Indies Opine On National Cinema Day As ‘Golda’, ‘Bottoms’ & ‘The Hill’ Hit Theaters – Specialty Preview

It’s an unusual theatrical weekend as the second National Cinema Day rolls out Sunday with $4 tickets for all shows and formats at participating theaters — the bulk of the nation’s circuits big and small. The event was announced Monday with a dedicated clip of new openings, recent returning (The Super Mario Bros. Movie) and re-releases (Jurassic Park, America Graffiti, Lady Bird).

Angelika said all its theaters in New York Washington, D.C., California, Virginia and Texas are leaning in, and throwing in $4 sodas of any size. Cinergy Dine-In Cinemas, with nine locations in Texas, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Illinois, will offer small popcorns and sodas for $4. Concession discounts are up each theater owner.

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Last year, with the box office still recovering and National Cinema Day held on the generally slow Saturday of Labor Day weekend, the event, which drew crowds, made sense, some indies said this week. (Although they were plenty annoyed at the time when the 2022 event was sprung on them without notice.)

Communication this year was a bit better, although still not early enough for distributors to juggle release dates if they’d wanted. And some indie theater operators were caught by surprise again. Cinema Day “is trying to boost multiplexes. The others are an afterthought,” said one of them. “If you are planning things in advance. If you are doing your own programming. If you do repertory with a long lead time, and your own publicity more than six days in advance, and NATO comes in and says everything is going to be four dollars…that is targeted at certain idea of what theaters look like and who goes to them. When NATO is saying movies are back, and go to your local theater, they don’t mean us.”

The event is run by the National Cinema Foundation, a nonprofit closely tied to NATO. In an unusual sideshow, Jackie Brenneman, the head of the nonprofit National Cinema Foundation and EVP/General Counsel of NATO, exited as Cinema Day 2023 was unveiled amid an exodus at the National Association Of Theater Owners under new CEO Michael O’Leary.

“I understood why they did it last year. It was pandemic recovery time and let’s get people back into theaters. We’re beyond that. Why do it again if box office is back?” wondered one indie distribution executive. “These are not people who [will be] coming back to theaters for the first time in three years saying ‘Oh my god, I forgot how great it was to go to the movies. I  am going to come back and back’.”

All that said, Cinema Day will for sure boost attendance and ticket sales, where the specialty market still lags the broader box office. We’ll know more what that looks like on Sunday.

New specialty openings this weekend: Bleecker Street and ShivHans Pictures presents Guy Nattiv’s Golda on 883 screens, the Berlin-premiering ticking-clock thriller set during the tense 19 days of the Yom Kippur War in 1973. The opening follows special advance screenings Wednesday in partnership with Fathom Events at 4 and 7 pm at 500 theaters that featured a Q&A with Helen Mirren, who stars as Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, and Nattiv. Liev Schreiber and Camille Cottin also star.

Meir, faced with the potential of Israel’s complete destruction, must navigate overwhelming odds, a skeptical cabinet, and a complex relationship with U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (Schreiber) as millions of lives hang in the balance. Her tough leadership and compassion would ultimately decide the fate of her nation. See Deadline’s Berlin review.

MGM presents raunchy high school comedy Bottoms by Emma Seligman, a girl version of fight club, in limited release via ten theaters in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Austin. Expansion planned. Premiered at SXSW and stars Rachel Sennott and Ayo Edbiri as two queer teen girls, PJ and Josie, who start a fight club that gains traction. It soon has the most popular girls in school beating each other up in the name of self-defense with PJ and Josie in over their heads and in need of a way out. Seligman wrote the screenplay with Sennott, who starred in the helmer’s 2020 indie Shiva Baby. Edebiri broke out in The Bear. Bottoms is 99% with critics on Rotten Tomatoes, see Deadline review. Social conversation is strong heading into weekend; indexing highest with LGBTQ+, Millennials, and Gen Z moviegoers, MGM noted. To date, Bottoms has generated over 145K domestic social conversations and over 30M global video views. Female audiences (57%) are exceptionally strong on social and driving the most mentions.

Briarcliff Entertainment opens sports drama The Hill starring Dennis Quaid on 1,500+ screens. Directed by Jeff Celentano, written by Angelo Pizzo and Scott Marshall Smith. Growing up impoverished in small-town Texas, young Rickey Hill (Colin Ford) shows an extraordinary ability for baseball despite being burdened by leg braces from a degenerative spinal disease. His stern pastor father (Quaid) discourages Rickey from playing to protect him from the injury. He wants the boy to follow in his footsteps and become a preacher and Rickey’s desire to try out for a legendary major league scout divides the family. Also stars Joelle Carter, country music singer-songwriter Randy Houser, Bonnie Bedelia and Scott Glenn.

Kino Lorber presents Charlotte Regan’s comedy Scrapper, winner of the World Cinema Dramatic Prize at Sundance 2022, at the IFC Center in NYC. Expands to LA’s Nuart Sept 8. Stars Harris Dickinson (Beach RatsTriangle of Sadness) as a young father reunited with his estranged 12-year old daughter Georgie (newcomer Lola Campbell) who secretly lives alone in her flat in a working class suburb of London following the death of her mother. See Deadline’s Scrapper Sundance review.

Music Box Films presents Babak Jalali’a immigrant drama Fremont, which premiered at Sundance and screened at SXSW. Stars actual refugee Anaita Wali Zada as a mid-20s Afghan refugee Donya in Fremont, California with complicated feelings about her prior work as a translator for the U.S. military. Drifting through uninspiring work at a fortune cookie factory and lonely dinners at a local restaurant, she struggles to connect until an unexpected revelation prompts to build a bridge to the outside world. Opening in four theaters in the Bay Area, where it was shot, including San Francisco, San Rafael, Berkeley and Fremont. Expands to NYC and LA next week.

Piaffe, from Oscilloscope Laboratories, opens at the Quad in NYC. The debut feature from Ann Oren world-premiered in Locarno last year. Stars Simone Bucio as Eva, introverted and unqualified for the unexpected task of foleying the sound for a commercial featuring a horse. As she slowly acclimates to the new job, her obsession with creating the perfect equine sounds grows into something more tangible. Eva harnesses this new physicality, becoming confident and sexually empowered.

Greenwich Entertainment opens doc The Elephant 6 Recording Co. by C.B. Stockfleth at NYC’s IFC Center. An inside look at the ’90s rock collective that launched Neutral Milk Hotel, The Olivia Tremor Control, The Apples in Stereo and other bands. Its roots go back to 1985 when a group of Louisiana high schoolers began experimenting with whatever random instruments and gear they could find. Influenced by psychedelia and with little to distract them they birthed a musical revolution.

IFC films/RLJ Entertainment opens The Dive by Maximilian Erlenwein at NYC’s IFC Center. A dive at one of the world’s most remote spots becomes a fight to the death for sisters Drew (Sophia Lowe) and May (Louisa Krause) when a landslide sends rocks tumbling into the sea, trapping May in the depths. As their oxygen runs low, Drew must make life-and-death decisions with no outside help in sight.

Holdover: Documentary King Coal by Elaine McMillion Sheldon expands to LA (from NYC and Winston-Salem NC). A look at the complex history and future of the coal industry, the Central Appalachia communities it shaped and myths it created. Premiered at Sundance. Producers Diane Becker and Shane Boris last won the Oscar for Navalny. King Coal is self-releasing. Production companies include Drexler Films, Cottage M, Fishbowl Films and Requisite Media. The film played last week at DCTV, earning $6K in weekend grosses.

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