D Films expands into film, TV production

By: Jeremy Kay

EXCLUSIVE: Canadian venture kicks off with TV series Headhunter, feature slate.

August 1, 2017 - Toronto-based distributor D Films has launched a production division in partnership with Brain On Fire producer Rob Merilees.

The venture will develop film and TV content in Canada and launches with the series Headhunter, an eight-part series based on criminal lawyer Michael Slade’s bestselling Mountie Noir thrillers about the Special X psycho-hunters of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The production division’s upcoming slate includes co-productions with Luxembourg and Belgium on Bruce MacDonald’s Dreamland, Ireland on April Mullen’s Bloody Knuckles, and Dolphin Tale director Charles Martin Smith’s The Maclean Boys.

“Vertically expanding the company through content creation has been a key business objective for D Films,” D Films CEO and president Jim Sherry said. “Launching this new division with Rob, one of the most successful producers in North America, realises that goal and strengthens the company’s position for future growth.”

“I’m thrilled to be working with D Films on this new shingle,” Merilees (pictured) said. “This is such an exciting time for Canadian film and television and I believe that we will be welcomed by content creators across the nation.”

Cemetery Dance Publications will release an all-new version of Headhunter as a limited signed hardcover in October and a trade paperback in January 2018.

“Moving into content creation is a very exciting opportunity, and a natural evolution for the company,” D Films senior vice-president of acquisitions and business development Michael Robson said. “Rob has been part of the D Films family since the beginning. His experience in film and television production is tremendous, and formalising this partnership is a huge asset for our new venture.”

D Films’ recent release slate includes the critically acclaimed Lady Macbeth starring Florence Pugh.

EPIC CROWD PLEASER “BITTER HARVEST” OPENS TO SOLD OUT SHOWS IN CANADA

Ukrainian Community Boosts Box Office as Film Expands Across Canada

March 6, 2017 – It was announced today that after a successful opening weekend in Canada, D Films will expand George Mendeluk’s film BITTER HARVEST to additional theatres nationwide this Friday. Max Irons (WOMAN IN GOLD) and Samantha Barks (LES MISERABLES) lead the cast in this powerful tale of love, honour, rebellion, and survival at the time of the Holodomor, a nationwide famine engineered by Joseph Stalin that killed millions of men, women, and children. Rounding out the cast are Barry Pepper, Tamer Hassan, and Terence Stamp.

The film was financed and produced by Canadian Ian Ihnatowycz. “I’m very proud of BITTER HARVEST,” said Ihnatowycz. “We have created something that will shed light on this very dark time in history. Our goal of bringing it to as many people as possible is being realized.” Advance ticket sales, combined with the overwhelming support of the Ukrainian community, pushed the film to an opening weekend per theatre average of $5,700 per location.

SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2017: FOUR FILMS TO KNOW

By: Brook Barnes

November 30th, 2016 — The next Sundance Film Festival will lean into its progressive sweet spots, with topics like the environment, race relations and gender figuring prominently in the competition lineup.

The selections announced on Wednesday — 32 American-made features and documentaries, all world premieres, that compete for prizes — will include “Novitiate,” a drama set in the 1960s about a woman struggling with issues of faith and sexuality; “The Force,” an examination of urban policing; and “Chasing Coral,” which investigates the rapid disappearance of coral reefs around the world.

Sundance will disclose picks for its starrier Premieres section on Monday. Rosters for short films, experimental cinema, horror movies and TV episodes will also be unveiled in the coming days. All told, 113 features were selected from 4,068 submissions, on par with recent years. The festival is scheduled for Jan. 19 to 29 in Park City, Utah, and its environs.

Climate change and environmental preservation, long important topics to Sundance filmmakers (and to the event’s founder, Robert Redford), will figure prominently in all those sections this time around, said John Cooper, the festival’s director. “We wanted, for the first time, to use our programming to drive attention and action around one theme,” he said. “The environment, now more than ever, is a critical topic.”

