‘Maiden’ Sets Sail In NYC & LA; Daisy Ridley Channels ‘Ophelia’ –  Specialty B.O. Preview

This weekend, Sony Pictures Classics launches Alex Holmes’ Toronto ’18 premiere Maiden. The company was bullish about the doc’s prospects at the title’s New York premiere hosted by awards maven Peggy Siegal.

IFC Films is heading out with a day and date release of Ophelia, a modern-language re-imagining of Hamlet told from Ophelia’s POV, starring Daisy Ridley, Naomi Watts and Clive Owen. Greenwich Entertainment is opening Locarno Film Festival prize-winner Three Peaks, looking to take advantage of the dearth of new dramas, while KimStim is bowing the provocative social satire The Plagiarists in New York.

Other limited releases heading to theaters this weekend include Euphoria with Alicia Vikander, Eva Green and Charlotte Rampling via Freestyle Releasing and Lionsgate Home Entertainment as well as Vertical Entertainment’s The Last Whistle. ArtAffects, meanwhile, is opening its faith-centered The Other Side Of Heaven 2: Fire of Faith in over two hundred locations Friday.

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Director: Alex Holmes
Subject: Tracy Edwards
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

Sony Pictures Classics co-president Tom Bernard caught the first screening of doc Maiden at last year’s Toronto Film Festival. Afterward, he told his colleagues that the company “had to get” the film. His colleagues caught the next showing. “We made a deal on the movie immediately,” said co-president Michael Barker ahead of the film’s Peggy Siegal-hosted premiere in New York Tuesday. “We had to have it.”

In 1989, the very idea of a competitive all-female sailboat crew was nearly inconceivable in the manly world of open-ocean yacht racing. They’d never make it to the start of the Whitbread Round the World Race, much less survive to the finish. They’d never find funding. They didn’t have the strength or skill. They’d die at sea. Did professional female sailors even exist?  Enter Tracy Edwards, a defiant young woman, who became the skipper of the first ever all-female crew to enter the race. The story of Maiden’s upstart run at the Whitbread has all the elements of an epic adventure tale – 50-foot waves, life and death drama, near-mutiny, thrilling victory – grounded in a  group portrait of a team of courageous young women led by the vibrant, complicated Edwards. 

Barker said at the premiere this week that Maiden had parallels in momentum akin to the very different 2012 non-fiction release Searching For Sugar Man.

“Both are stories not [previously] seen on the [big screen] before, yet are very timely,” he said. “Both engage the audience in a major, major way. The word of mouth from all the [Maiden] screenings we’ve had from Toronto through now have had a profound effect. I think it foreshadows a very successful release.”

Barker added that the company had also released Searching For Sugar Man in summer, which can be advantageous for an “independent, commercial and entertaining documentary.” Sugar Man bowed in July 2012 in three theaters to a moderate $27,459 ($9,153 per theater average) though the title caught momentum and word of mouth, going on to cume over $3.69M.

“I think we’re in a cycle in that if you have a documentary that’s fresh and is the seminal movie on its subject while also being a theatrical experience and distinctive, you have a really good chance,” added Barker. “Last summer really showed that with the successes of RBG (Magnolia), Won’t You Be My Neighbor (Focus Features) and Three Identical Strangers (Neon).”

Maiden is opening in select New York and L.A. theaters Friday, followed by expansion in Chicago, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. The feature will then cruise to the next 10 – 12 cities. Said Barker, “We’ll slowly open it all over the country. It’ll play everywhere.”

Director: Claire McCarthy
Writers: Semi Chellas, Lisa Klein (book)
Cast: Daisy Ridley, Naomi Watts, Clive Owen, George MacKay, Tom Felton
Distributor: IFC Films

Star Wars and Murder On the Orient Express star Daisy Ridley takes the title role of Ophelia, which IFC Films will open day and date, beginning with a theatrical roll out Friday just ahead of on-demand platforms next week. The distributor initially saw the re-imagining of Hamlet seen through Ophelia’s perspective at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, picking up the title earlier this year.

Set in Medieval Denmark and spoken in modern tongue, the drama-romance follows a rebellious and motherless child, Ophelia (Ridley), who is taken into Elsinore Castle by Queen Gerturde (Naomi Watts) as one of her most trusted ladies-in-waiting. Soon enough, Ophelia captures the affections of the young Prince Hamlet (George MacKay). A passionate romance kindles between the two in secret as the kingdom is on the brink of war amidst its own political intrigue and betrayal. When Hamlet’s father is murdered and the prince’s wits begin to unravel into an insatiable quest for vengeance, Ophelia sharply navigates the rules of power in Denmark all while struggling to choose between her true love and her own life.

