24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Release Dates

Spike Lee's 'Red Hook Summer' headed to theaters, but in what form?

April 25, 2012 |  3:54 pm



“Red Hook Summer,” Spike Lee’s polarizing coming-of-age movie that prompted fierce debate at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, is headed to theaters.

Executives at the boutique distributor Variance Films have reached an agreement with Lee to release the film theatrically beginning this August. The director financed the movie independently and shot it in secrecy on Brooklyn streets over a period of 19 days last year.

In an interview, Variance President Dylan Marchetti told 24 Frames that the movie will aim to play in as many as 30 markets, “and not just one theater in each market.” Variance is a small New York-based distributor that has previously released the Michael C. Hall and Brie Larson indie "The Trouble With Bliss" and the Chinese action pic "Let the Bullets Fly."

“Summer” centers on a boy who arrives in a Brooklyn housing project to live with his preacher grandfather. For about two-thirds of its running time, it’s a gritty and music-heavy street drama about an assortment of neighborhood characters, with the occasional reference to Lee’s seminal “Do the Right Thing.” But the film in its last section takes a turn to the shocking, as a main character is revealed to have committed a heinous act that involves sex and Bible scripture.

The shift elicited arguments that ping-ponged around the theaters and restaurants of Sundance after the film premiered. (The initial screening was made even more controversial when Lee took to the stage and engaged in an outburst in which he said that he made the movie independently because Hollywood studios “know nothing about black people.”)

Asked if any of the controversial moments of the film have been changed, Marchetti said he couldn’t comment and referred all requests to Lee. The filmmaker was traveling and not available for comment.  [Update, 5:12 p.m.: Marchetti followed in an email to say that the movie has "been tightened up a bit since the Sundance showing, but no key scenes have been removed. It's still as powerful and controversial as what you saw at Sundance, if not more so."]

The author James McBride, who wrote “Red Hook Summer” with Lee, had previously told Lee he didn’t believe the provocative scene involving the Bible and the sex act should have been included in this way.

Lee, however, remained defiant. “It was one of the most difficult scenes I’ve ever done,”  he told 24 Frames at the festival. “But I knew it had to be done. It would have been cowardly and gutless and punkish to not deal with it straight on.”

The announcement continues a spate of deals for Sundance movies that has continued long after the festival ended.

More than 40 movies that played the Park City, Utah, gathering have come out or will come out in theaters. Even in the last month, several films, including Jonathan Kasdan’s youth romance “The First Time” and the teen documentary “China Heavyweight” received deals, from Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions and Zeitgeist Films, respectively.

It remains to be seen, though, how many of the Sundance deals will bear box-office fruit; a number of them come from small distributors and will get only token releases.

Marchetti said he had yet to settle on all the details for the release for “Summer,” and also was undecided on whether to submit the movie for a rating with the Motion Picture Assn. of America. “We don’t need to do it, so I’m not sure that we would,” he said. “But even if we didn’t, we’d make sure to warn people in some way about the adult content.”


Sundance 2012: Spike Lee says studios 'know nothing about black people"

Sundance 2012: Spike Lee made 'Red Hook' because Hollywood wouldn't

Sundance 2012: Spike Lee's co-writer joins the race conversation

— Steven Zeitchik


Photo: "Red Hook Summer." Credit: 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks.

Channing Tatum's magic will be felt in June

October 27, 2011 |  2:10 pm

If you’re the type of person who’s marking your calendar for movies to see next summer, you probably were already ticking off June, if only for the hand-over-mouth spectacle of it all.

The month starts with Tom Cruise singing '80s tunes ("Rock of Ages”), then tosses us Kristen Stewart as a Grimm Brothers' heroine ("Snow White and the Huntsman") and Benjamin Walker as a vampire-hunting president (“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”).

But it’s saving the best for last. Warner Bros. announced Thursday that it will release the male-stripper movie “Magic Mike” on June 29. If you haven’t been on the right listservs: “Magic Mike” is the Steven Soderbergh film in which Alex Pettyfer plays a young exotic dancer who's supposed to be Channing Tatum, who once was an exotic dancer, while Tatum plays an older dancer who mentors his own young self. It all goes down — where else? — at a club called Xquisite.

“G.I. Joe 2” comes out the same weekend, which will pose an interesting date-night dilemma: Have there have been two movies geared so decidedly to different genders? It also creates an odd situation in which one Channing Tatum movie will open against another.