For a rundown of all 32 films announced on Wednesday, go to Sundance's official posting. Here is a closer look at four of them:

Patti Cake$

Director: Geremy Jasper

Sundance’s competition, where films like “Whiplash,” “The Birth of a Nation” and “Blackfish” were first seen, can be a little solemn. Not so with Mr. Jasper’s entry, a comedic drama about a New Jersey woman named Patricia Dombrowski, a.k.a. Killa P, a.k.a. Patti Cake$. She’s “a big girl with big dreams of rap superstardom,” according to Sundance materials. The Australian actress Danielle Macdonald plays the lead. Mr. Jasper has never directed a feature film before, but he is well-known on the music video circuit, having directed videos for acts like Florence and the Machine.

The Yellow Birds

Director: Alexandre Moors

Adapted from a novel by Kevin Powers, this is a searing antiwar drama about “kids who go to war too young and get destroyed,” Mr. Cooper said. The cast is filled with fast-rising young stars, including Tye Sheridan (“Mud,” “X-Men: Apocalypse”) and Alden Ehrenreich, who was recently cast as the young Han Solo in a coming “Star Wars” movie. Also appearing in a supporting role is Jennifer Aniston, reuniting with Mark Canton and Courtney Solomon, producers of “Cake,” which brought her awards attention in 2014.

Step

Director: Amanda Lipitz

There are other flashy documentaries in the competition lineup, including Bryan Fogel’s “Icarus,” an exposé about Russian doping in sports, and Brian Knappenberger’s “Nobody Speak: Hulk Hogan, Gawker and the Trials of a Free Press.” But something about “Step” has audience-award winner written all over it: Ms. Lipitz documents the senior year of a girls’ high school step team in inner-city Baltimore, capturing moments of hope against a backdrop of social unrest.

Whose Streets?

Directors: Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis

Speaking of social unrest, this “unflinching” documentary — given a high-profile slot on the festival’s opening night — examines the violence in Ferguson, Mo., in the summer of 2014, when a white police officer shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager. “Ferguson has, of course, been documented by the national news media, but you realize in watching this film that a lot of information has been filtered out,” said Trevor Groth, Sundance’s director of programming. “Our understanding is incomplete.”

OASIS SUPERSONIC DOC BOAST HIGHEST PER SCREEN AVERAGE IN CANADA LAST NIGHT

By: Eric Alper

October 28th, 2016 - Mat Whitecross’ documentary OASIS: SUPERSONIC was released last night across Canada by distributor D Films. These one night only event screenings brought in the highest wide release per location grosses for the evening, estimated at $926 per screen, besting JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK’s $528.

The highest grossing location was Cineplex Yonge & Dundas, which sold out almost a week in advance. Five theatres will present additional shows over the course of the next week in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa, and Halifax. For locations, showtimes, and to purchase tickets, go here.

“Given that this was a one night only event screening in most markets, we’re very happy with last night’s success,” commented Michael Robson, SVP of Acquisitions and New Business Development for D Films. “Fans are already pushing for encore presentations across Canada.”

Formed in Manchester in 1991, Oasis has sold in excess of 70 million records and was a force of the 1990s Britpop movement. Despite years of volatility and in-fighting, Oasis have had eight UK number-one singles and eight UK number-one albums, won fifteen NME Awards, nine Q Awards, four MTV Europe Music Awards and six Brit Awards, including one in 2007 for Outstanding Contribution to Music and one for the Best Album of the Last 30 Years as voted by BBC Radio 2 listeners; they have been nominated for three Grammy Awards.

OASIS: SUPERSONIC is available now on iTunes, and will be available on VOD and Google Play on November 11th. The film will be released on DVD and Blu-ray and DVD/Blu-ray combo on December 13th.

D FILMS ACQUIRES 'KICKS' FOR CANADA

By: Jeremy Kay

EXCLUSIVE: The edgy distributor has picked up Canadian rights to Justin Tipping's coming-of-age drama and winner of the best cinematography in a US narrative feature prize at Tribeca.
 

July 28, 2016 - D Films will open Kicks theatrically in September after securing rights from Visit Films. Focus World holds US rights.

