Director De Felitta opens his own ‘Cafe’

NEW YORK — Earlier this year, writer-director Raymond De Felitta was walking around lower Manhattan when he stumbled upon the Screening Room, the hip cinema-restaurant. What a great place for a premiere, thought De Felitta. The film he had in mind was his own.

Tonight De Felitta will hold a soiree at the Screening Room to open his feature debut “Cafe Society,” which was selected for the Directors Fortnight in Cannes two years ago.

According to De Felitta, his producers, Cineville, Skyline and Daylight, received “reasonable” offers for the film, but they rejected them in the belief that higher bids were coming. “All I can say is that when you make a movie for $1 million and you get into Cannes, everyone’s worst character traits come out,” says he says.

Although it did not find a domestic distributor, “Cafe Society,” which stars Peter Gallagher, Frank Whaley and Lara Flynn Boyle, was released internationally by Kushner Locke and aired on Showtime.

Some filmmakers would have been satisfied with this arrangement, but not De Felitta. He would not rest until his film about the 1952 scandal involving margarine heir Mickey Jelke and call girl Patricia Ward was shown on the bigscreen.

After doing a rewrite of “Reasonable Doubt,” De Felitta decided to use some of his fee to open “Cafe Society” in New York on an exclusive basis. He named his releasing company “Kinkajou,” after a nocturnal animal found in Brazil that feeds on the flesh of other animals. “I think that about sums up my experience with this film,” he quips.

De Felitta says he is spending $32,000 to release “Cafe Society,” of which $8,000 will be used for a modest advertising campaign. “People think it’s lunatic to spend this kind of money,” De Felitta says. “But I spent five years of my life on this film. I could buy a new car, but I don’t need one.”

The hope is that buzz from “Cafe Society’s” exclusive run will attract a real distributor.

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