Bleecker Street Bets On Ben Kingsley & ‘Jules’; ‘The Pod Generation’, Stephen King Doc Debut As Strike Keeps Talent On Sidelines – Specialty Preview

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Releases keep coming but talent is not comfortable promoting films, even indies, even if productions have waivers or don’t need them. Where that’s leading isn’t clear. “Who’s going to take the plunge first? We’ll see. The festivals will be the big test,” said one independent distribution exec.

From a moderate release like Jules, in nearly 800 theaters, to Sundance-premiering The Pod Generation, starring Emilia Clarke and Chiwetel Ejiofor on 100 screens, to French film Between Two Worlds with Juliette Binoche, opening on two screens this weekend, stars were not comfortable stepping out amid strikes. The WGA and AMPTP resume bargaining today for the first time in over three months. SAG-AFTRA remains in a standoff with studios over deteriorating pay and working conditions for its members.

“We got an interim agreement because [Jules] is an independent film. And yet, I think the actors…even within the interim agreement, many of them are very sensitive to doing interviews or live interviews and things on TV…that we could have done. And we understand that and respect it,” said Marc Turtletaub, director of the poignant, comedic sci-fi starring Ben Kingsley as an anxiously aging small-town stalwart whose life is transformed by the peaceful presence of a small humanoid alien (Jade Quon) he saves after a spaceship crashes in his backyard. “It has all these different elements that don’t usually go together in one story,” Turtletaub said. Jules also stars Jane Curtain Harriett Sansom Harris and Zoe Winters. Screenplay by Gavin Steckler. See Deadline’s review from the Sonoma Film Festival.

“We’re doing whatever publicity we can do” — social media, paid advertising. “There was an interesting moment where Congress was having hearings about UFOs and we actually got some social media around that and mixed it with an ad and it became quiet interesting.” This week, astronaut Catherie Coleman gave it a plug on Instagram.

Independent filmmakers and distributors hope crossover adult and arthouse audiences that helped push Barbie and Oppenheimer to record box office hauls have been jolted back into the moviegoing habit. “They’re not action movies… And they’re independent. They’re original,” the producer/director said of Barbenheimer. “Hopefully all boats get lifted by their performance.”

That said, it’s a crowded marketplace and hard for indies to get screens, which Jules did. But it’s also tough to stay on screens as new wide releases tumble out, which isn’t ideal for smaller films that rely heavily on word of mouth to build.

Vertical Entertainment presents Sophie Barthes’ social satire The Pod Generation on 100 screens nationwide including NYC playdates at the Angelika and AMC Empire 25, and AMC Citywalk, Laemmle Royal, Noho 7 and Town Center 5 in LA. Premiered at Sundance, see Deadline review, where it took the fest’s Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize for a science/tech theme. In a not-so-distant future, the exigencies of nature are becoming a distant memory and pregnancy can be shared via detachable artificial wombs, or pods. A New York couple, Rachel (Emilia Clarke) and Alvy (Chiwetel Ejiofor) begins the tech-paved path to parenthood.

Cohen Media Group’s Between Two Worlds by Emmanuel Carrère stars Juliette Binoche as famed author Marianne Winckler, who goes undercover to investigate exploitation of the working class in Northern France. Landing a job as a cleaner on the cross-channel ferry, she develops close connections with the other women, many of whom have extremely limited resources and income opportunities. Opens in NYC at the Quad Cinema – where CMG has extended a successful weeklong “Beautiful Binoche” retrospective – and at the Laemmle Royale in LA. Expands over Labor Day weekend with about 80 runs booked so far. See Deadline’s review from the film’s 2021 Cannes premiere. Cohen Media Group held onto it looking for a good post-Covid widow.

King On Screen, a documentary from Dark Star Pictures, reunites filmmakers who have adapted Stephen King’s books for cinema and TV, including Frank Darabont, Tom Holland, Mick Garris, and Taylor Hackford. Since 1976, when Brian de Palma directed Carrie, King’s first novel, more than 50 directors have drawn from the master of literary horror in more than 80 films and series, making him the most adapted author alive in the world. And they can’t stop. Directed by Daphné Baiwir, the doc opens in New York’s Village East. Expands to LA next weekend and circa 15 more market after. Premiered at Fantastic Fest. (Baiwir’s doc Le Film Pro-Nazi d’Hitchcock will premiere in Venice.)

Utopia presents Tom Osborne’s sports doc Day By Day, the untold story of one of the most dominant, celebrated and controversial football teams ever – the NCAA champion Nebraska Huskers. Opens weekend solely in Nebraska across seven screens in Lincoln, Omaha and Bellevue with Marcus Cinemas, with presales looking at a $20k gross and Marcus adding shows. Expands next week.

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