Tipping makes his feature directorial debut and is regarded as one of the independent and festival space’s hot emerging talents after his Student Academy 2012 bronze medal- winning short Nani and Swimming In Air earned plaudits.

Kicks tells the story of a 15-year-old boy who enlists a friend to undertake a dangerous mission through Oakland, California, to recover his stolen Air Jordans sneakers.

Kicks is an accomplished first feature and will resonate with Canadian film lovers,” said Michael Robson, senior vice-president of acquisitions and business development for D Films. “The film boasts breakout performances from a mostly unknown cast and is a perfect complement to D Films’ roster of titles.”

Robson brokered the acquisition with Ryan Kampe of Visit Films.

The D Films release slate include the polarising, oddball Sundance buddy movie Swiss Army Man starring Daniel Radcliffe and Paul Dano, as well as Natalie Portman’s directorial debut A Tale Of Love And Darkness, and Oasis documentary Supersonic.

'SWISS ARMY MAN' SHARP IN EXPANSION: SPECIALTY BOX OFFICE - DEADLINE

By: Brian Brooks

July 3, 2016 - A24’s Sundance debut Swiss Army Man is holding sway among the Specialty releases. In its expansion, the feature is landing 11th in the overall domestic box office, though in far fewer locations than its studio competition. On the Specialty chart, newcomers are having a mixed start. Music Box Films’ The Innocents had a decent launch in three theaters grossing $31,500 through Sunday, while The Orchard’s doc Life, Animated also bowed in three locations grossing $26,547. Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions’ Our Kind of Traitor with Stellan Skarsgård and Ewan McGregor topped $1M, while Screen Media’s Microbe and Gasoline opened two theaters grossing $13,385. Among holdovers, The Orchard added 18 locations for The Hunt of the Wilderpeople, holding strong. And two months out, A24’s The Lobster is flirting with $8M.

Music Box’s The Innocents is scoring the third best per theater average of the weekend, though the numbers are only decent. The French/Polish/Russian feature by Anne Fontaine grossed $31,500, averaging $10,500. Universal’s The Purge: Election Year ($11,040 average) and Warner Bros. The Legend of Tarzan ($10,709 average) edged over The Innocents, but of course in far more locations. Music Box targeted the art house crowd as well as Catholics heading into the weekend, and it appears there’s at least some initial success. It is not a “faith-based film,” but instead hints at issues that are not so “black and white,” noted Music Box’s Ed Arentz earlier this week, adding: “I think the art house is highly playable. To the extent that we can play beyond that to a Catholic audience that may not be habitués of art house cinema will also be great.”

After its opens at the Angelika and Lincoln Plaza in New York and Landmark in L.A.,The Innocents will broaden out to 25 theaters in additional markets as well as suburbs of NYC and Los Angeles. The company expects it to be in 100-plus theaters by early August.

The weekend’s top grossing Specialty opener was Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions’ Our Kind of Traitor, starring Stellan Skarsgård, Ewan McGregor and Naomie Harris, taking in just over a million dollars in 373 theaters for a $2,685 average. That placed the title 12th as of early afternoon Sunday, just under Swiss Army Man. “We’re targeting the smarter, older audience, which is our sweet spot,” said Roadside co-president Howard Cohen earlier this week. “This is very different from the audience the big three releases are going for.”

After a sizable festival run including a debut at Sundance, The Orchard opened docLife, Animated in three theaters with a so-so start as of Sunday. Life, Animatedopened in three theaters grossing $26,547, averaging $8,849. Though a very different feature, The Orchard followed its template for its 2015 Oscar-nominated doc Cartel Land by opening in summer. “From a release standpoint, we’ve been fans of opening docs with audience and awards potential in the summer because it’s counter-programming,” said the company’s Paul Davidson earlier this week. “We had a similar release plan for Cartel Land. It’s the right timing for an Awards contender.”Life, Animated actually opened higher in its bow. Cartel Land played two theaters when it opened July 4 weekend last year, grossing $15,581 for a $7,791 average. It went on to cume over $704K. The Orchard plans a one-day screening of the film on 50-75 screens across the country via Regal Cinemas. The title will play the top 50 markets through summer.

