After a strong opening for Pain and Glory, Sony Pictures Classics will throw another title into the specialty box office mix this weekend with the Ira Sachs drama Frankie starring Isabelle Huppert. The actress is certainly a draw when it comes to prestigious awards and there’s hope that her name will bring in audiences to see Frankie. The film joins the specialty box office race after Parasite and Jojo Rabbit hit the ground running. Frankie looks as though it will be a good palate cleanser after two straight weekends of bold, genre-driven films.
The French-Israeli film Synonyms from Nadav Lapid (Policeman, The Kindergarten Teacher) will make its American debut in theaters this weekend, with its gripping tale about cultural identity. On the opposite end of Synonyms’ drama, we have the vibrant comedy Housefull 4, which is looking to make a global splash (Bollywood films usually do) while the re-release of Downtown 81 from 2000, which hopes to reintroduce the artistic genius of Jean-Michel Basquiat to a whole new generation.
Also opening this weekend is Midge Costin’s documentary Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound which goes behind the scenes of film to explore the hidden power of sound with some of the top directors like George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Barbra Streisand, David Lynch, Ryan Coogler, Robert Redford, Sofia Coppola and Ang Lee; and their innovative sound artists including Walter Murch, Ben Burtt, Gary Rydstrom, Lora Hirschberg, Cece Hall, Anna Behlmer and others.
The docu-drama No Safe Spaces builds on Adam Carolla and Dennis Prager’s stage show and tour that becomes an examination of free speech and cancel culture — something that is very much in the forefront today. The feature opens Film in Phoenix today and will expand in the next two weeks followed by a final theatrical roll-out to 600-plus screens. And finally, whether you like it or not, Kanye West will bring his much-talked-about “Sunday Service” to IMAX screens with Jesus is King, which will be in limited release.
Sony Pictures Classics
Frankie marks the third collaboration between Ira Sachs and Sony Pictures Classics, who previously released 2007’s Married Life starring Chris Cooper and Patricia Clarkson and 2014’s Love is Strange starring John Lithgow and Alfred Molina.
Sachs’ latest pic, which he wrote with Mauricio Zacharias, further explores family dynamics following a family summer vacation in Sintra, Portugal organized by the family matriarch (Huppert). As the story follows three generations gathered in this fairytale setting romantic impulses start to bubble up and we start seeing the cracks in the foundation that have been holding this family together.
“He’s an original voice — he’s very fresh,” said Michael Barker, co-president of SPC, of Sachs. “The emphasis of his movies are always on the characters over the plot. they are very character-driven. What’s great about this film is the atmosphere which he creates by going to that beautiful place in Portugal. The terrain of his films always expresses the interior emotion of the characters.”
He adds, “He’s great at creating these great roles for actors where they can, in a very relaxed way, present these very real characters.”
Barker has had a professional and personal relationship with the film’s lead Huppert since she appeared in Heaven’s Gate in 1981 — and her appeal and talent has only grown since then. “She’s an incredible actress and when you talk to directors that work with her, they’ll say there’s Isabelle as an actress and then there’s everyone else,” he remarks. “That’s how so many filmmakers feel about her. The energy she brings to these films is amazing.”
Frankie adds to the strong roster of films SPC has released in 2019. On the documentary side, SPC has performed well, with Maiden opening domestically at $46,931, David Crosby: Remember My Name at $43,483 and Where’s My Roy Cohn? and $41,202. On the narrative feature side, Pedro Almodovar’s Pain and Glory did spectacularly, debuting at $152,636.
In 2016, SPC released Elle which also starred Huppert and earned her a Golden Globe award and an Academy Award nomination. The crime drama — which was divisive among many — earned $50,934 on opening weekend. With SPC’s current specialty box office momentum, Frankie might just match that.
Even so, Barker says SPC is not just about theatrical release numbers. They are very much about the longevity of their films. “Our titles stay with people for a long period of time — that’s what Sony Pictures Classics is all about,” said Barker.
Right out of the gate, Nadav Lapid’s Synonyms garnered acclaim and accolades as it went on its festival run. It won the top prize at this year’s Berlin Film Festival along with the International Critics Prize (FIPRESCI). It played at the International Film Festival and New York Film Festival and it is now set to open today in New York at Film at Lincoln Center as well as The Quad Cinema before doing a national rollout.
Based by the real-life experiences of Lapid, the film follows Yoav (played by Tom Mercier in his feature debut), a young Israeli man who has moved to France as a refuge from the madness of his country. In an effort to erase his cultural identity, he refuses to speak Hebrew and uses a French dictionary to communicate. As he navigates this new cultural landscape while trying to avoid his origins, Yoav awakens past demons while opening up an existential abyss. The film certainly speaks to a time when cultural identity is being celebrated and scrutinized.