“Daisy has had a coming out in Star Wars, but this is in a different league,” said IFC Films EVP of Acquisitions and Production Arianna Bocco. “There’s an audience of young, smart women that looks up to her and that’s the audience we’re looking for.”

Bocco said the title’s promotion leading up to this weekend has been “very heavy on social media,” targeting primarily the female audience in the 25 – 34 age range, with crossover to the 18 – 24 as a secondary group. The company is also looking to appeal to others because of the Hamlet tie-in.

“We’re hoping to get some older audiences because of the Shakespeare appeal,” she said. “We think Ophelia has crossover between the indie side and the mainstream with Daisy along with other cast including Naomi Watts and Clive Owen. That’s a big reason why we’re doing day and date. We think it’ll reach a broader audience.”

Theatrically, Ophelia will bow in 15 markets Friday including select New York and L.A. locations.

Three Peaks
Director-writer: Jan Zabeil
Cast: Bérénice Bejo, Alexander Fehling, Arian Montgomery
Distributor: Greenwich Entertainment

Three Peaks is the sophomore outing for German filmmaker Jan Zabeil. Greenwich Entertainment’s Ed Arentz caught the family drama at the 2017 Locarno Film Festival where it won the Piazza Grande Award. “We were just starting the company that year and felt a thoughtful, beautifully shot intimate drama with thriller components was something US arthouse audiences would respond to,” said Arentz.

Three Peaks centers on Aaron (Alexander Fehling), a German, and his French girlfriend Léa (Bérénice Bejo), who are in a new relationship even though her young son Tristan (newcomer Arian Montgomery) still imagines his mother reconciling with his American father. An idyllic vacation in the soaring Italian Dolomites takes a dark turn as Aaron fights to win over Tristan and cement his place in this family, while Léa wrestles with conflicting loyalties. The tug of war between Aaron and Tristan intensifies when the boy disappears into the mountains. As the family drama shifts into survival film, it’s unclear who’s in the most danger. 

Greenwich is banking on early summer tentpole fatigue to help drive art house fans to Three Peaks this weekend. “Given that the majors tend to avoid dramas generally but almost completely in the summer, there is an underserved parallel summer audience that provide good opportunities for indie distributors to address,” noted Arentz. “Three Peaks is also about a couple and the woman’s eight-year-old son on a summer holiday in the Italian Dolomites so there is seasonal appropriateness.”

Greenwich expects a core 35-plus fans of foreign-language film to be the title’s primary audience in its initial weekend. The company has been promoting the film primarily through the title’s trailer and social media.

Three Peaks opens exclusively at IFC Center in New York followed by the Nuart in L.A. next week. The company plans to take the feature to the top 50 markets in the coming weeks.

The Plagiarists
Filmmakers-writers: James N. Kienitz Wilkins, Robin Schavoir
Cast: Michael Payne, Lucy Kaminsky, Eamon Monaghan, Emily Davis, Robin Schavoir, Jude Alexis
Distributor: KimStim

KimStim’s Ian Stimler said his company saw The Plagiarists at MoMA and Film at Lincoln Center’s annual New Directors/New Films series earlier this year. Written by James N. Kienitz Wilkins and Robin Schavoir, The Plagiarists is a “dramatic comedy about the clash of money and culture, reality and desire, race and identity.”

The film was conceived as a critique of the “mannerisms of indie film used by aspiring filmmakers to denote authenticity of performance, often resulting in the casual perpetuation of stereotypes.”

The Plagiarists centers on a young white couple whose car breaks down after a weekend getaway, and they’re helped by an older black man who inspires them with his creative wisdom. When they discover six months later that the words he spoke might not be his own, they’re horrified, fixating on his “crime” while forced to confront the originality of their own lives.

“I had been talking to producer Paul Dallas for a while,” explained Stimler. “We weren’t sure about it. It’s an odd fish with a lot of meta references. It’s so different from anything, so it felt worth picking up and taking a shot.” KimStim boarded as distributor this past spring.

Though spearheaded by filmmakers-writers James N. Kienitz Wilkins and Robin Schavoir, most credits attribute the ‘director’ of the film to another name. “The person listed as the director, ‘Peter Parlow,’ is not someone who actually exists,” said Stimler. “The film is not what you think it’s going to be. What you think on the surface is not what it is.”

Stimler added that Wilkins and Schavoir do not consider themselves “directors” of the title, but instead opt for “filmmakers.” Added Stimler: “This deals with ideas of authenticity and they want that to be addressed.”

The feature will have its theatrical start in New York today, launching a slow, limited roll out. Added Stimler: “I think it’ll be a good word of mouth [film]. We’re not opening this very quickly. It’s something that needs to percolate. It’s a modest release for us, but we feel good about about it. When people see it, it lingers in their minds.”

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