Sony Pictures Classics releases Telluride-darling documentary Julia with a national TV push, culinary events and virtual screenings through November hosted by famous chefs from Alice Waters (San Francisco) and Johnny Spero (Boston) to Jamie Bissonnette (Houston) and luminaries from New York, LA, Philly and Miami.
Directors Betsy West and Julie Cohen talked up the film on one Today show segment, followed by another, where food stylist Susan Spungen made Child’s recipe for pear and almond tarts. Chef Marcus Samuelsson – who appears in the film — cooked Julia Child’s classic roasted chicken and glazed carrots on Rachel Ray. A Nightline interview with West and Cohen airs next week.
Marketing and outreach is key in the current tepid specialty market.
“Every city is new event. It’s a real grassroots campaign,” said Sony Pictures Classic co-president Tom Bernard. That includes ads in food sections of newspapers, on cooking podcasts and YouTube. There’s a Smithsonian event moderated by National Museum of American History food historian Dr. Ashley Rose Young. Padma Lakshmi is hosting a Q&A on the film for Planned Parenthood. (Child was a strong reproductive rights advocate.)
It’s worth noting that, while the films are very different, one of the best specialty box office performers of the year was documentary Road Runner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain — the late peripatetic chef and TV star. That also had a unique marketing campaign from Focus Features including theaters sending out recipe cards.
Julia — Rotten Tomato critics’ score of 98% off 47 reviews — opens on five screens in New York and LA, expanding next weekend. There’s no PVOD date.
It can’t hurt the film’s prospects that Thanksgiving is upon us, and that Covid has nudged Americans into the kitchen now more than ever.
Using never-before-seen archival footage, personal photos, first-person narratives, and cutting-edge, mouth-watering food cinematography, West and Cohen follow the life of the legendary cookbook author turned television superstar who completely transformed the way Americans think about food, television, and even about women. The film traces Child’s surprising path from her struggles to create and publish the revolutionary Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961) which has sold more than 2.5 million copies to date, to her empowering story of a woman who found fame in her 50s, and her calling as an unlikely television sensation. Her show The French Chef, which premiered on public television’s WGBH in 1962, was one of the first cooking shows on TV.
Child, famously played by Dan Aykroyd on SNL, was 6’2’’ with a distinctive high-pitched voice.
“She’s an incredibly powerful figure for women. She changed the way the kitchen worked,” Bernard said. Outside of food, Child “was one the first people to recognize AIDS. She was behind Planned Parenthood. She was going to be a spy before she became a cook. There’s a lot to discover” even if you think you know her.
Child passed away at age 91 in 2004.
Elsewhere in specialty: Netflix opens tick, tick…BOOM! in around 200 theaters and Procession at the Metrograph in NYC before expanding to more screens next week. Both hit Netflix on Nov. 19.
Lin-Manuel Miranda makes his feature directorial debut with tick, tick…BOOM!, an adaptation of the autobiographical musical by Jonathan Larson, who revolutionized theater as the creator of Rent. Deadline review here. (Netflix also continues with Red Notice in 750 theaters in week 2.)
The film follows Jon (Andrew Garfield), a young theater composer waiting tables at an NYC diner in 1990 while writing what he hopes will be the next great American musical. Also staring Alexandra Shipp, Robin de Jesus, Joshua Henry, MJ Rodriguez, Bradley Whitford, Tariq Trotter. With Judith Light and and Vanessa Hudgens. Written by Tony Award winner Steven Levenson and produced by Brian Grazer and Ron Howard for Imagine Entertainment, Julie Oh, and Lin-Manuel Miranda.
In Robert Greene’s documentary Procession, six Midwestern men – all survivors of childhood sexual assault at the hands of Catholic priests and clergy – come together to direct a drama, a therapy-inspired experiment designed to collectively work through their trauma. As part of a radically collaborative filmmaking process, they create fictional scenes based on memories, dreams and experiences, meant to explore the church rituals, culture and hierarchies that enabled silence around their abuse. In the face of a failed legal system, we watch these men reclaim the spaces that allowed their assault.
Blue Fox Entertainment presents Love is Love is Love from Eleanor Coppola (wife of Francis Ford Coppola). With Chris Messina, Joanne Whalley, Maya Kazan, Rosanna Arquette, Polly Draper, Cybill Shepherd, Rita Wilson, Kathy Baker and Marshall Bell. An anthology of three stories that explore love, commitment, and loyalty between couples and friends. It premiered at the Deauville Film Festival last year. On demand Dec. 14.
Vertical Entertainment presents romantic comedy Soulmates on 11 screens and on demand. Directed by Timothy Armstrong with Alexandra Case, Mark Famiglietti, Stephanie Lynn. Sam and Jess are lifelong best friends. But when Jess meets a handsome out-of-stater, Landon, Sam begins to fear she’s being cast aside. Meanwhile, the massive corporation Landon works for is threatening their beloved small-town Vermont way of life.
Mubi opens drama What Do We See When We Look At the Sky? in NYC. A Gotham Awards nominee for best international feature, the film from Georgia by Alexandre Koberidze was a favorite with critics at this year’s Berlin Film Festival. A chance encounter on a street corner has Lisa and Giorgi, a pharmacist and soccer player, fall in love at first site. A curse put on them thwarts their intended rendezvous, but also helps them see the city of Kutaisi — and perhaps each other — with fresh eyes.
Abramorama presents Imagine Documentaries and Impact Partners documentary Paper & Glue in NYC, DC, San Diego and Dallas, adding LA and San Francisco next weekend. An inside exploration into the work of legendary French artist JR, whose large-scale photographs have covered structures across the globe for almost two decades. Using his projects as a bridge to span our many cultural divides, the film explores art’s greater ability to challenge perspectives and unite communities. Debuted at at Tribeca.
Samuel Goldwyn Films presents Night Raiders written/directed by Daniel Goulet in six markets (NYC, LA, Tulsa, Detroit, Minneapolis, Seattle. With Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, Brooklyn Letexier-Hart, Gail Maurice, Amanda Plummer, Alex Tarrant, Violet Nelson, Shaun Sipos, Suzanne Cyr. A mother joins an underground band of vigilantes to try and rescue her daughter from a state-run institution in this dystopian sci-fi feature executive produced by Taika Waititi.
(If you are reading this you already missed it but Fathom Events and MGM presented a one-night Nov. 11 exclusive engagement of Rocky IV in 734 theaters. Rocky V. Drago: The Ultimate Director’s Cut featured 40 minutes of never-before-seen footage from the 1985 film and a live Q&A with Sylvester Stallone. Fathom wasn’t immediately able to provide grosses but said its was the distributor’s best performing live event in 18 months)
Amazon is putting Jessie Moss’ Pete Buttigieg documentary Mayor Pete in one LA theater and on Prime Video, taking viewers inside the former mayor of South Bend, Ind. and current Secretary of Transportation’s headline-generating campaign to be the youngest U.S. president and the first openly gay presidential candidate. It follows the candidate, his husband Chasten, and their team during the earliest days of the campaign, through his unlikely, triumphant victory in Iowa and beyond.