“Synonyms is a very special kind of political film: one that addresses the political agitations of our day with a devilish sense of humor and stylistic audacity,” Richard Lorber, President and CEO of Kino Lorber, tells Deadline. “Though it’s set in France and stars an Israeli man, this is a universal story of crossing borders and boundaries, of feeling uprooted and adrift, and could not be more timely for the identity crises citizens are experiencing across the world right now.”
The film has premiered across the globe but with its U.S., Lorber said that despite being a French Israeli story about a man who feels alienated from his national identity and disturbed by his home country’s actions, the film “will speak loudly and clearly to how a lot of Americans are feeling right now.”
“While it’s become increasingly challenging to bring foreign-language films to U.S. audiences, Kino Lorber remains undeterred in our steadfast commitment to bringing the best cinema from around the globe to these shores,” he adds. “We think these films need to be seen.”
Fox Star Studios
The popular Bollywood franchise Housefull 4 opens this weekend worldwide and is looking to make a comedic splash as it is being released on Diwali, the biggest holiday celebrating the new year in India — and the Diwali celebration will certainly carry over to America.
The fourth installment directed by Farhad Samji follows six lovers who are separated because of an evil conspiracy and revenge in the era of 1419. Fast forward to 2019 and their paths cross once again. However, the lives of the three men in present time fall in love with the wrong women and are about to marry their sisters-in-law. As destiny would have it, history repeats itself when the three couples end up in Sitamgarh where it all began 600 years ago. It is up to them to remember their past lives in time forever or if they will remain with the wrong lovers forever.
“Housefull is one of the most successful franchise comedies in Bollywood,” said Rohit Sharma, Head of International Sales & Distribution Sales, Fox Star Studios India. “The common factor is the leading actor Akshay Kumar who has been instrumental in developing this brand of comedy and which still appeals to Indian audiences over a decade.”
Bollywood is and continues to make an impact in the U.S. market. Recently, the Hindi-language action pic War opened stateside and had 305 runs in 129 markets, debuting to $1,607,627 and cracking the top 10. The Indian Telugu-language epic Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy also had a strong domestic opening at the beginning of October. With 290 runs in 115 markets, it took in an estimated $842,400 on its opening weekend. Housefull 3 debuted in the U.S. to the tune of $683,620 and the fourth installment looks to build on that.
Sharma points out that the scale of Bollywood releases in the U.S. has increased, going from 100 to 300-plus screens for bigger films. “The box office has also grown with $3M-plus gross box office numbers being crossed by big Bollywood films with more regularity,” Sharma adds.
Housefull 4 is set to open in 313 locations in North America including a few dozen Premium Large Format screens, which is rare for Bollywood films.
A brand new batch of artists, hipsters, Generation Z’ers and Millennials will be introduced to Jean-Michel Basquiat in the Edo Bertoglio-directed Downtown 81 from 2000. With a brand new restored 35mm print of the film, Metrograph will release the film in New York starting today with a rollout to additional cities including San Francisco, Portland, Brooklyn, Seattle, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Austin, Milwaukee and St. Louis.
Written by Glen O’Brien in 1980, the film is a New York time capsule that puts shine on the new wave music scene he reported on while working for Interview Magazine. He partnered with Bertoglio and put together this film with Producer Maripol, and Executive Producer, ZE Records founder, Michael Zilkha.
They cast a then-unknown 19-year-old Jean Michel Basquiat in this “fairytale” that followed an artist who is released from the hospital and we see a day in his life as he hustles as a painter to pay his rent. The film includes a series of live shows by bands Kid Creole and the Coconuts, DNA, James White and the Blacks, among others. The cast features a who’s who of New York icons including Debbie Harry, Fab 5 Freddy, Lee Quiñones, and cameos by some New York legends, from performer Cookie Mueller to the Mudd Club’s Steve Mass. The film first made its debut at Cannes in 2000 and was released theatrically in 2001.
Metrograph hopes to follow the success of its re-release of a 4K restoration of the 1974 semi-fictionalized documentary A Bigger Splash. The feature was released earlier in June and topped the specialty box office in its re-release with a top per-theater average among the specialties this weekend, grossing an estimated $18K. Downtown 81 is looking to follow suit.
“Our incredible advance sales for Downtown 81 makes clear the level of excitement and interest in Jean Michel Basquiat and New York’s 1980s downtown art/music scene,” said George Schmalz, Head of Distribution at Metrograph Pictures. “As Metrograph Pictures’ 5th release, we will continue our strategy of a strong nationwide expansion following our New York debut, much like we did for our summer 2019 release of A Bigger Splash.”