatles bring wider appeal than Springsteen. But when New Line spends $15 million on a mainstream movie intended to hit audiences all over the country, staggering initial dates can be risky while adding to the marketing total.
The Saturday increase is an encouraging sign of upbeat word of mouth. With the mid-August release date, room to run, and a likely 100% theater hold on week two, “Blinded” could reach $20 million-$25 million ahead. That’s still disappointing, but the strategy will be justified if it gets there. Slow rollouts are risky when audiences not only have access to so much content, but “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” also dominates adult moviegoers.
What comes next: Next weekend will be crucial for “Blinded,” with the possibility that it holds well and then finds enough response to maximize the gross and add to its post-theater value.
Initially, “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” boasted better grosses than “Blinded.” But the film based on the Maria Semple bestseller fell short of the top 10 with a weaker Saturday. Richard Linklater swings both toward studio fare (“School of Rock,” “The Bad News Bears”) and specialty films (“Boyhood,” “Last Flag Flying”). Throw in Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett as a brilliant but blocked designer stymied by parenthood, and the film could warrant a slow rollout.
But Annapurna (who hire and trust top talent) delayed the release several times, and when the movie finally opened (without festival support), “Bernadette” garnered tepid critical response. Not a formula for success. With its reported $18 million initial cost, going limited would have made no sense. A distributor at that point needs to get it open, take its chances, and try to realize as high a gross as possible, even if it’s disappointing.
What comes next: “Bernadette” likely will fare far less well; unless it holds better than expected, it could quickly disappear.
Sony Pictures Classics
Aquarela (Sony Pictures Classics) Metacritic: 84; Festivals include: South by Southwest 2018, Venice 2018, Sundance 2019
$23,474 in 5 theaters; PTA: $4,693
Despite the recent success of several documentaries (often celebrity-related), some acclaimed efforts struggle to find interest. That’s the case with this strongly reviewed, visually stunning study of water and its power, which failed to connect with initial New York/Los Angeles audiences. This had the benefit of playing at some of the best available theaters in both cities, making the result more disappointing. The film comes from Participant Media, a frequent high-end non-fiction film provider. The film’s promotional materials include the line “the ultimate theatrical experience” which should set this apart from other releases, but not so far. It’s odd that SPC did not do more to make an event around the film’s fast-frame-rate presentation in New York’s Landmark at 57 West (the only theater showing the film at 96 frames per second) and other more numerous 48 frame-per-second formats.
What comes next: Word of mouth along with SPC’s usual ability to attain top theaters everywhere could help boost this above its weak initial reaction.
End of the Century (Cinema Guild) Metacritic: 84; Festivals include: New Directors/New Films, Frameline 2019
$10,398 in 1 theater; PTA: $10,398
This Argentine drama about two men who unexpectedly reconnect 20 years after their initial encounter had a strong initial response at New York’s IFC Center. The film, propelled by strong reviews, had an above average initial result for a subtitled film of late.
What comes next: This will have a slow expansion, with Los Angeles opening mid-September (Landmark is showing the film in multiple theaters among upcoming dates).
Seth Johnson, Courtesy of Roadside Attractions and Armory Films
The Peanut Butter Falcon (Roadside Attractions)
$294,090 in 49 theaters (+32); PTA: $6,002; Cumulative: $589,915
Roadside continues to include heartland theaters early in this movie’s run. This story of a 22-year-old special needs man who pursues his dream of wrestling success continues to show interest and word of mouth appeal outside normal specialized theaters. The careful handling so far is paying off. This well-selected date allows room for the drama to grow and could yield a sleeper success.
After the Wedding (Sony Pictures Classics)
$86,957 in 26 theaters (+21); PTA: $3,345; Cumulative: $159,378
Bart Freundlich’s gender-switching remake of Susanne Bier’s earlier Danish arthouse comedy about a family reunion gone bad showed a modest second weekend expansion. Starring Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams, the movie continues to deal with mixed reviews. The comparative gross falls well below the second weekend of “The White Crow,” SPC’s best grossing narrative release so far this year.
