“I have very little to say except that I think it very charming and kind of you all to give us your Sunday night,” said a disarming Julian Fellowes at the NYC premiere of Downton Abbey: A New Era last Sunday. Distributor Focus Features – and the broader industry — hopes audiences will give the film many more Sunday nights, and other days and dayparts, jumpstarting the return to theaters of older demos.
Downton opens this weekend on over 3,800 screens, not a specialty release but leading here as a bellwether for that elusive audience, a staple of arthouses, that had raised hopes briefly by turning out for No Die To Die last fall. Lingering Covid jitters or an entrenched streaming habit have kept the 45-plus crowd sparse in cinemas even as they flock to restaurants and other public activities. The hope is that the Downton franchise will prove beloved as Bond, as enduring as Spider-Man, for its numerous fans.
“If it does well, people will start putting films out there,” said one distribution executive. And visa versa. Downton film no. 1 made close to $100 million in pre-pandemic 2019. A New Era (which was released in the U.K. and Ireland April 29 and has racked up $30 million internationally) would be considered successful with much less. Deadline review.
The film made just over $1 million in Thursday previews, tracking for a low to mid-teen opening.
Focus chairman Peter Kujawski at Sunday’s premiere thanked Fellowes and other “partners and collaborators who invited us to jump on this steaming freight train that they all created years ago and bring it to movie theaters so it can be experienced in the best, most beautiful way.”
A24 opens horror film Men on 2,220 screens (the specialty distributor is still basking in the success of Everything Everywhere All At Once that actually did jumpstart arthouses but skewed young). Alex Garland’s third film as writer/director after Ex-Machina and Annihilation stars Jessie Buckley, Rory Kinnear and Paapa Essiedu. In the aftermath of a personal tragedy, Harper (Buckley) retreats alone to the beautiful English countryside to heal. But someone or something from the surrounding woods appears to be stalking her. Cannes Film Festival Quinzaine premiere. Deadline review here.
Elsewhere in specialty, Kino Lorber presents Alessandro Celli’s sci-fi thriller Mondocane. Two best friends join a gang in post-apocalyptic Italy, finding money and family, including a charismatic if dangerous, father figure. With a new female friend pushing them apart, an obsessed cop hounding the gang, and their leader becoming increasingly unhinged, the boys barrel toward a confrontation that will determine if their bond is strong enough to survive. With Alessandro Borghi, Dennis Protopapa, Giuliano Soprano. Opens in NY at the Angelika and LA at the Landmark Westwood, Laemmle Playhouse, Laemmle Glendale, and the Landmark Opera Plaza in SF. Expanding next week.
Open Road Films presents Good Mourning in 25 theaters. Starring Colson Baker (aka Machine Gun Kelly who acts/writes/directs under his real name), Mod Sun, Becky G, Dove Cameron and Whitney Cummings. It co-stars GaTa, Zach Villa, Jenna Boyd and Boo Johnson, with special appearances by Megan Fox and Pete Davidson. The film, produced by Cedar Park Studios, is written and directed by Mod Sun. It follows movie star London Ransom (Baker) who wakes up to an apparent break-up text from the love of his life on the morning of the most important meeting of his career. His day keeps heading downhill and he’s forced to choose between true love and a starring film role.
Amazon presents Sundance comedy Emergency on 100+ screens. Directed by Carey Williams. With RJ Cyler, Donald Elise Watkins, Maddie Nichols and Sabrina Carpenter. A group of black and Latino college students weigh the pros and cons of calling the police when they come home to their worst nightmare. Deadline review.
IFC Films presents Stefan Forbes documentary Hold Your Fire on 14 screens. The doc explores the longest hostage siege in NYPD history in 1973 at a Brooklyn sporting goods store, and how Harvey Schlossberg, an officer with a doctorate in psychology, averted a bloodbath and gave rise to modern hostage negotiation. In 2020, it took the second annual Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize, a $200,000 finishing grant stories that touch on an aspect of American history. Produced by Fab 5 Freddy, Forbes, Tia Wou and Amir Soltani. Toronto International Film Festival 2021 Official Selection. Metropolis Grand Jury Prize Winner at DOC NYC 2021.
Cinema Guild presents Anthony Banua-Simon’s Cane Fire in limited release started at NYC’s BAM with rollout to follow. The doc examines the past and present of the Hawaiian island of Kaua’i, interweaving four generations of family history with accounts of numerous Hollywood productions shot there, along with troves of found footage to create a kaleidoscopic portrait of the economic and cultural forces that have cast indigenous and working-class residents as “extras” in their own story. Premiered at Hot Docs in 2020, screened at the Indie Memphis Film Festival, where it won Best Documentary Feature, the Hawaii Film Festival and MoMA Doc Fortnight, among others.
Strand Releasing presents Greek contemporary western Digger from Georgis Grigorakis, The film premiered at Berlin and decorated at a string of festivals, Greece’s Oscar selection for Best International Feature. A native farmer who lives and works alone in a farmhouse in the heart of a mountain forest in Northern Greece fights threat to his property and faces the sudden arrival of his young son after a twenty-year separation. Opens in NY at the Quad then in LA at the Laemmle Royal,
Event programmer Trafalgar Releasing has added Sunday shows of Twenty One Pilots Cinema Experience after a Thursday showing reached the No. 2 spot at the box office with a gross of more than $875,000 and achieved the No. 1 per-screen average for a wide release of $1,149 across 763 movie theaters. Directed by Jason Zada. Starring Twenty One Pilots’ Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun, it features an extended cut of the group’s 2021 livestream performance celebrating the release of their latest album, Scaled And Icy, with audio and video remastered for the big screen.