‘Macbeth,’ ‘Parallel Mothers,’ ‘The Velvet Queen’, ‘Memoria’ Open At Arthouse Amid Omicron Panic: “I Think We Might Get Dinged” – Specialty Preview

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Adult demos slow to embrace cinemas may be even slower this holiday weekend amid a barrage of breathless Omicron headlines — that aren’t all bad. It spreads fast but seems less virulent than previous strains, and may burn out faster.

“I think we might get dinged a little bit,” said one distribution executive. However, “This not like 2020. We are in a much different world. Then, I felt like I was rightfully terrified.” Execs are hopeful that a nascent specialty uptick in recent months – recovery may be too strong – will only be diverted short term before resuming course. “These doomsday headlines are pretty temporary. I think January will be very interesting,” said one.

Venturing out for the holidays, we have Joel Coen’s acclaimed The Tragedy of Macbeth in black and white from A24 and Apple opening Saturday at 30 theaters in North America with a limited expansion in Jan. to 125-200 screens. It hits Apple TV+ on Jan. 14.

Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand star in the Shakespeare adaptation full of deadly ambition, murder and madness as (we know you know this) a Scottish lord is convinced by a trio of witches that he will become the next King of Scotland, subsequently conspiring to seize power, with the help of his wife. Also with Corey Hawkins, Brendan Gleeson and Harry Melling, the film, premiered as the opening night selection at the New York Film Festival. It held a lively, global Imax event early this month including a Q&A with director and cast streamed from the AMC Lincoln Square in NYC.

Macbeth scores a 96% with critics and a 95% with audiences on Rotten Tomatoes. See Deadline review here. It’s a cool, creepy and visually striking melding of stage and screen. Apple doesn’t report grosses so we won’t know how it does. Regardless, the film is assured of something very few are — eternal life with high school English students reading Macbeth in class.

Sony Pictures Classics opens Pedro Almodóvar’s Parallel Mothers on three screens — Lincoln Center and Angelika in NY and The Landmark in LA, also expanding throughout January. Starring Penélope Cruz, Aitana Sánchez-Gijón, Milena Smit, Israel Elejalde, Julieta Serrano, and Rossy de Palma. The film, which premiered at Venice and the New York Film Festival, follows two women, Janis (Cruz) and Ana (Smit), who meet in a hospital room before giving birth. Both are single and pregnant by accident. Janis, who is 40, a well-known fashion photographer, doesn’t regret it. Ana, an adolescent, is scared, repentant and traumatized. They develop a close bond which complicates and changes their lives in dramatic ways.

A parallel plot involves villages, including the one where Janis grew up, where men, including her father, were executed during the Spanish Civil War. A 98% Rotten Tomatoes’ critics score. See Deadline Review here.

Neon presents Memoria from Apichatpong Weerasethakul in a quirky launch kicking off at the IFC Center in NYC on Sunday. It will play for a one-week exclusive theatrical run then travel from city to city across the country in a continuous string of week-long engagements. Also, it will stay in theaters for the entire life of the film – no VOD or streaming release.

Memoria premiered at Cannes and stars Tilda Swinton as Jessica, a British woman living in Colombia beset by startling noises only she can hear. A Rotten Tomatoes’ 93% with reviewers. Deadline’s take here.

And Oscilloscope presents stunning French documentary The Velvet Queendirected by  Marie Amiguet and Vincent Munier. A renowned wildlife photographer, Munier takes novelist Sylvain Tesson on a mission to the Tibetan plateau. They are searching for the snow leopard, one of the rarest and most difficult big cats to approach. With original music by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. It world premiered at Cannes in the Cinema for the Climate section.

The film opens on two screens in New York (Film Forum) and LA (Laemmle Royal). It will stay there exclusively for a few weeks, adding runs Jan. 7 in LA and NY with further expansion on following three weekends through the end of the month.

The Film Forum offered The Velvet Queen a coveted Christmas slot just after the distributor acquired the film out of Cannes. “They were so supportive. It’s a huge vote of confidence,” said Andrew Carlin, Oscilloscope’s director of theatrical distribution and sales. Because it’s tough out there. “The landscape is, as with any year in December, very tricky to find breathing room if you are a small arthouse release because you are fighting for the same screens as A24 and Searchlight,” he said.

Carlin is hoping the otherworldly beauty of the landscape provides a “sort of catharsis, a moment to breathe and immerse yourself. I like to think it will strike a chord.”

Elsewhere in specialty, there’s really isn’t — that’s about all that’s new this weekend. Holdovers, including United Artist Releasing’s Licorice Pizza on 786 screens, are up against a handful of new wide releases including The Matrix Resurrections and the very mighty wake of Spider-Man: No Way Home.

“Spiderman was incredible. [Let’s stop] moaning there will only be superhero movies. Let’s start somewhere,” said one specialty exec.

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