One Child Nation (Amazon)
$49,569 in 19 theaters (+17); PTA: $2,609; Cumulative: $79,367
Despite continued great reviews as the standout documentary opens in new cities, this expose of China’s draconian population control policy is drawing only modest response in its initial big city theaters.
Ongoing/expanding (Grosses over $50,000)
The Farewell (A24) Week 6
$1,502,000 in 861 theaters (+157); Cumulative: $12,838,000
Still expanding, Lulu Wang’s return-to-China dramedy continues to pull added interest. The results per theater as well as the total gross are dropping, but the trajectory for the total is now headed to over $16 million. This year, that number is terrific for any specialized/festival world title, but even more so for a primarily non-English language one.
Maiden (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 8
$186,319 in 154 theaters (-19); Cumulative: $2,259,000
Off its peak in terms of number of theaters, this rousing documentary about women sailors circumnavigating the globe continues to find interest. It could end up at $3 million or better. It is SPC’s top grosser this year.
Luce (Neon) Week 3
$163,965 in 58 theaters (+34); Cumulative: $530,402
With Octavia Spencer and Naomi Watts giving this interracial adoption drama some added heft, Neon is expanding this drama slowly with hope that word of mouth will boost it ahead of wider dates. At the same third weekend point, it is grossing somewhat less than their recent “Wild Rose” at a similar number of theaters.
Tel Aviv on Fire (Cohen) Week 3
$60,566 in 30 theaters (+2); Cumulative: $234,586
As usual, Israeli films (this one, a comedy about a Palestinian who becomes a successful local TV writer) find interest more easily than many subtitled films. Further play ahead is likely, particularly with the film holding well in ongoing theaters.
Honeyland (Neon) Week 4
$56,997 in 32 theaters (+20); Cumulative: $211,721
The slow expansion of this highly regarded non-fiction account about different cultures among Macedonian beekeepers continues to show steady interest.
Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am (Magnolia) Week 9
$(est.) 56,000 in 58 theaters (+11); Cumulative: $(est.) 727,000
Though this documentary hasn’t had anything like the response that Magnolia’s “I Am Not Your Negro” (a similar look at a literary-figure), the death of Toni Morrison led to some continued interest in this well-reviewed film.
David Crosby: Remember My Name (Sony Pictures Classics) – $45,492 in theaters; Cumulative: $385,946
The Nightingale (IFC) – $45,409 in 39 theaters; Cumulative: $184,257
Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love (Roadside Attractions) – $40,502 in 65 theaters; Cumulative: $860,500
Last Black Man in San Francisco (A24) – $37,490 in 29 theaters; Cumulative: $4,486,000
Jay Myself (Oscilloscope) – $13,550 in 2 theaters; Cumulative: $71,579
Echo in the Canyon (Greenwich) – $29,325 in 35 theaters; Cumulative: $3,250,000
The Biggest Little Farm (Neon) – $17,370 in 27 theaters; Cumulative: $4,340,000
Wild Rose (Neon) – $13,893 in 17 theaters; Cumulative: $1,615,000
Jay Myself (Oscilloscope) ) – $13,550 in 2 theaters; Cumulative: $71,579
Sword of Trust (IFC) – $12,633 in 20 theaters; Cumulative: $317,512
Source: IndieWire film
August 17, 2019
With the Toronto International Film Festival’s 2019 edition unspooling September 5 through September 15, IndieWire has compiled all of the film acquisitions out of the fest so far. Check back for updates as the festival unfolds.
Look for the upcoming awards season’s major Oscar players to bow in Toronto, including the world premiere of “The Goldfinch,” the Safdie Brothers’ “Uncut Gems,” the Mr. Rogers film “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” Sundance winner “Clemency,” and many more. There are also gems to be found across the Discovery, Platform, Midnight Madness, and Contemporary World Cinema programs, as well as highly anticipated auteur works in the Masters sidebar, including new films from Terrence Malick, Bertrand Bonello, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Marco Bellocchio, Ken Loach, and Roy Andersson, among others.
IndieWire will be on the ground covering the festival to keep you up-to-date with reviews, interviews, features, and more news.
