Why Did Halle Berry’s ‘Frankie & Alice’ Languish on the Shelf?

Frankie and Alice Distribution

It took three years, a Golden Globe nomination and possibly a slew of recent hit films targeting African-American audiences for Halle Berry’s “Frankie & Alice” to finally open in 125 theaters on Friday.

Geoffrey Sax’s gritty drama based on the true story of a 1970s go-go dancer with dissociative identity disorder was shot in 2008 and, after a decade in development and a year on the shelf, it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival to fairly positive reviews in May 2010 and screened at the AFI Film Festival six months later.

But after a one-week qualifying run in a single Los Angeles theater during awards season in December 2010, the movie vanished. The film’s producers Access Motion Pictures never followed through with the February release that had been planned through Freestyle Releasing and yet Berry was still nominated for a Golden Globe in 2011, and won an NAACP Image Award and a Prism Award for her performance in the pic.

As time passed and the movie collected for three years (Berry has since starred in thriller “The Call” and inked a deal to topline a new CBS drama), the possibility of a theatrical release resurfaced last year when Codeblack Films acquired distribution rights in September.

Why So Long?

Although it deals with some taboo topics (aside from portraying a mental illness, the pic also tackles the topic of white supremacy as one of Berry’s personalities is a white racist from Texas), it would seem that “Frankie & Alice” should have been seen due to Berry’s star power alone. In 2001 she became the first African-American to win the best actress Oscar and, despite a few recent flops, she’s also part of two mega-successful franchises: “X-Men” and the James Bond series.

Berry has reportedly been working on the project, which marks her debut as a film producer, in some capacity since the mid-‘90s.

Why Now?

The pic is being released this Friday by one of the first independent African-American-owned production/distribution shingles, Codeblack Films — a division of Lionsgate that launched two years ago by Jeff Clanagan. A Lionsgate rep said the studio doesn’t know what happened to the film before Codeblack acquired it but the recent rise in African American movie attendance may have opened the door for “Frankie & Alice.”

According to a recent MPAA report, more than 170 million African-Americans went to the movies in 2013 — a 13% spike from 2012’s 150 million. Thanks to movies like this year’s best picture Oscar winner “12 Years a Slave,” “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” and “The Best Man Holiday,” African-American movie attendance is up for the first time in four years.

Plus, Berry’s last film “The Call” earned over $68 million worldwide on a small budget of $13 million. While  “Frankie” may be a different kind of movie, the demand for the Oscar-winning actress is still very much real and Codeblack jumped in when the price was surely right.

Perhaps it’s only fitting that the distributor that’s taking Berry’s passion project off the shelf and into theaters was behind the box office success story of Kevin Hart’s stand-up comedy film “Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain.” “Let Me Explain” sparked Hart’s box office hot streak. The comedian has contributed to the recent triumph of several African-American pictures, including “Ride Along,” “About Last Night” and “Think Like a Man.”

 

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  1. Dr. June P. Murray says:

    I would like to know why Halle Berry’s film “Frankie” hasn’t been released in Charleston, SC. Does it have to do with her personality that is dominated by a white racist? Is that too sensitive for Charleston? I know that the Nelson Mandela was open for one week in Charleston…and 12 years a Slave was here for about 10 days! We are being discriminated against…again!

  2. Olivia says:

    -__- I swear there are only 8 black actresses in Hollywood. It’s time for some new faces

  3. Shaun says:

    I was at the LA premiere and thoroughly enjoyed this movie…and you will too. Her portrayal as a white supremist was extremely effective/convincing. I was sure Halle performance would silence those “box office poison” comments and score her a second Oscar nomination. Then all of a sudden…(sound of crickets). I live in NY and here you can find ANYTHING if you research hard enough and I was able to score a DVD copy of the movie to show a select group of friends.

    Anyway, I saw the commercial yesterday for the first time and I had to do a double take…lol. Glad all of Hallies hard work to complete this movie will not be in vain. And I agree with the person that pointed out that last year was a banner year for A-A movies…why wouldn’t we come out and support them…it was a welcomed and refreshing change (yes I’m pointing the finger at you Tyler!)

  4. Mark Borde says:

    This is Freestyle Releasing. We were engaged by the Producer to do the Academy run. He then lost all his P and A and disappeared. Our Agreement expired. We were never notified again and clearly the legal and rights issues were finally ironed out and Codeblack acquired the rights and cleared the chain of title. We were never contacted about this story to corroborate or comment.

    We had a great time with Ms.Berry at the Q and A’s and she was very into promoting the film. We were sad that the funds to release it disappeared.

    Nice movie. Good luck with it.

  5. Jake Crouse says:

    You mean the problem of blacks not attending movies didn’t exist when “Frankie & Alice” was being made … but then suddenly arose AFTER the movie made its debut in LA ? Something doesn’t quite mesh here. Seems like Berry’s star power should have automatically assured its release. Anyway …glad it’s finally out. I always wondered what happened to it, as I’ve seen just about every one of Berry’s movies.

  6. Brown Bomber says:

    I would say if Halle is doing press junket’s (especially with female lead video magazines) and Codeblack have a list of locations (from their website) that you can catch this movie. Then it will do fairly well. Its hard at this April 4th as Captain America comes out, and other real Indie competition is Under The Skin. Lets see how it plays out.

  7. I don’t think the studio should have such huge expectations and draw from the fact that The Best Man Holiday, and Kevin Hart’s recent films did well with AA audiences at the box office. Those films were light comedies. This film is much heavier and hasn’t had nearly as much promo as those did.

  8. Brad_E says:

    Um, 21% RT. Lousy movies can have great performances.

    • Bill Maher says:

      Brad. Rotten Tomatoes thought “Date Night” was great! It was shyte. Even with Fey and Carell (whom I love) I saw F&A Friday night. I was impressed by all the performances and the story was compelling. It was way better than “Monuments Men” which RT liked better than Frankie & Alice. Think of it as a version of “Good Will Hunting” with a black go-go dancer.

  9. Scott says:

    It’s a brilliant film, and shows Halle Berry’s acting chops to the hilt. Shows how insanely talented she is with projects worth her abilities.

  10. Tommy Marx says:

    It seems like every month or two I’m reading about yet another movie that’s finally being released after months or years of delays. While I wouldn’t presume that the delay for this particular movie had nothing to do with Halle Berry’s race, is there any evidence whatsoever that it actually was delayed because it was a “black” movie? I can’t say I’d be particularly interested in seeing a “gritty drama” about a ’70s go-go dancer with multiple personalities regardless of the race of the actress playing the lead. I remember reading a review for this movie a few years ago and not being interested, and it had nothing to do with Halle Berry. It just didn’t sound like a movie I wanted to watch.

    • squeesh says:

      I would have liked to see this simply because Berry was in it—I always wondered why it just disappeared after seeing a pic from it about 3 years ago. Just because you don’t want to see dosen’t mean somebody else won’t want to. I certainly do.

  11. Peggy says:

    Did anyone bother to think that AA box office attendance went up BECAUSE there are AA films in the theater? That maybe if you make good movies people will go see them?

  12. Patrice says:

    Too bad there is zero advertisement around this film. No one will know it’s in theaters.

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