In any event, Duke Hauser and his group can rest a little easier today: They’ll actually be only the second-most beefcake crew to grace screens that weekend.


Channing Tatum's voyage of discovery

— Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Channing Tatum in Beverly Hills in February. Credit: Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times.

Lionsgate moves 'Saw 3D' release date to avoid face off with 'Paranormal Activity 2' [UPDATED]

July 22, 2010 |  4:12 pm

Saw5 In the battle of the horror giants, Jigsaw has blinked: Lionsgate Thursday pushed back the release date of "Saw 3D" from Oct. 22 to Oct. 29.

The move avoids a looming standoff on Oct. 22, when Paramount was scheduled to open "Paranormal Activity 2" against the seventh entry in the annual "Saw" series.

All of the "Saw" movies since 2004's original have opened on the weekend before Halloween and Lionsgate had the same plan for this year's installment. However, in January Paramount made clear its intentions of supplanting "Saw" with its fresh horror series by dating "Paranormal Activity 2," a follow-up to last year surprise low-budget hit, on the same date, Oct. 22.

The date added insult to injury after Paramount attempted to recruit Keven Greutert, the director of "Saw VI," to helm "Paranormal Activity 2." However, production company Twisted Pictures ended up exercising its contractual option to have Greutert work on "Saw 3D" instead and Paramount ended up hiring indie director Tod Williams. [Updated: A previous version of this post stated that Lionsgate exercised the contractual option. It was Twisted Pictures.]

Last October, "Saw VI" opened on the same weekend that "Paranormal Activity" played in a nationwide release for the first time and grossed a disappointing $14.1 million, compared to $21.1 million for "Paranormal." Executives at Lionsgate apparently decided they would rather concede the Oct. 22 date than repeat the same experience.

In an interview Thursday with USA Today, "Saw" producer Oren Koules said "Saw 3D" be the last entry in the series, which has grossed more than $370 million since 2004. The first five entries were all successes, but last year's "Saw VI" was a surprise disappointment.

-- Ben Fritz

Photo: Joris Jarsky in "Saw V." Credit: Steve Wilkie / Lionsgate.

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Now with your July 4 barbecue: Lisa Cholodenko's Sundance hit?

February 10, 2010 |  9:00 am

Ki One of the biggest movies out of Sundance, as followers of this blog may recall, was "The Kids Are All Right," Lisa Cholodenko's family comedy about a lesbian couple, their kids and the man who disruptively enters their lives. Now Focus Features, which bought the Annette Bening-Julianne Moore vehicle, will try to make it one of the biggest movies of the summer, too.

The company has officially dated the film as a July 7 limited release, according to studio-release calendars. That may seem like one more date amid a litany of dates. But it's telling for all sorts of reasons.

For one thing, the film was a possible awards play, at least to some who saw it. While a July release doesn't preclude that -- best-picture nominees "District 9," "Inglorious Basterds" and "Up" this were year were all released before the fall season -- it's a clear signal of whom you are and are not playing to when you choose to release a film outside the September-December period.

Instead, Focus seems to want to make this more of a summer counter-programmer, the kind of movie that can open once the noisier blockbusters finish clearing out. That's what "Little Miss Sunshine," another comedy-drama out of Sundance, did a few years ago, opening in July and playing steadily and nicely through the summer and into the fall (though that movie was a more poignant drama and funnier comedy, at least for our money, and became a $60 million-grossing phenomenon, a figure that it's hard to see this film approaching).

But even this comparison doesn't completely hold up. Most summer counter-progammers from the specialty divisions open later in the season -- "Sunshine" came out the last week of July, and Focus' own counter-programming "Taking Woodstock" premiered in late August. But July 7, even in limited release, pits "Kids" against broadly aimed pictures like "The Last Airbender" the week before and "Inception" the week following -- both movies that at least a chunk of the "Kids" audience might want to see.

Then again, Fox Searchlight, which released "Little Miss Sunshine," has staked out a mid-July date for its own low-key comedy this year, "Cyrus," the John C. Reilly-Jonah Hill offering from indie darlings the Duplass Bros. And the "Woodstock" date actually didn't work, as the film got swallowed up at the end of a long summer of movie-going. As the big action movies move earlier in the summer, more specialized comedies may continue to creep up, trying to bring Sundance in to July.

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: "The Kids Are All Right." Credit: The Sundance Film Festival


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