“Blow the Man Down”
Buyer: Amazon Studios
Section: Contemporary World Cinema
In Danielle Krudy and Bridget Savage Cole’s seaside noir “Blow the Man Down,” two sisters in a small Maine fishing village try to disguise a violent crime while evading the imperious proprietor of a local brothel, played by Margo Martindale.
Buyer: Warner Bros.
Section: Gala Presentations
Co-directed by Thom Zimny and Bruce Springsteen (in his filmmaking debut), the project is reportedly a concert film with some added riffs, all spinning off the new eponymous record from The Boss released earlier this year.
Source: IndieWire film
August 17, 2019
It was our first day of shooting on “The Ballad of Lefty Brown.” The sun had just dipped behind the mountains. As darkness descended, we raced to get our final shot. Despite the rush, the crew was buzzing with excitement. I wish I could say it was because of stunning image or a powerful moment of performance. No. Word had spread that Peter Fonda had landed in Montana.
I can’t think of another actor who occupies such a unique space in the history of cinema. On the one hand, Peter is a counterculture icon. Half of “Easy Rider.” The star of “The Wild Angels.” “The Trip.” On the other hand, he’s Hollywood royalty. Son of Henry. Brother of Jane. Father of Bridget. The man who followed up a landmark, generation-defining film with a Western, “The Hired Hand,” might have been a commercial flop, but today it is regarded as a genre classic, a beautiful, evocative portrait of frontier life. He’s an iconoclast. I wanted him for the role of legendary frontier rancher Edward Johnson because he’s a talented and creative actor. But also because of the history he brought to the role — the connection to an older Hollywood that doesn’t really exist anymore.
Peter and I met for the first time at the Casa Del Mar in Santa Monica. We sat at a table in the back of the bar. I drank coffee. He sipped water from a Nalgene bottle. Of course, he wore tinted sunglasses. He was a storyteller. He told me the story of his 82-foot sailboat Tatoosh, which he lived on for almost a decade. The story of his love affair with his wife Parky, who he fell for in Hawaii in 1974 but took 37 years to marry. The story of an acid-fueled conversation with John Lennon that inspired the song “She Said She Said.” That’s how it was with Peter. Whether we were having a meal, sharing a ride, or getting ready to get a shot, there were always stories to be told. Sometimes to the never-ending chagrin of my AD.
In the film, Peter plays Johnson, a character modeled on John Wayne. He’s tamed the West and now plans to protect the frontier as a senator from the newly formed state of Montana. He’s a larger-than-life hero, especially to his devoted sidekick Lefty Brown, played by Bill Pullman. And he dies on page 13. Shot in the head. It’s a shocking and brutal murder. Peter loved that moment. He called it his “Brando Death.” An opportunity to die in such an epic, memorable fashion that it would reverberate through the rest of the film.
We spent hours discussing how I would film his murder. Where the squib would go. How his body would slink from the saddle and land in the dirt. He sent me long, thoughtful emails about camera angles and shutter speed; about the type of rifle he would carry (the Henry Golden Boy repeater instead of John Wayne’s signature Winchester) and specifically the assassin’s rifle — a Remington Creedmoor Rolling Block. The depth of his knowledge was truly humbling.
We shot “The Ballad of Lefty Brown”in Montana not that far from where Peter used to have a ranch. After the shoot, he told when he sold that ranch he vowed he never wanted to see the mountains of Montana again. He was done with the snow, and the creeks, and the Yellowstone River. But if there was a production in place and film the camera, he couldn’t resist the call.
Peter could be funny. He could be inappropriate. When he was, he wasn’t afraid to apologize. He knew his way around a camera better than any actor I’ve ever worked with, able to discuss frame-rate, film stock and other gear like he just stepped out of the camera department. We had Peter on set for three 14-plus-hourD days, including multiple gunfights and one rain-drenched night shoot. It was to say the least, arduous. It was also my privilege.
Source: IndieWire film
August 17, 2019
Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan’s epic drama “The Death and Life of John F. Donovan” has been sitting on the shelf, at least stateside, since its world premiere at the 2018 Toronto Film Festival. Boasting Dolan’s most ambitious cast to date — including Kit Harrington, Jacob Tremblay, Natalie Portman, Kathy Bates, Thandie Newton, and Susan Sarandon — “Donovan” was met with jeers at the festival, including by IndieWire’s critic Eric Kohn. In a new interview with the Globe and Mail, Dolan now says that the film originally ran a lengthy four hours long. As it stands, the film currently runs a cool two hours.
