‘The Whale’ With Brendan Fraser Set To Make A Splash In Choppy Arthouse Market – Specialty Preview

Movies

From its triumphant world premiere (with seven-minute standing ovation) at the Venice Film Festival, A24 opens Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale in theaters this weekend amid a whirl of Oscar buzz around star Brendan Fraser. The former action star carries the psychological drama as Charlie, a reclusive and severely obese English teacher trying to reconnect with his estranged teenage daughter.

Deadline critic Damon Wise said Fraser’s “all-in performance… makes adjectives such as ‘brave’ and ‘fearless’ seem almost meaningless” and that The Whale is “cutting the line to put a never-better Brendan Fraser at the front of the Best Actor race.” See full review.

It opens on six screens total in NYC (Alamo Brooklyn, Angelika, AMC Lincoln Square) and LA (AMC Century City, Burbank, The Grove) and plans to hold there next week, expanding in a limited national footprint on Dec. 21 for the holidays.

The Whale looks set to do at least $50k per screen and possibly well over that in a specialty market that could use a bump. We’ve seen some higher opening numbers but most are still well below pre-pandemic levels. Ditto with overall box office grosses. Both records are A24’s to beat. Everything Everywhere All At Once, which came out in late March at $50k PSA, and went on to gross $70 million in North America ($100+ million worldwide).

Aronofsky (Mother!, Black Swan, The Wrestler) directs from a screenplay by Samuel D. Hunter based on Hunter’s 2012 play of the same name. Also starring are Hong Chau, Sadie Sink, Ty Simpkins and Samantha Morton.

Fraser wore state-of-the-art prosthetics for the film — way beyond a traditional fat suit. The actor has called the role of 600 pound Charlie “the biggest challenge” of his career and the character “the most heroic man I have ever played.” A video of the actor in tears amid applause in Venice was widely shared, as was subsequent love by The Rock on Twitter.  

In another big opening this weekend, Sam Mendes’ Empire of Light from Searchlight Pictures arrives in 100 theaters across 30 top markets.

Arthouse bookings include Coolidge Corner in Boston, Jacob Burns Film Center Cinema and Huntington in New York, the Avon in CT, AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Springs, Cinema Arts Fairfax, Bryn Maw Film Institute and others. Multiplexes include the Metreon in San Francisco, Lincoln Square and Union Square in NYC and AMC Burbank.

Searchlight has been having a strong run with The Menu and The Banshees Of Inisherin both in theaters. As indie distributors experiment with releases strategies, Searchlight said the film starring Olivia Colman, Michael Ward and Colin Firth will be limited to only a few theaters in each opening city — or the same they’d have with a traditional platform release. That lets arthouse cinemas and mainstream multiplexes open the film at the same time and “on the pop,” it said, rather than waiting another week or two.

It expands Dec. 23 to 600-700 locations.

The film, set in and around a faded old cinema in an English coastal town in the early 1980s, is the relationship of Hilary (Colman), a cinema manager struggling with her mental health, and Stephen (Ward), a new employee who longs to escape the provincial town where he faces daily racism as a young Black man. With Tom Brooke, Tanya Moodie, Hannah Onslow, Crystal Clarke and Toby Jones.

It world premiered in Telluride Film Festival — Deadline review — and screened in Toronto. Mendes awarded the Stockholm Visionary Award at the Stockholm Film Festival, and the Kieslowski Award at EnergaCAMERIMAGE.

Searchlight is marketing Empire of Light to a core cinephile, arthouse, frequent moviegoer and Anglophile audiences with a 25+ target. The campaign will include heavy targeting of national media over expansion weeks.

Also opening, Greenwich Entertainment presents Josh Alexander’s Al Sharpton documentary Loudmouth at 50+ locations. The Tribeca Festival closing night selection follows the life and career of the polarizing preacher and activist who burst into the headlines in New York City in the late 1980s and has been at the center of the national conversation around ever race since. With never-before-seen archival footage and close access, the doc puts a disruptive spotlight on the pastoral prodigy turned political firebrand turned media establishment figure.

Outsider Pictures presents Fernando Guzzoni’s Blanquita, Chile’s Oscar submission for Best International Feature, at the Laemmle Glendale and Cinema Village in Manhattan. Blanquita world premiered in the Horizons section of the Venice Film Festival this year, winning the best screenplay prize for Guzzoni.

Laura López debuts as an 18-year-old resident of a foster home and key witness in a trial against powerful politicians and businessmen in a child sex scandal. As questions are asked, her role in the scandal becomes unclear. Alejandro Goic stars as the priest who runs the foster home. With Amparo Noguera, Marcelo Alonso and Daniela Ramirez. The film is inspired by the real-life early 2000s pedophilia ring run by an entrepreneur and sports club owner.

Chile won the Oscar for best international film in 2018 with Sebastían Lelio’s A Fantastic Woman, while Pablo Larrain’s No was nominated for the 2012-13 race and Maite Alberdi’s The Mole Agent was nominated in the Best Documentary category last year.

Atlas Film Distribution opens Steven LaMorte’s slasher parody The Mean One in 160+ theaters.

David Howard Thornton (Terrifier 2‘s Art the Clown) plays the hairy, green-skinned grump in a Santa suit, living on a mountain high above the town of Newville, despising the holiday season. As he launches a new reign of terror that threatens to destroy Christmas, Young Cindy You-Know-Who (Krystle Martin), whose parents were butchered by The Mean One twenty Christmases earlier, returns to seek closure. Written by Flip and Finn Kobler. With Chase Mullins, John Bigham, Erik Baker, Flip Kobler, and Amy Schumacher, who also producers.

Netflix opens Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical in about 120 theaters including the Quad and iPic Fulton Market in NY and Cinemark Playa Vista, iPic Westwood, Regal LA Live and the Bay in LA. It’s grossed $9.6 million in the UK and Ireland since a Nov. 25 release by Sony.

The new take on the Tony and Olivier Award-winning musical stars Emma Thompson, Stephen Graham, Andrea Riseborough, Sindhu Vee, Alisha Weir and Lashana Lynch and is directed by Matthew WarchusDennis Kelly adapted the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production for the big screen, with original music and lyrics by Tim Minchin. Weir is the bookish Matilda Wormwood, a little girl with big curiosity, a sharp mind and a vivid imagination. Graham and Riseborough are the worst parents in the world.

The streamer’s Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio continues in about100 theaters including IFC Center, MoMA and Alamo Drafthouse in NY and Regal LA Live and the Bay in LA.

Its White Noise expands to 275 theaters including the Paris and Angelika in NY and Landmark Nuart, Laemmle Monica and the Bay in LA.

RLJE Films presents holiday slasher Christmas Bloody Christmas on 300+ screens including NY/LA and streaming on Shudder. Directed by Joe Begos. Record store owner Tori Tooms is just looking to get drunk and party when the robotic Santa Claus at a nearby toy store goes haywire in a rampant killing spree through a neon drenched snowscape, forcing her into a blood splattered battle for survival against the ruthless heavy metal Saint Nick. With Riley Dandy, Sam Delich, Jonah Ray Rodrigues, Dora Madison, Jeremy Gardner, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Abraham Benrubi.

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