Indie Recovery Builds Amid Inflation, Interest Rate Jitters – Specialty Preview

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The Forgiven with Jessica Chastain opens in 122 theaters this weekend as the flow of indie films continues to build with well-reviewed, festival-pedigreed product including Mr. Malcom’s List and Clara Sola. Meanwhile, producers and most other U.S. businesses are hoping economic storm clouds won’t ding their industry’s nascent revival.

“I think we have seen a slow recovery. We are feeling bullish,” said Howard Cohen, co-president of The Forgiven distributor Roadside Attractions. He cited a helpful “knockoff effect” from popular wide releases Elvis and Top Gun: Maverick, where a significant chunk of the audience is an arthouse-friendly 55 and over. He’s talking about moviegoing, a great value for people during economic slowdowns when box office grosses have tended to rise. But down the chain, higher inflation, “while it doesn’t mean movies won’t get made, will affect decision making and things may be more complicated,” said Cohen. Higher interest rates could impact financing.

Inflation “is a very subtle tax on literally everything,” said Alan McConnell, a producer on Nathalie Álvarez Mesén’s Clara Sola. The Spanish-language film set in Costa Rica premiered last year at Cannes and opens today via Oscilloscope Laboratories at the IFC Center in New York.

The hope is that inflation may be peaking now, but there’s little visibility. The Russia-Ukraine war has created a spike in energy and food prices, which the U.S. Surging demand and lingering Covid-related supply chain disruptions have ballooned the prices of just about everything else. The Federal Reserve is aggressively raising interest rates to cool things down, but that delicate balancing act risks tipping the nation into recession.

“I think a lot of people in the [film] community have our finger crossed,” said McConnell.

Clara Sola, Mesén’s first feature stars Wendy Chinchilla Araya, also in a debut performance, as a 40-year-old woman in a remote Costa Rican village enduring a repressively religious, withdrawn life under the command of her mother. Tension rises as Clara’s young niece approaches her quinceañera, igniting a sexual and mystical awakening in Clara and a journey to free herself from the conventions that have dominated her life. Mesén and Maria Camila Arias co-penned the script

Deadline review here.

Distributors also continue to monitor the landscape in terms of release strategies.

“We are doing wider openings, especially with movie stars,” said Roadside’s Cohen, referring to The Forgiven’s Chastain and co-star Ralph Fiennes. It’s Chastain’s first movie since winning the Best Actress Academy Award for Eyes of Tammy Faye. “They are doing publicity, all the reviews are coming out so [people may ask] ‘Why is it not coming out in St. Louis? What are you waiting for?’”

It depends on the movie but “I think we are still not as excited about the pure New York and LA  openings. It seems harder, especially in LA with no ArcLight, no Landmark,” he said.

The film is written and directed by John Michael DcDonagh. Fiennes and Chastain are wealthy Londoners, David and Jo Henninger, involved in tragic accident with a local teenage boy while  speeding through the Moroccan desert to attend an old friend’s lavish weekend party. Arriving late at the grand villa, the couple attempts to cover up the incident with the collusion of the local police. But when the boy’s father arrives seeking justice, the stage is set for a tension-filled culture clash. Deadline’s review from Toronto here.

Bleecker Street is opening Mr. Malcom’s List wide for specialty on 1,384 screens in U.S. and Canada, betting on the appeal of the Jane Austen-esque, Brigerton-esque Regency period drama directed by Emma Holly Jones, based on the novel by Suzanne Allain, and loosely inspired by Pride and Prejudice.

When she fails to meet an item on his list of requirements for a bride, Julia Thistlewaite (Zawe Ashton) is jilted by London’s most eligible bachelor, Mr. Malcolm (Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù). Humiliated and determined to exact revenge, she convinces her friend Selina Dalton (Freida Pinto) to play the role of his ideal match. Soon, Mr. Malcolm wonders whether he’s found the perfect woman, or the perfect hoax. Deadline review here.

Sony Pictures Classics presents Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song in New York (Walter Reade, Film Forum) and Los Angeles (Royal). The documentary from Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldine, which recently premiered at the Tribeca Festivial, is an exploration of singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen as seen through the prism of his internationally renowned hymn, Hallelujah and weaving together three creative strands: the songwriter and his times; the song’s dramatic journey from record label reject to chart-topping hit; and moving testimonies from major recording artists for whom Hallelujah has become a personal touchtone.

MORE to come

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