“I shot the film that I wrote, but the film that I wrote was a 160-page script that made no choices,” Dolan said. “You now want to focus on something [the editing] that I’ve been focusing on for two years and I don’t know how inspired I can be to talk about that. I usually edit movies in two months, not two years. It was at times brutal and invigorating to rediscover something you think you know by heart.”
Dolan opted not to take the film to Cannes after critics savaged his 2016 chamber drama “It’s Only the End of the World,” which ended up winning the festival’s Jury Prize and is, actually, quite good. Originally, “Donovan,” which centers on a pen-pal relationship that develops between a young boy and a closeted TV star, was set to star Jessica Chastain. But at the last minute, Dolan cut her role entirely from the film, stressing that it had “nothing to do” with her performance.
Allegedly, the four-hour cut included a prologue involving Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet” which, like the premise of “Donovan,” chronicles a correspondence between an established artist and an eager acolyte. There was also said to be narration from Michael Gambon’s character, who appears as a vision in the version that screened at TIFF.
The genesis of “Donovan” came from Dolan’s early interest in Leonardo DiCaprio. After seeing him in “Titanic,” Dolan ended up sending the then-rising actor a fan letter. “‘Titanic’ is not just the film I loved as a child, it’s the beginning of many things,” Dolan said. “Probably a sexual awakening, but also a cultural awakening, a cinematic awakening and a life awakening in that I realized how ambitious the film was. It inspired me to consider all the options I had artistically — that I could act, design clothes, even shoot films. None of these options had ever seemed possible before.”
Dolan’s latest film, “Matthias & Maxime,” earned acclaim at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival and, like “Donovan,” still awaits a U.S. release. But Dolan has previously exercised patience when it comes to distribution, as his 2013 psychosexual thriller “Tom at the Farm” took two years to make it to U.S. theaters.
“The Death and Life of John F. Donovan” hits Canadian theaters on August 23.
Source: IndieWire film
August 17, 2019
At 79 years old, inimitable Hollywood icon Peter Fonda passed away this week, leaving behind a legacy of iconic work. He is survived by his older sister, actress Jane Fonda, and his daughter, actress Bridget Fonda. In tribute to his career, here are five Fonda performances to seek out:
A I P/Kobal/Shutterstock
“The Wild Angels” (1966)
Cult hero Roger Corman’s 1966 biker outlaw film put Peter Fonda on the map as one of the faces of the New Hollywood, and forever memorialized the actor as a Harley-Davidson icon. The film that Leonard Maltin once called “OK after 24 beers” stars Fonda as Heavenly Blues, the leader of a hard-partying San Pedro motorcycle gang, opposite Bruce Dern, Nancy Sinatra, and Diane Ladd. Fonda went on to co-star with Dern in Corman’s 1967 psychedelic film “The Trip.”
“Easy Rider” (1969)
Dennis Hopper’s wild road movie arrived in Hollywood like a brick through a windshield, shattering conventions and inspiring generations of filmmakers to come. Fonda and Hopper play drug-smuggling motorcyclists making their way across the country for Mardi Gras, and along the way they get entangled with shady hitchhikers and end up taking a seriously bad dose of LSD in one of the film’s trippiest sequences. “Easy Rider” remains a countercultural touchstone, made all the more iconic by Fonda’s brilliant turn. He earned a Best Original Screenplay Oscar nomination for co-writing with Hopper and Terry Southern.
“Ulee’s Gold” (1997)
Peter Fonda received his only Best Actor nomination for playing a reclusive, widowed beekeeper in Victor Nuñez’s drama. Ulee is on a mission to piece his broken family back together, which includes making amends with his criminal son, in jail for a robbery gone wrong. Roger Ebert wrote “Peter Fonda here reveals a depth of talent we did not suspect.”
