IFC presents Mia Hansen-Løve’s Cannes entry Bergman Island, Film Movement brings Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy to the arthouse this weekend, as A24’s surprise hit Lamb and Greenwich Entertainment’s The Rescue go wider week two after a strong open. It’s early days but a nascent specialty revival may be in the works ahead of a stream of potential hits from The French Dispatch to Spencer to Belfast.
Icelandic horror folktale Lamb moves from 500 to over 800 screens after viewers – can we say flocked? – to the Ari Aster-ish genre pic (Hereditary in 2018 was also from A24). Adventure documentary The Rescue, by the directors of Free Solo, where intrepid divers save a Thai boys soccer club trapped in a remote flooded cave, expands from five screens to 552.
“Is there hope? Yes” said Howard Cohen, co-president of Roadside Attractions, which is opening Hard Luck Love Song. “There have to be different kinds of movies and different demos coming out.” Distributors still find the specialty market unpredictable and inconsistent with, said one, “little pods of recovery,” but say it’s getting better. And they recall the sector had challenges pre-Covid. The pandemic basically took a decade’s worth of change and condensed it into 14 months.
Attracting younger audiences is key. Austin-based chain Alamo Drafthouse, which has a buzzy theater in Brooklyn, is good with the young and hip and its executives are in New York this weekend for the soft launch of a new 14-screen theater in downtown Manhattan. Alamo cinemas double as restaurants and bars. The Financial District location also houses the Pressroom Bar, a collection of vintage print plates of newspaper movie advertisements and a working 1940s press for guests to try.
The Covid-battered chain filed for bankruptcy in March and emerged in June after a sale to investors including Altamont Capital Partners, Fortress Investment Group, and League. “Everything is starting to stabilize. The Delta Variant seem to be getting a little bit under control. I thought last weekend was great and we are super excited about Dune and French Dispatch coming [Oct. 22]. That will be a monster weekend for us. Both are extraordinary. Honestly, it’s going to feel like old times,” League said.
Depending on what’s out, Alamo generally plays 70% big studio releases, 20% indie films and 10% classics/repertoire.
Luring back the older arthouse demo is also key, so distributors are thrilled by James Bond’s call on the 35+ crowd, many heading back to theaters for the first time since Covid to see No Time To Die. “That’s a big thing, because movie-going is a habit,” said one.
This weekend: Bergman’s Island, which also screened in Telluride, Toronto and the New York film festival, is in 115 theaters. If follows a filmmaking couple living in America, Chris (Vicky Krieps) and Tony (Tim Roth), retreat to the mythical Fårö island for the summer, a wild, breathtaking landscape where Bergman lived and shot his most celebrated pieces and where the two hope to find inspiration for their upcoming films. But lines between reality and fiction progressively blur, tearing the couple apart. Written by Hansen-Løve. With Mia Wasikowska and Anders Danielsen. See Deadline review here.
In Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s Berlinale Silver Bear winning and New York Film Festival selection, Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy, three short stories follow the lives of women navigating love, loss, reconnection and letting go. Meiko learns the meaning of selflessness. Nao finds someone she can be genuine with,. Moka finally expresses her true feelings for Nana. Deadline review here.
Written by Hamaguchi. With Kotone Furukawa, Katsuki Miro, Aoba Kawai, Kiohiko Shibukawa, Fusako Urabe, Ayumu Nakajima, Hyunri, Shouma Kai.
Hard Luck Love Song, Justin Corsbie’s debut feature, unspools on 172 screens. Inspired by the words of singer-songwriter Todd Snider, the gritty love story follows Jesse (Michael Dorman), a charismatic but down-on-his-luck troubadour living out of cheap motels and making bad decisions who finds himself at an existential crossroads during a chance encounter with his old flame Carla (Sophia Bush) Written by Crosbie. Also starring Dermot Mulroney, Brian Sacca, Melora Walters, Eric Roberts and hip-hop icon RZA.
Roadside acquired it mid-pandemic, Cohen said. “It was really centered in the middle of the country, it’s about country and Americana music. We’re hopeful it will play in a lot of towns in the middle of the country, in Austin where it was filmed and Nashville, St. Louis, Denver. We felt like it was a nice movie for this time.”
Lionsgate releases John Ridley’s sci-fi romance Needle In A Timestack with Leslie Odom Jr. Frieda Pinto, Cynthia Erivo and Orlando Bloom. Written by Ridley. In the film, Nick (Odom Jr.) and Janine (Erivo) live in marital bliss until Janine’s ex-husband (Bloom) warps time to try to tear them apart using Nick’s college girlfriend (Pinto). As Nick’s memories and reality disappear he must decide what he’s willing to sacrifice in order to hold on or or let go of everything he loves.
Worth noting: Apple TV+ is out with Todd Haynes’ The Velvet Underground, the director’s debut documentary deep dive into the seminal 1960s avant-garde rock band that premiered at Cannes. It’s in 100 theaters and on the streaming service. Deadline review.
Elsewhere in specialty: Kino Lorber presents Luzzu, a gorgeous fishing drama by Alex Camilleri based in Malta that premiered at Sundance. It is populated with locals, including fisherman Jesmark Scicluna, who plays a version of himself as a devoted father and husband struggling to make a living off his boat, forced to turns to a shadow economy of black market fishing, smuggling and sabotage. Scicluna won Sundance’s World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award. Produced by Ramin Bahrani (The White Tiger), it was the first Maltese feature to compete in a major international festival.
And, Vertical Entertainment’s The Obscure Life Of The Grand Duke Of Corsica, the comedy-drama starring Timothy Spall and Peter Stormare, is also shot in Malta. Directed by Daniel Graham, it stars Spall as a cantankerous yet brilliant architect who embarks on an unusual island commission for an eccentric billionaire who calls himself The Grand Duke of Corsica. Despite a deadly virus hitting the island and causing a pandemic, the architect remains to finish the job.
Icarus Films opens Wang Qiong’s debut documentary All About My Sisters, which had its North American premiere at the New York Film Festival. The director’s riveting portrait of her family, filmed over seven years, reckons with the lasting impact of China’s one-child policy. After giving birth to two daughters, Qiong’s parents were desperate for a boy. When they learned that they were pregnant with a third daughter the couple embarked on a path that would affect their family for generations to come.
Samuel Goldwyn Films presents Held For Ransom, the true story of Danish photojournalist Daniel Rye who was held hostage for 398 days in Syria by ISIS along with several other foreign nationals including the American journalist, James Foley. The film follows Daniel’s struggle to survive in captivity, his friendship with James, and the nightmare of the his family back home in Denmark as they do everything in their power to save their son. At the center of this crisis, we find hostage negotiator, Arthur, who plays a pivotal role in securing Daniel’s release. Directed by Niels Arden Oplev. Starring Esben Smed.