Screen Media opened French filmmaker Michel Gondry’s Microbe and Gasoline in a pair of locations this weekend, grossing $13,385 ($6,692 average). The opening is about half the start of Gondry’s previous feature, Mood Indigo, which also debuted in two theaters in the U.S. in July 2014, though that title grossed $26,511 ($13,256 average). Microbe and Gasoline will head to about a half dozen additional screens July 15.

In its second weekend, The Orchard’s The Hunt For the Wilderpeople grossed a solid $142,474 in 23 theaters, averaging $6,195. The New Zealand-produced feature by Taika Waititi opened with a $85,336 gross in five theaters last weekend, averaging $17,067. “[The film’s] stellar word of mouth and critical acclaim continued this weekend in the film’s second frame, landing it number one in the complex in more than one-third of its engagements and in the top of the remaining complexes just behind this weekend’s commercial releases,” noted The Orchard Sunday. “Huntcontinues to resonate broadly and successfully across younger and older audiences alike and the film exceeded expectations in its second frame on its way to a third frame expansion into 60 screens in the Top 30 DMAs.”

SPC added 8 runs for doc Eat That Question: Frank Zappa In His Own Words grossing $31,490 in ten locations, averaging $3,149. The feature bowed in two theaters, grossing $18K last week ($9K average). And Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon shed 598 locations vs its opening weekend. In week 2, the Broad Green release grossed $134,558, averaging $727, technically not far off its debut PTA of $775 from a $606,594 gross in 783 theaters. The feature did cross seven figures this weekend.

Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions’ Genius also crossed one million dollars. In its fourth weekend, the feature grossed $106,825 in 98 theaters, averaging $1,090 giving it a total cume of $1,029,873. And most likely A24’s The Lobster will pinch $8 million before the holiday weekend is over. Friday to Sunday, the feature has grossed $344,280 ($2,280 average) giving it a $7,966,258 cume.

For the weekend’s general domestic box office results, read Deadline’s story here, and for international box office, go here.

D FILMS SNAPS UP 'UNDER THE SILVER LAKE'

By: Jeremy Kay

EXCLUSIVE: The Canadian distributor has added one of the most sought-after projects from the Cannes Marché to its slate
 

May 25, 2016 - David Robert Mitchell’s follow-up to his cult hit It Follows is scheduled to begin production this summer with Andrew Garfield and Dakota Johnson in the lead roles.

Under The Silver Lake is based on an original screenplay by Mitchell and described as a modern noir crime thriller set in Los Angeles.

Michael De Luca is producing alongside Chris Bender and Adele Romanski. As previously reported on Screendaily, A24 has come on board for US distribution.

“I was absolutely blown away by the Under The Silver Lakescript,” said D Films senior vice-president of acquisitions and business development Michael Robson. “David Robert Mitchell is an exciting, original film-maker and I can’t wait to see what he has next for us.”

Robson brokered the deal with Noémie Devide of Insiders.

D Films has been assembling a dynamic slate that includes Nicolas Winding Refn’s Cannes Competition selection The Neon Demon, which Amazon Studios has for North America, and Sundance hit Swiss Army Man, which will open in July and is also handled in the US by A24.

D FILMS LANDS CANADIAN RIGHTS TO UPCOMING OASIS DOCUMENTARY

New Feature Film From the Academy Award® Winning Producers of AMY Features Never Before Seen Footage of the Gallagher Brothers

April 19, 2016 – Toronto, Ontario – It was announced today that D Films Corp. have acquired exclusive Canadian rights in all media to the Untitled Oasis Documentary, currently in post-production. Helmed by award winning director Mat Whitecross, the film was co-produced by the team who recently won the Oscar® for the hugely successful documentary AMY.

