DAILY NEWS UPDATE: Focus Restructures
Acquisitions Dept; "Good Girl" Great in Opening Weekend; Urbanworld Winners and Doris Wishman Remembered
by Eugene Hernandez, Brian Brooks and Wendy Mitchell/indieWIRE
>> Focus Locks Acquisitions Team; Kaufman Atop New Group
(indieWIRE: 08.13.02) — Focus Features, the production, financing, and
worldwide distribution company formed by the combination of USA Films and
Good Machine earlier this year, confirmed the restructuring of its
acquisitions department. The new acquisitions and co-productions team is
primarily comprised of people from Good Machine and studio parent Universal,
with one exec from USA Films.
In an announcement late Monday night, Focus formally announced that Amy
Kaufman has been named senior VP of acquisitions and co-productions for the
company. She is based in Focus’ New York offices, reporting to co-presidents
David Linde and James Schamus. Kaufman is heading the department following the departure of USA Films execs including acquisitions VPs Stephen Raphael and Amanda Klein.
Reporting to Kaufman are VPs Lee Magiday in London and Jason Resnick in Los Angeles. Laura Hake is on board as manager of acquisitions in New York.
Resnick’s territories include Australia, New Zealand and Asia, in addition
to domestic responsibility, while Magiday is the company’s rep in the U.K.
handling European acquisitions.
Amy Kaufman joined Linde and Schamus at Good Machine in 1997, serving as SVP
of acquisitions and co-productions for Good Machine International (GMI).
Kaufman became part of the Focus team after the combination of USA Films and
Good Machine was announced in May. Among the first Focus projects she has
spearheaded are Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu‘s “21 Grams” and the acquisition of international rights to Pedro Almodovar‘s “Hable Con Ella” (Talk to Her). While at GMI, she executive-produced Alfonso Cuaron‘s “Y Tu Mama Tambien” and associate-produced Gregor Jordan‘s “Buffalo Soldiers.”
Lee Magiday served as executive director of acquisitions at Universal
Pictures International, where she worked closely with Working Title Films,
while Jason Resnick worked at Universal in Los Angeles, recently serving as
VP of acquisition. In his new role at Focus, he will maintain responsibilities for Universal acquisitions. Among his recent acquisitions are David Lynch‘s “Mulholland Drive,” and Christophe Gans‘ “Brotherhood of the Wolf.” Laura Hake worked in acquisitions and co-productions at USA Films, garnering a promotion to manager last fall.
Focus Features is the specialty films unit of Universal Pictures, which is a
division of Vivendi Universal Entertainment (VUE), the U.S.
entertainment arm of Vivendi Universal. [Eugene Hernandez]
>> “Good Girl” A Hit in Opening Weekend, “Party People” Solid in Debut
(indieWIRE: 08.13.02) — It was a rather busy weekend for specialty
releases, with Fox Searchlight opening “The Good Girl,” United Artists debuting “24 Hour Party People,” IFC Films unveiling “The Chateau,” and Focus expanding “The Kid Stays in the Picture,” among other news.
Sarchlight is thrilled with the stellar performance of Miguel Arteta‘s
third feature, “The Good Girl.” The film, which features “Friends” star
Jennifer Aniston and newcomer Jake Gyllenhaal, nabbed a killer $151,642
in its opening weekend on four screens in NY and LA, that’s a
$37,911 average (a new Fox Searchlight record that tops “Boys Don’t Cry“).
In a conversation with indieWIRE yesterday, Fox Searchlight’s president
of distribution Steve Gilula indicated that the opening far exceeded
his expectations. Total grosses so far, since Wednesday’s debut, have
reached $208,639. The picture will expand its run to 18 markets this
Friday, with Steve Gilula projecting an expansion to 55 – 60 theaters.
It will roll out nationally and top 500 screens by the end of the month.
Over at UA, Michael Winterbottom‘s look at the Manchester music scene,
“24 Hour Party People,” earned $34,940 on two screens for a solid $17,470
average. The movie will add more screens this weekend. Meanwhile, IFC
Films opened Jesse Peretz‘ DV feature, “The Chateau,” to a total of
$15,968 on two screens for an average of $7,984, while Sony Pictures
Classics revealed Babak Payami‘s “Secret Ballot” to $14,609 on five
screens in NY and LA for a slow average of $2,922.
Focus’ expansion of the Robert Evans doc, “The Kid Stays in the Picture,”
earned $204,627 in its jump from 5 to 45 screens. That’s an average of
$4,547 for a new cume of $472,704. Miramax doubled its release of “Tadpole,” from 47 to 92 screens, earning $280,619 for a per-screen average of $3,050.
That puts the movie past the million-dollar mark, for a total gross of
$1,096,288. The company was less successful with the weekend’s grosses for
Soderbergh‘s “Full Frontal.” The film made $378,623 on 214 screens, for a
low average of $1,769 and a new total of $1,451,348.
