It's Not Just The Avengers: Check Out This Weekend's Other Theatrical Openers
Cinco de Mayo weekend will surely belong to Marvel's The Avengers, which has already racked up $18.7 million in U.S. grosses courtesy of last night's midnight screenings. The superhero filled adventure has been pegged as possibly this year's biggest box office draw — time will tell. But for those who want to check out something else besides superheroes (or want to resuscitate from its aftermath) there are plenty of specialty releases opening this weekend including Fox Searchlight's India-set The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Sundance Selects' dance doc First Position, ATO's water doc Last Call at the Oasis, Kathleen Turner starrer The Perfect Family. And, if you need a little more Samuel L. Jackson in your life post-Avengers, check out his other opener Meeting Evil.
Marvel's The Avengers (Opening Wide)
Director: Joss Whedon
Writers Zak Penn (story), Joss Whedon (story and screenplay), Stan Lee (comic book), Jack Kirby (comic book)
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L. Jackson
Destined to be the big box office draw of 2012 (so far), Marvel's The Avengers features a "Super Hero team of a lifetime. Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye and Black Widow battle an enemy that threatens global safety. The director of the international peacekeeping agency - S.H.I.E.L.D. - assembles the team to save the world from certain disaster.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (Limited Release)
Director John Madden
Writers: Ol Parker (screenplay), Deborah Moggach (novel)
Cast: Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
The feature revolves around a group of British retirees who move to India to "outsource" their retirement in a less expensive but exotic locale. They're drawn by advertisements to the newly refurbished Marigold Hotel, but arrive to find it less than they envisioned. Less luxurious than they had oped, they're nevertheless transformed by their shared experience, "discovering that life and love can begin again when you let go of the past."
Marigold shot in October 2010 in India, which producer Graham Broadbent described as an "extraordinary, bewildering place." They arrived with a small crew from the U.K., which was met by a massive team from India during their 45-day stay. "There were 350 people in the crew," said Broadbent. "In the U.K. we'd expect maybe 120."
First Position (Limited Release)
Director: Bess Kargman
Subjects: Aran Bell, Gaya Bommer Yemini, Michaela Deprince
Distributor: Sundance Selects
Check out Movieline's exclusive clip from First Position: (http://movieline.com/2012/05/04/first-position-clip-whats-it-take-to-be-a-boy-in-ballet-exclusive/)
The doc is an inspirational look at six ballet dancers ages 9 to 19 who sacrifice physically and emotionally on their way to one of the most prestigious youth ballet competitions in the world. First Position takes a year-long look at children around the world who strive to master an art form despite the odds.
"We fell in love with these kids who are striving to do their best with the pressures they're facing," Sundance Selects exec Ryan Werner said about the film. His company picked up the title at last year's Toronto International Film Festival and since then it has won awards at Doc NYC and at festivals in Portland, Dallas and San Francisco. Also sure to give the doc a push is the fact that one of its characters is on ABC's Dancing With The Stars. Nightline and Good Morning America are doing stories on the film. First Position is available on demand and will open in theaters in New York and L.A. this weekend. "We're actively pursuing the dance community as we did for [our other recent dance doc] Pina, but also people who are interested in a 'great story.'"
Last Call At The Oasis
Director: Jessica Yu
Writer: Jessica Yu
Subjects: Erin Brockovich-Ellis, Jay Famiglietti, Peter H. Gleick
Distributor: ATO Pictures in partnership with Participant Media
This doc is a wakeup call about the worldwide water crisis. Featuring activists Erin Brockovich and others, the film exposes how water will become one of the biggest challenges society will face this century and offers up solutions.
Selling a documentary about the world's looming water crisis may be a tough sell at best. But there are potential solutions to drum up interest at low to no cost and the film's distributor has been working those avenues. Director Jessica Yu joined a packed house at the Ford Foundation in Manhattan last month for a screening of the film which kicked off the 4th annual "Envision" conference, which focuses on issues relating to a "sustainable future," co-hosted by the U.N. and the Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP). "Part of the publicity is reaching out to NGOs," said ATO Pictures co-president Jonathan Dorfman. "And [partner] Participant (An Inconvenient Truth, Waiting for Superman) has a lot of great relationships with those groups...They deliver on the docs."
ATO first saw the film last year in Toronto and were impressed by its quality and the highly regarded people who appear in the feature. "There are serious experts like Erin Brokovich and others who know [a lot] about this," noted Dorfamn who added that the famed environmental advocate made famous by Julia Roberts portrayal of her back in 2000 will be heading to Los Angeles post-screening Q&As at the Landmark on Friday and has also been doing press to promote the film.
Meeting Evil (Limited Release)
Director: Chris Fisher
Writers: Thomas Berger (novel), Chris Fisher
Cast: Luke Wilson, Samuel L. Jackson, Leslie Bibb, Peyton List
It's not just The Avengers actor Samuel L. Jackson has going on this weekend, he's also starring in this weekend's crime thriller, Meeting Evil. The film centers on John (Luke Wilson) a depressed suburban family man who is recently unemployed. After he stops to help a stranger with his car, he's forced into a surreal murder-filled ride that forces him to confront everything about his life.
The Perfect Family
Director: Anne Renton
Writers: Paula Goldberg, Claire V. Riley
Cast: Kathleen Turner, Emily Deschanel, Jason Ritter
Religious mom Eileen Cleary (Kathleen Turner) is nominated for the coveted Catholic Woman of the Year Award at her local parish, but she has one challenge - her non-conformist family. Her gay daughter Shannon (Emily Deschanel) want to marry her partner and her unhappily married son Frank Jr. (Jason Ritter) is hooking up with a local manicurist. Meanwhile, her own marriage to a recovering alcoholic is less than ideal.
With a budget of less than $1 million and a script, they turned to actress Kathleen Turner for the main role. "We were trying to put together as good of a cast as we possibly could to maximize attention and press," producer Cora Olson said. After implementing some script changes Turner requested Olson and her producing partner Jennifer Dubin reached out to Emily Deschanel who they knew socially to join the cast and they also sought out Jason Ritter, who worked on their previous project Good Dick, which they also produced and released.
The Perfect Family shot 19 days in Los Angeles, which she said ran pretty smoothly. "Jen and I have done a lot of these types of films and it's important to get crews who understand this kind of schedule," she said. The film debuted last year at Tribeca and Present Pictures has partnered with Variance Pictures for the theatrical release.
[Comments and other portions of this article were previously published in Brian Brooks' weekly specialty preview article on Deadline.]