Bob Marshak/Artisan Pics/Kobal/Shutterstock
“The Limey” (1999)
Steven Soderbergh’s atmospheric neo-noir pivots on Terence Stamp as a dangerous Englishman who comes to Los Angeles to avenge his daughter’s murder. Fonda emerges one of the prime suspects, a record producer with a checkered past in drug-trafficking. Stamp and Fonda make for a compelling tete-a-tete, as we watch two legendary actors at the top of their game.
“3:10 to Yuma” (2007)
James Mangold’s remake of the 1957 Delmer Daves classic includes Fonda in a memorable supporting turn as a Pinkerton agent tasked with hunting down Russell Crowe’s outlaw Ben Wade. After “3:10,” Fonda continued to work steadily up until his death, including in “The Ballad of Lefty Brown” in 2017.
Source: IndieWire film
August 17, 2019
Mindhunter brought serial killers into our homes. Joe Penhall and David Fincher scared the pants off us in Season One. How?
Serial killers seem to be all the rage on podcasts, in movies, tv, and streamers. But few shows capture what it’s like to understand these people. To know why they attack and thus learn how to catch them. Mindhunter is a singular achievement for Netflix. It successfully dramatizes the FBI work while still maintaining the horrific edge that brings people in.
I mean, a naked guy blows his head clean off within the first minutes of the pilot. And that’s not even the most gruesome part of the series. Since the show is grounded in reality, a lot of work goes into creating each season. Now, as Season Two premieres, I wanted to look at this video that chronicles David Fincher, Jennifer Haley, Cameron Britton, and the original “Mindhunter” John Douglas’ work on how they worked with show creator Joe Penhall to make such an incredible show,
Check out the video from Behind the Curtain and let’s talk more after the jump!
August 17, 2019
Wider apertures aren’t really the selling point of a more expensive lens, but we know what is.
All too often, our Gear Acquisition Syndrome is fueled by specs we read online. Take faster lenses for instance. Lenses that can squeeze out an extra stop for better low light performance and delicious bokeh may be tempting, but is getting that extra stop of light worth paying up to a thousand dollars or more? Well, in the cases of lenses, it isn’t always about the specs. It’s about what’s under the proverbial hood.
Lenses aren’t just sold because of how fast they are. You’re paying for the quality of the glass. After all, you get what you pay for. And a good lens is going to last you, and that’s what you’re paying for. – Daniel Norton
August 17, 2019
Not only can dividing pixel boost autofocus sensitivity, but also dynamic range.
When it comes to technology development, I love happy accidents. The features that appear, not because they were designed in, but because they just so happened to be a bonus. Apollo Flight Director Gene Kranz would say he didn’t care what something was designed to do, but what it CAN do. And thanks to another patent application this week, we’ve come to learn a bonus to Canon’s Dual Pixel AutoFocus … and that’s the potential for increased dynamic range.
August 16, 2019
Highlighting our Deals of the Week, save hundreds on a 15″ Dell XPS laptop that will serve all of your mobile editing needs.
This week in filmmaking deals: Dell offers its 15″ XPS 9570 laptop for $400 less than retail, and SanDisk offers its 256GB Ultra microSDXC memory card for its lowest price yet. Also, the CLAR Illumi b-color LED gets a $300 price cut and the popular Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX Nikkor lens is $45 off.
August 16, 2019
The 1969 counterculture film “Easy Rider” shook the studio system to its core and helped usher in one of Hollywood’s most creative eras.
The film is a revolutionary road movie, starring Peter Fonda as Wyatt and Dennis Hopper as Billy, plus a star-making turn from then-newcomer Jack Nicholson as ACLU lawyer George Hanson.
Wyatt and Billy are drug-dealing hippies traveling from Los Angeles to the American South, including New Orleans, during the height of the tumultuous Vietnam War era. They meet other hippies, do drugs, pick up hitchhikers, and get into mischief before meeting their violent ends.
Criterion has called it “the definitive counterculture blockbuster.” The film was a surprise cult hit and led to a seismic shift in many areas of the filmmaking process.
How Easy Rider Pioneered Indie Filmmaking
Fonda and Hopper partnered on the film, co-writing the script, at a time when the movies making money were generally happy, big-budget, shiny projects.