Formed in Manchester in 1991, Oasis has sold in excess of 70 million records and was a force of the 1990s Britpop movement. Despite years of volatility and in-fighting, Oasis have had eight UK number-one singles and eight UK number-one albums, won fifteen NME Awards, nine Q Awards, four MTV Europe Music Awards and six Brit Awards, including one in 2007 for Outstanding Contribution to Music and one for the Best Album of the Last 30 Years as voted by BBC Radio 2 listeners; they have been nominated for three Grammy Awards. 

“We are thrilled to be bringing the story of one of the most iconic bands of our time to the big screen,” said Michael Robson, SVP Acquisitions and Business Development for D Films. “Mat’s experience with and passion for the genre promise to tell the band’s story in a way that will captivate new fans while meeting the high expectations of the long-time lovers of Oasis.”

The deal was negotiated by Michael Robson for D Films and Nada Cirjanic at Independent Film Company.

SLEEPING GIANT OPENS TO HIGHEST FILM SCREEN AVERAGE IN NORTH AMERICA

Andrew Cividino’s Award Winning and Critically Acclaimed First Feature Posted a Three Day $14K Screen Average

April 11, 2016 – Toronto, Ontario – The award winning Canadian independent feature film SLEEPING GIANT opened to rave reviews and a strong box office performance this weekend taking in $14K at the Varsity Cinemas in Toronto, placing the film first overall in the complex.

Directed by Andrew Cividino, SLEEPING GIANT is the coming of age story of three teenaged boys and a life-changing summer on the northern shores of Lake Superior. The film, which is being distributed by D Films in Canada, will expand into Vancouver and Montreal this weekend before rolling out nationally on April 22nd.

“Andrew Cividino, Karen Harnisch, Aeschylus Poulos, and James Vandewater, along with the extraordinarily talented team behind the film have done an incredible job,” said Michael Robson, SVP of Acquisitions and Business Development for D Films. “We are thrilled to represent this film and help it reach Canadian audiences nationwide."

MICHAEL ROBSON ON THE RISE AT D FILMS

By: Jeremy Kay

The Toronto distributor has promoted Michael Robson to senior vice-president of acquisitions and new business development.
 

February 10, 2016 - Robson will report to D Films’ CEO Jim Sherry, who made the announcement on Wednesday and said Robson was an “integral part of the company’s growth since its beginning” and “ideally suited” to lead expansion in the digital age.

Prior to joining D Films in 2009 as vice-president of marketing and acquisitions, Robson spearheaded online and interactive marketing initiatives at Alliance Films. He also brings experience in film production.

D Films recently distributed The Gift and its pipeline includes Fifty Shades Of Black, Max Steel, Green Room and Neon Demon.

D FILMS BRINGS PUBLICITY IN-HOUSE WITH NEW VP

By: Jordan Pinto

Angie Burns moves from Strut Entertainment to the Toronto distributor
 

January 11, 2016 – Toronto-based indie distributor D Films has hired industry veteran Angie Burns as its VP, publicity and promotions.

Burns will handle all aspects of D Films’ publicity and promotional campaigns, as well as its corporate communications. Previously, all the company’s publicity/communications work was outsourced.

The hire is the topper on what is “by far” D Films’ best year of business to date, Michael Robson, VP of marketing and development, told Playback Daily.

Burns worked previously with D Films’ CEO Jim Sherry at Maple Pictures, which was acquired by Alliance Films from Lionsgate Entertainment in 2011. In her most recent position, Burns was VP, public relations and promotions at Toronto’s Strut Entertainment.

The company’s first theatrical release of the year is 50 Shades of Black on Jan. 29, followed in April by TIFF Midnight Madness thriller Green Room and Andrew Cividino’s Sleeping Giant, which D Films acquired prior to its debut at TIFF. The distributor will then release Keanu Reeves-starrer Neon Demon and sci-fi Max Steel later in the year.

D Films will also release a second film through its output deal with Blumhouse International toward the end of 2016. The two companies inked the agreement in October 2014, with D Films releasing the deal’s first film The Gift in Canada last year. Robson described the release as the most successful in the company’s seven years of business.