After Judy opened to nearly $3 million last weekend, the specialty box office has a hard act to follow this frame. But there are a couple of films that could possibly match Roadside Attractions and LD Entertainment’s biopic about musical legend Judy Garland.
Fox Searchlight is releasing Lucy in the Sky today. The space drama stars Natalie Portman, who’s always a box office draw, and the pic marks the first theatrical release for Noah Hawley — we’ll see if the collaboration can strike gold at the box office. Meanwhile, Sony Pictures Classics is riding a wave of confidence, kicking down the door with Pedro Almodovar’s Pain and Glory starring Antonio Banderas. Cinephiles are expected to flock to the Spanish auteur’s latest, which marks the eighth cinematic collaboration between the director and star.
Also opening this weekend is Michael Beach Nichols’ too-creepy-to-be-true documentary Wrinkles the Clown, which can be considered an alternative to another clown movie coming out this weekend: Joker. If are looking for something in the xenomorph variety, Alexandre O. Philippe’s Memory: The Origins of Alien “chestbursts” its way to theaters starting today.
Lucy in the Sky
In Fox Searchlight’s Lucy in the Sky, Portman takes a journey to space and then comes back to Earth… with some deep transcendental effects. As the creator of FX’s mindbending comic series Legion, Hawley makes his theatrical debut with the film, bringing with him his distinct storytelling style.
The teaser trailer gave audiences the first taste of what to expect from this story which, like many transcendental narratives, struck curiosity. “[Hawley] is a very visionary type of director,” Frank Rodriguez, SVP General Sales Manager, Fox Searchlight Pictures tells Deadline. “He’s an auteur. It’s his first feature film and he had a lot of wonderful ideas.”
The film made its debut at the Toronto Film Festival in September and has screened a handful of regional festivals, and today it will open in 36 theaters and in five markets (Washington DC, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York). Following its initial release, it will expand to about 350 theaters across North America over the next three to four weeks.
Written by Brian C. Brown and Elliott Diguiseppi, Lucy in the Sky features Portman as Lucy Cola, a driven and determined astronaut who has a transcendental experience after her trip to space. Back at home, Lucy’s world suddenly feels too small, and her connection with reality slowly unravels. The narrative, while out-of-this-world and with spectacular visuals, is actually a very grounded story.
“It’s been marketed as a real-life person who is an astronaut that finds herself a little adrift in the real world after she goes to space,” said Rodriguez. “She’s in tune with that part of her life. She basically can’t get her feet on the ground.”
With Portman in the lead and an cast that includes Jon Hamm, Ellen Burstyn, Zazie Beetz, Nick Offerman, Tig Notaro and Dan Stevens (who starred in Legion), the film is getting buzz. On opening night, Rodriguez points out that the film has a sold-out special screening at the Arclight in Los Angeles that will feature a Q&A with Portman.
Rodriguez also notes the similar “troubled astronaut” narrative Lucy in the Sky shares with Ad Astra starring Brad Pitt, also currently in theaters. Still, he says the two are very different films, and the release strategy for Lucy in the Sky differs with likely little to no direct overlap.
“[Ad Astra] went very wide and we went on a limited run,” he said. “It’s a tight run but we got really good theaters and great support from exhibitors, and we’re very happy about that.”
Pain and Glory
Sony Pictures Classics
Almodovar’s Pain and Glory was released in Spain in March and then went through the festival circuit including stops in Cannes, Telluride and Toronto before finally getting its theatrical release stateside. The film follows Salvador Mallo (Banderas), a director on the physical decline, as he reflects on his life choices as the past and present come crashing down around him — in a very Almodovarian way.
“The movie has deep emotional resonance with the audience — in a way that I have never seen before with him,” said Michael Barker, co-president of SPC. “What’s interesting about it is that there is really nothing in the movie that is extreme from a director who has given us extreme in his early years. There’s this emotional truth about what the Antonio Banderas character is going through that people identify with or feel its a reality they understand.”
The film has been getting tons of buzz and critical praise and adds to Sony Pictures Classics’ library of Almodovar’s titles. Prior to Pain and Glory, SPC and El Deseo have partnered for 11 of his films going all the way back to Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown in 1988. SPC has rights to all his titles, which works in the favor when it comes to marketing the filmmaker’s latest pics.
Barker said that when Almodovar has a new film, SPC will re-introduce him to his old fans and introduce him to new audiences with his past films. Many theaters have Almodovar-specific festivals and will screen restored versions of the film to help prep for his new film to open.
