Alamo Drafthouse On Juggling Best Picture Names – Specialty Box Office Preview – Deadline
As Oscar nominees circulate through theaters, exhibitors study where and when to play Best Picture contenders during the long stretch from February 8 nominations to March 27 awards, juggling leftovers and new releases. (See this weekend’s specialty ticket deals below).
In an interview with Deadline, Zach Nix, Senior Movies Buyer at Alamo Drafthouse, talks about the channel’s expanding lineup, the state of specialty film and the industry’s brighter outlook after a rocky road through Covid. . Nix, previously director of content licensing at Alamo, was promoted in late January after the film’s chief buyer, Kevin Holloway, moved to Landmark Theaters as president.
DEADLINE: How do you approach scheduling Best Picture Oscar nominees ahead of the awards given the timeframe?
ZACH NIX: Yes, there is a slightly longer track record of Oscar nominations this year. I think there are two categories. Films that have already had their first broadcasts that have been nominated, such as a Dunes Where King Richard. For these films, it’s about identifying a strategic weekend where we see the opportunity to bring back a certain title and look to do so in different markets. We brought back West Side Story in select markets this week.
The other half is made up of some of the Best Picture nominees who are still in their first run, like Licorice Pizza Where Drive my car. For these, the base races have hooked up, and we’ll see where to play them, perhaps adding smaller markets. (We played Licorice Pizza in Brooklyn since Thanksgiving and that theater is also number 1 with drive my car.)
We’ll play the Oscar-nominated shorts next week in a handful of theaters.
DEADLINE: Drive my car has a nice run for a three hour foreign language film. Did that surprise you?
NOTHING: I really believe in this movie. I was close to the distributor of the film [Sideshow/Janus Films], had seen it and had a good feeling. I didn’t know for sure that it would go all the way [to a Best Picture nom], but I was very happy that it happened. After seeing this Parasite made fairly recently, it was nice to see such a good movie as drive my car remove that. It’s very encouraging to see an international foreign-language arthouse film doing as well as before. Same for The worst person in the world, law? This is the turn of the tide we want to see for specialty cinema. These are not the types of movies you might sell to your average consumer. But both are highly rated and certainly enjoy strong word of mouth.
DEADLINE: Alamo has 37 theaters, including new locations in lower Manhattan and Washington, DC, and just announced plans for seven new theaters. It must feel good after the hit the industry took?
NOTHING: It’s been a long road through the pandemic. It’s great to have the majority of theaters reopened and running, new additions in Manhattan and DC Bryant Street, with more to come. I feel really encouraged by the current situation compared to a month ago. Omicron was a bit concerning and scary when he showed up, just when things seemed to be picking up. Our market share is really strong and I feel encouraged by the industry. We go through February then there is The Batman [March 4], and I’m very excited about the future. There were a lot of release changes in January by some of the studios as a preemptive move because of Omicron. But now we have Fooled forever and Death on the Nile and a strong return to business. And people stick to their release dates and want to release their product
DEADLINE: The circuit is distinguished by its diversity: wide releases, specialties and selected films. How to choose what goes where?
NOTHING: Every theater is a little different. In some markets we have multiple theaters, so one leans a little more commercial, a little more family-oriented, and another might be more specialized. Many of our flagship spots in LA or NYC or Austin or San Francisco can really cater to movie buffs and art house enthusiasts. It’s about identifying the right product, how it works. And there’s always a new product coming out every week and we support it, support our studio partners. We’re also going through all the Harry Potter movies right now – we’re on the third one, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. In other theaters we play somewhere in time [1980 romantic drama starring Christopher Reeve] and in some i am a cheerleader [1999 satirical teen comedy]. A wide variety.
DEADLINE: And you have a full restaurant menu – that’s a differentiator, isn’t it?
NOTHING: Yes, in most rooms. This is an offer that not all circuits have. It’s a great menu and for certain types of titles we’re the place to go, to eat a burger, to have a beer — like Fooled forever. It becomes a destination. You can have fun watching and laughing with friends. We call ourselves Alamo Drafthouse for a reason.
For the exhibition in general, more than ever, it is important to be unique. For exhibitors to shine, to prove their value to the consumer. To innovate, to have new promotions, new marketing ideas, to really be on top of their operations. It really is an important moment for exhibitors to innovate.
Specialized openings this week
Cursed from LD Entertainment on 1,687 screens. The gothic thriller, a reimagining of the werewolf legend for modern audiences from writer-director Sam Ellis, premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival under the title Eight for the money. Stars Boyd Holbrook (The sand man, Logan), Kelly Reilly (Yellowstone, real detective) and Alistair Petrie (Sex education, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story).
neon fate Ted K. on 28 screens. Written and directed by Tony Stone and starring Sharlto Copley. A journey into the tortured mind of The Unabomber.
From IFC Minuit, A banquet. The psychological horror film about a family in crisis is the directorial debut of Scottish filmmaker Ruth Paxton. It premiered at TIFF in 2021. In 33 theaters. Plot: Widowed mother Holly (Sienna Guillory) is radically tested when her teenage daughter Betsey (Jessica Alexander) insists her body is no longer hers but in service to a higher power. Attached to her new faith, Betsey refuses to eat but does not lose weight.
Netflix releases Rory Kennedy Fall: the case against Boeing at the IFC Center in New York, the Bay in Los Angeles and the Landmark Shattuck in Berkeley. The doc investigates two Boeing 737 Max crashes that killed 346 people, exploring both the root causes and the human cost.
Music Box Films Presents Fantasy/Romantic Satire strawberry mansion on 28 screens. Written and directed by Albert Birney and Kentucker Audley. Watch Audley and Penny Fuller. An unassuming dream listener is taken on a cosmic journey.
Pursuit of Liongate opens on 18 screens. John Cusack and Emile Hirsch star in the father-son hacker thriller directed by Brian Skiba.
king knight from XYZ Films, a comedy coven written and directed by Ricky Bates Jr who created Fantasia in Montreal. On 5-10 screens, mostly one-offs at Alamo Drafthouse theaters.
Danish film The pact from Juno Films by Oscar-winning and gold-winning director Bille August (Shovel the Conqueror, House of spirits), based on the true story of Outside of Africa author Karen Blixen. On four screens: Quad NYC, NuArt LA, Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael, CA, and Guild Cinema in Albuquerque.
The last bus by Samuel Goldwyn Films. Director: Gillies MacKinnon. Screenwriter: Joe Ainsworth. Timothy Spall is 90-year-old Tom Harper on an epic road trip from his home in a remote village in the far north of Scotland to his birthplace in England.
Fathom Events presents Lady Sings the Blues 50th Anniversary, Sunday (and February 23). As this year marks the 50th anniversary of its release, Turner Classics is honoring the film with special screenings at select Regal Theaters nationwide.