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Special Report: Women Directors at the Box Office in February 2014

Special Report: Women Directors at the Box Office in February 2014

Opening on
Valentine’s Day, the teen romance Endless
Love
was the first wide release (2,872 theaters) from a female director in
2014. The original, starring teen queen Brooke Shields, was released in July
1981 and made $31 million during its run. Shana Feste’s remake, a more hopeful look
at obsessive first love, opened in fifth place behind two other remakes of
1980s films (About Last Night and RoboCop) and has grossed $22,311,420 so far.
Feste was pregnant with her first child during the filming of Endless Love and brought her newborn son
into the editing room. The Universal release is her third film, following a
Sundance dramatic competition debut (2009’s The
Greatest
) and the divisive Country
Strong
(2010). 

Nancy Buirski,
the director of Afternoon of a Faun:
Tanaquil le Clercq
, founded the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival and
served as its director for a decade. (This year’s festival takes place on April
3 to 6 in Durham, North Carolina.) Buirski’s portrait of the prima ballerina
known as Tanny looks at her relationships with famed choreographers George
Balanchine (her husband of 17 years) and Jerome Robbins, who created the Debussy
pas de deux Afternoon of a Faun
specifically for her. After premiering at the New York Film Festival last year,
the Kino Lorber release has made $63,980 from three theaters — the highest
grossing documentary by a female director this month.

Former script
supervisor Chiemi Karasawa’s first documentary, Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me, is a portrait of the living
legend. The tart-tongued Broadway
veteran dropped the F-bomb on the Today
Show
while promoting the IFC Films release, and the 89-year-old Stritch
doesn’t hold back when discussing her acting and singing career, declining
health, or leaving her beloved Carlyle Hotel in Manhattan. After debuting at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival, Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me grossed $57,827 from six theaters,
including one in the tony Detroit suburb where the Michigan native now resides.

Jenee LaMarque
makes her feature film debut as writer and director of The Pretty One, which stars Zoe Kazan as a shy young woman who
steps into the shoes of her outgoing twin sister. LaMarque’s husband, composer
Julian Wass, did the music for The Pretty
One
as well as her short film Spoonful.
The Dada Films release grossed $13,769 from five theaters. Veteran actress and
filmmaker Josiane Balasko (Too Beautiful
for You
, French Twist) has had
less luck with her latest film, Demi-Soeur,
which made only $943 in one theater. The screwball French comedy distributed by
Rialto Premieres reunites Balasko with Michel Blanc (two of the founders of Le Splendid cafe-theater company) as siblings
involved in a reluctant family reunion. 

Two
documentaries from women directors returned to theaters in February. (These
self-distributed films did not report grosses.) After a festival run in 2012, The Standbys got a New York City release
at the independent Quad Cinema. Stephanie Riggs profiles a group of Broadway
understudies in her documentary debut, which is currently available as a DVD or
digital rental and download through the film’s website. In The New Black, Yoruba Richen (Promised
Land
) explores African-American attitudes towards gay marriage leading up
to a 2012 voter referendum in Maryland. Initially released last November, The New Black is available for local
screenings through Tugg and will air on PBS as part of the Independent Lens series
on June 16.

The foreign-language
releases 7 Boxes and Mars at Sunrise, from Paraguay and the
Palestinan territories, respectively, mine intimate horror from everyday circumstances. Directed
by Juan Carlos Maneglia and Tana Schembori, 7
Boxes
follows a teen toiling at the massive public market in Asuncion who gets
pulled into a devilish obstacle course when he’s hired to transport a series of
mysterious crates. The Breaking Glass Pictures release is available as VOD via
Amazon Instant Video and iTunes. Writer and director Jessica Habie moves from
documentaries to her first feature Mars
at Sunrise
, an impressionistic look at a Palestinian artist reliving his
imprisonment and torture by an Israeli soldier (who has his own submerged
creative urges). The Eyes Infinite Films production is available as a digital
rental or download through the Mars at
Sunrise
website. Proceeds help fund the Fajr Falestine Film Collective,
co-founded by Habie to produce adventurous, experimental narratives about
Middle East life. 

Bottled Up is the second feature from
writer and director Enid Zentelis, whose lovely Evergreen was released in 2004 after debuting in the dramatic
competition at Sundance. Melissa Leo stars as a put-upon working-class woman
with a pain pill-addicted daughter and an environmentalist boarder who offers
new hope. Zentelis found out she was expecting her second child the day the
film was green-lit and a complicated pregnancy delayed production, but she ended
up filming Bottled Up with her
four-month-old on set. The film is already available on DVD as well as through
Amazon Instant Video, iTunes and other digital platforms. A pregnancy also
complicated the timeline of Kestrin Pantera’s autobiographical Let’s Ruin It with Babies. The musician
and actress wrote and directed the film, casting herself and her husband
Jonathan Grubb as a creative couple contemplating parenthood, and Pantera’s much-discussed
(but still unexpected) pregnancy added a new urgency to the shooting schedule. Let’s Ruin It with Babies is available
via Amazon Instant Video and as a download from the movie’s website.

These small,
independent releases have not posted their grosses, and neither has Disney for
its latest animated film, The Pirate
Fairy
, which began its exclusive run at El Capitan Theatre, just across
Hollywood Boulevard from where Frozen
received two Academy Awards. The Pirate
Fairy
, the fifth feature in the Tinker Bell series, was made for Walt
Disney Studios Home Entertainment and will be released on Blu-ray and DVD on
April 1. Director Peggy Holmes has a long history with Disney, making her
directorial debut with the straight-to-DVD release The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning (2008) and co-directing the 2012
Tinker Bell movie Secret of the Wings.
(A former dancer, Holmes also choreographed the 1992 musical Newsies with director Kenny
Ortega.) The latest Tinker Bell installment introduces a rogue fairy named
Zarina (voiced by Christina Hendricks) who joins forces with pirates, including
a young James Hook (Tom Hiddleston). The
Pirate Fairy
has been released in theaters in Europe and grossed $13,476,665
since February 13, with more than half coming from the United Kingdom, birthplace
of Scottish author and playwright J.M. Barrie, the creator of Neverland. 

Rankings,
grosses and theater numbers for February 2014 are courtesy of Box Office Mojo.

 

#7 | Endless
Love | $22,311,420 | 2,872 theaters

#24 | Afternoon
of a Faun | $63,980 | 3 theaters

#25 | Elaine
Stritch: Shoot Me | $57,827 | 6 theaters

#35 | The Pretty
One | $13,769 | 5 theaters

#46 | Demi-Soeur
| $943 | 1 theater

Serena Donadoni
is a freelance film critic in Detroit. She runs thecinemagirl.com (with movie
reviews, interviews and more) as well as The Cinema Girl blog, which tracks
movie releases and has a page devoted to women directors. Follow her
@TheCinemaGirl.

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