In the case of Pain and Glory, the film is set to open today at the Angelika and Landmark 57 in New York and the Arclight and Landmark in Los Angeles. Barker said, “We will expand as we go forward but we don’t want to go too wide too quickly because we don’t want to dilute the movement with how the movie grows in the marketplace.” The film will continue its rollout next week to San Francisco, Chicago and Washington DC. From there, SPC will expand it to eight to 10 more cities and by Week 4 the film will play in the top 100 cities nationwide. After that, Barker said that depending on grosses the film will expand even more.
“We’re very optimistic with how well it’s going to do,” said Barker. He also feels the same sentiment about its chances during Oscar season.
“This is one of those movies where not only do we feel confident that Antonio and Pedro are worthy of consideration,” said Barker. “The fact of the matter is, the enthusiasm for this film has shown this is one of those films that we feel has a real chance in the other categories in addition to foreign language film…we think it’s looking good.”
Wrinkles The Clown
Scary clowns seem to be on-trend — and Wrinkles is vying to take the crown for the scariest. In the new documentary Wrinkles the Clown from Michael Beach Nichols, we are introduced to the infamous and freaky titular subject who reached viral fame as a masked clown hired by parents to terrorize their naughty children.
Nichols first heard of the real-life Florida-based clown when a friend forwarded him a scary viral video of Wrinkles crawling out from underneath a child’s bed. “I thought it was creepy, funny and I just wanted to know more about it,” he told Deadline.
Florida native Nichols found out there was Kickstarter campaign for the film. Having done four Kickstarter campaigns for his own work, he reached out to the filmmaker to offer him advice. Unfortunately, the campaign never reached its goal and Nichols was bummed… until he got a phone call from his managers six months later.
A Los Angeles production company reached out to the filmmaker who started the campaign and asked if he would want a more established director and he agreed. Nichols met the filmmaker, who then introduced him to Wrinkles. With that, the spark for the Wrinkles the Clown documentary was ignited.
The doc uses stylized elements to frame the story of Wrinkles, using some of the millions of voicemails the clown receives. Nichols said he wanted the film to be completely rooted in these voicemails and real ideas of what children have about Wrinkles.
You may think its a story about how this clown got famous with a huge reveal at the end — but it has more nuance than that. Without spoiling anything, Nichols uses the documentary format to create the Wrinkles myth for the first half of the film to let the audience feel what it feels like to be inside these kids’ head. Just when you think you know what’s going on, the film pulls the rug and changes your idea of who Wrinkles is. From there, you have to reexamine everything watched in the first half.
“For me, a big takeaway from the film was the power of the Iinternet…the idea that people can see something online and it can spread with incredible speed in a way that has never been possible before,” said Nichols. “Whether or not that information is rooted in any truth or not, it doesn’t necessarily really matter. People take away what they want to take away from things they see online. Wrinkles is a silly, fun, kind of creepy but not-too-scary example of people, mostly children, playing with an online myth. It sort of portends a sort of dark side in terms of misinformation and even with the technology to manipulate what people are seeing and not knowing what’s true and not true — that could lead to very dangerous thing.”
Wrinkles the Clown opens today in New York and Los Angeles as well as other markets including Seattle, DC and Phoenix.
Memory: The Origins of Alien
Screen Media/Legion M
With the 40th anniversary of Ridley Scott’s game-changing sci-fi classic Alien upon us, what a better way to celebrate than with the documentary Memory: The Origins of Alien. The film tells untold stories and offers a look at never-before-seen materials from the archives of Alien creators Dan O’Bannon and H.R. Giger.
Directed by Alexandre O. Philippe, the docu features stars from Alien including Veronica Cartwright, Roger Christian, Tom Skerritt and Ronald Shusett. We also are treated to exclusive behind-the-scenes footage and O’Bannon’s original 29-page script from 1971 which was titled Memory (hence the title of the film). Of course, it would be remiss not to include everything you need to know about the iconic “chestburster” scene that shocked the world.
“This documentary isn’t an ordinary documentary because Alien isn’t an ordinary movie,” said Mike Messina, EVP Distribution, Screen Media. “Memory speaks to a larger cultural shift that took place and forever changed how people write and see movies. Alien responded to a tumultuous time in our history and culture that is more relevant today than ever before. Memory amplifies that relevance.”
The film opens today in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle Chicago, Dallas, New Orleans, Houston, Sante Fe and other select theaters nationwide.