Lions Gate‘s release of Nicole Holofcener‘s “Lovely & Amazing” is about to pass the $3 million mark. The film earned $309,888 on 156 screens for an
average of $1,986 and a new total of $2,983,737.
Palm Pictures and Magic Lamp Releasing‘s “Sex and Lucia” has topped $500,000. The Spanish-language film, by Julio Medem (“Lovers of the Artic Circle“) grossed $102,320 on 29 screens for an average of $3,528 and a new
total of $527,840.
Cowboy Pictures‘ Wilco doc, “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart,” passed the $100,000 hurdle, It earned $27,811.25 on six screens or an average of
$4,635, for a new total of $109,324.
Finally, IFC Films continued the successful release of “My Big Fat Greek
Wedding.” The film grossed $3.1 million on 723 screens for a new cume that
has now topped the $45 million mark. It will pass $50 million shortly.
This week, among the debuts at the box-office is Neil LaBute‘s latest,
“Possession.” Focus plans to open the movie on about 200 screens. Also set
to open is Paramount Classics‘ “Mostly Martha,” and Manoel de Oliveira‘s “I’m Going Home.” [Eugene Hernandez]
>> Urbanworld Announces Honors After Five-Day Event
(indieWIRE: 08.13.02) — New York’s Urbanworld Film Festival came to a close
over the weekend with director Rick Derby‘s “Rocks With Wings” taking the HBO Documentary Feature Prize. “Rocks With Wings” chronicles the story of
Jerry Richardson, a black man from Texas, who takes a teaching job in New
Mexico coaching a women’s basketball team in a Navajo community. The award
included a $5000 cash prize, and was given away by the festival’s executive
producer, Joy Huang, at a ceremony hosted by the Maryland Film Office at Gotham’s Planet Hollywood.
In other honors, directors Sandra Krasa and Bianca White were given the HBO Docuementary Short prize ($2500) for “Ocoee: The Legacy of the Election Day
Massacre.” The film explores the tragic events that occurred on election day
in 1920, when two black men attempted to vote. Also taking home recognitions
is writer-director Eric Eason for “Manito,” which received this
year’s grand jury prize for best feature film. “Manito” is the story of a
successful high school student who’s bright future hangs in the balance
after an ill-fated decision on graduation night.
The festival’s grand jury prize for best director went to Bertha Bay-Sa Pan
for “Face.” Her film is described by Urbanworld as a “coming of age story of
two women caught between the conflicting cultures of their traditional
heritage and the surrounding influence of urban life.” Meanwhile, Neema
Barnette‘s hip-hop story of young black women behind bars, “Civil Brand“
received both the audience award for best film as well as a special jury
award. Deborah Goodwin‘s “Cherrys” won the grand jury prize for best
screenplay, which centers on Nat, who forces her repressed academic mother
and eccentric grandmother to address buried family history. The Urbanworld
Film Festival ran August 7 to 11. [Brian Brooks]
>> Cult Filmmaker Doris Wishman Passes Away
(indieWIRE: 08.13.02) — Filmmaker Doris Wishman, in her early 80s, died
Saturday from complications resulting from lymphoma. Friends reported that
she died peacefully in her sleep and had been in good spirits until her
The self-taught writer, director, producer, and editor made 29 feature films
during her career, which makes her one of the most profilic female
directors. Cult film fans have long lauded Wishman’s work; the New York
Underground Film Festival held a Wishman retrospective in 1998, calling her
the “Queen of Exploitation Cinema.” She started making movies in the ’60s
with films including “Diary of a Nudist,” “The Sex Perils of Paulette,” and
“A Taste of Flesh,” and she continued her career with “The Amazing
Transplant,” “Satan Was a Lady,” “A Night To Dismember,” “Keyholes Are for Peeping,” and “Deadly Weapons,” the latter starring Chesty Morgan.
The 2002 Chicago Underground Film Festival, which will be dedicated to
Wishman’s memory, will screen her last completed feature, “Dildo Heaven,”
on August 25 and 27. “Dildo Heaven,” her first feature to be shot on video,
“tells the tale of three Florida sexpots who attempt to seduce their
bosses,” according to the CUFF. Wishman also had recently shot a new feature
called “Each Time I Kill“. [Wendy Mitchell]
>> MONDAY IN indieWIRE DAILY NEWS: Introducing indieWIRE: BUZZ; and the IFP Market’s Narrative Lineup
(indieWIRE: 08.12.02) — indieWIRE presents a new weekly column focusing on
recent items on the radar (or under the radar) in the indie film community;
And, Eighty five narrative projects are set for the 2002 IFP Market, a 40
percent drop following a re-definition of the event by organizers.”
READ THE FULL STORIES @ indieWIRE.com