Pablo Larraín’s Venice Heartthrob Spencer Tests A Royally Tough Market For Indie Film Specialty Preview

Neon presents Spencer on just under 1,000 screens, Pablo Larraín’s well reviewed psychological drama about the weekend Princess Diana rewrote the future of the British monarchy. The film is said to be looking at a $2-$2.5 million opening with an 84% Certified Fresh critics’ score on Rotten Tomatoes but a 50% audience score (albeit from fewer than 50 ratings).

Meanwhile, Eternals is tracking to a $75M opening with flipped scores — 49% critics, 86% audience.

This is a period where counter-programming — a key role of independent film, specialty and arthouse fare, documentaries, barely exists. If recent Marvel Cinematic Universe release weekends are precedent, this one will be all Eternals all the time for the mostly younger crowds that are repopulating theaters.

Yet, even with no new wide-release superhero-mega-franchise hitting last weekend, nothing else opened well (except maybe Funimation’s My Hero Academia: World Heroes’ Mission). That includes indie Last Night In Soho despite a solid media campaign, buzzy Anya Taylor-Joy music video and best efforts of distributor Focus Features and director Edgar Wright. Not all but most moviegoers were still turning out for Dune week 2, Halloween Kills week 3 and No Time To Die week 4. Indie distributors are the first to credit these big guns for reviving theatrical, but what happened to trickle-down theory?

This past week saw independent producers and distributors talking somberly at AFM about the theatrical outlook for an entire subset of films, and movie chain CEOs on quarterly earnings calls affirming that tentpoles alone will drive the theatrical business and hold decent windows.

There have been bright spots — Summer of Soul, Roadrunner, The Green Knight, Stillwater. Lamb surprised, Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch opened with a blast. Plenty of arthouses are seeing sold out shows, not always but often for limited releases genre films and docs on opening weekend fueled by director Q&As. But it’s not adding up yet.

It will, some distributors say, it’s just slow. Others insist there will always be a place for independent and arthouse film, which is slightly different phrasing. Meanwhile, the good news is that Covid is receding and pedigreed festival favorites and Oscar hopefuls continue to roll out each weekend.

Spencer, written by Steven Knight, starring Kristen Stewart — currently enjoying significant Oscar buzz for the title role — Timothy Spall, Jack Farthing, Sean Harris, Sally Hawkins, is set over a weekend when the marriage of Princess Diana and Prince Charles has long since grown cold. Though rumors of affairs and a divorce abound, peace is ordained for the Christmas festivities at the Queen’s Sandringham Estate. There’s eating and drinking, shooting and hunting. Diana knows the game. But this year, things will be profoundly different and Spencer is an imagining of what might have happened during those few fateful days.

The film debuted at the Venice Film Festival and played at Telluride and Toronto.

There’s a seemingly bottomless well of interest in the People’s Princess from the last Emmy-sweeping season of The Crown to Diana: The Musical about to open on Broadway to the ongoing six-part CNN Original Series Diana. “There has been an endless examination and fascination towards Diana. Lorrain and Stewart however have excavated her soul, and, in the end, presented what we should most want to remember,” said Deadline’s review.

The film is produced by Juan de Dios Larraín, Jonas Dornbach, Paul Webster, Janine Jackowski, Maren Ade.

Spencer trailer::

Also opening: IFC Films’ Hollywood satire-digital age thriller The Beta Test in 25 theaters. Written and directed by Jim Cummings and PJ McCabe, starring Cummings, Virginia Newcomb and McCabe. A married Hollywood agent receives a mysterious letter for an anonymous sexual encounter and becomes ensnared in a sinister world of lying, murder, and infidelity. The film was an official selection at the Berlin International Film Festival

Saban Films presents crime action thriller Ida Red written and directed by John Swab and starring Melissa Leo, Frank Grillo and Josh Hartnett. Premiered at the Locarno Film Festival. Crime boss Ida “Red” Walker (Leo), battling a terminal illness while serving a 25-year prison sentence in Oklahoma, turns to her son, Wyatt (Hartnett), to pull off one last heist to get out of prison. But with the FBI closing in, Wyatt must choose between family and freedom.

Zeitgeist Films and Kino Lorber present Hive, Blerta Basholli’s award-winning drama and Kosovo’s international Oscar entry, in New York at Film Forum, expanding to LA and select cities next weekend. The triple Sundance winner (World Cinema Audience, Directing and Grand Jury Prize) is based on the true story of Fahrije Hoti (Yllka Gashi), who, like many women in her patriarchal village, has lived with grief and fading hope since her husband went missing during the war in Kosovo. To provide for her struggling family, she joins other widows to launch a business selling ajvar (roasted red pepper spread). They find healing and solace but their will to begin living independently is met with hostility. (A Hive rep said this morning that Film Forum’s pre-sales for this weekend are looking to break its record since re-opening in April.)

Dangerous from Lionsgate follows ex-con and reformed sociopath Dylan Forrester (Scott Eastwood) trying to quietly serve out his parole with the help of a steady supply of antidepressants and his eccentric psychiatrist (Mel Gibson). But when his brother dies under mysterious circumstances, Dylan breaks parole and, with a dogged FBI agent (Famke Janssen) on his trail, sets out to uncover the truth. Also starring Kevin Durand and Tyrese Gibson. Directed by David Hackl, written by Christopher Borrelli. In theaters and on demand.

Screen Media presents One Shot starring Scott Adkins, Ashley Greene Khoury and Ryan Phillippe. Directed by James Nunn, written by Jamie Russell. In an effort to prevent a terrorist attack on Washington D.C., an elite squad of Navy SEALs led by Lt. Blake Harris (Scott Adkins) and a junior CIA analyst Zoe Anderson (Ashley Greene) must retrieve a prisoner from a CIA black site island prison. Tensions flare as the Deputy Site Manager (Ryan Phillippe) refuses to release the suspected terrorist. In theaters and on demand.

Netflix opens comedy Red Notice with Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot on 750 screens. An FBI profiler pursuing the world’s most wanted art thief becomes his reluctant partner in crime to catch an elusive crook who’s always one step ahead. Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber.

The streamer also opens Brazilian drama 7 Prisoners in ten theaters, including The Quad in NYC and Landmark Westwood in LA. From writer-director Alexandre Moratto. Produced by Oscar-nominated filmmakers Fernando Meirelles and Ramin Bahrani. (Netflix also expands Rebecca Hall’s Passing to 65 theaters.)

Red Notice trailer:

 

7 Prisoners trailer:

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