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FRIDAY, SEPT. 18

Janina Gavankar Attached to Monster Movie

Janina Gavankar has come on board to star in the independent film centered on the Rakshasa, a mythical Hindu demon banished from the gods to live among men.

108 Media will finance and produce the untitled movie, which Gavankar co-wrote with Russo Schelling. The movie will be shot in India. Gavankar and Schelling co-directed the short film “Stucco,” which won the special jury recognition for creature design prize at SXSW 2020.

Gavankar, who starred in Ben Affleck’s “The Way Back,” is also starring in Amazon’s “Invasion” as the ex-wife of Riz Ahmed’s character. The news was first reported by Deadline Hollywood.

John Boyega Boards Thriller ‘The Test’

Entertainment One is developing the thriller “The Test” with “Star Wars” actor John Boyega and Payman Maadi attached to star with “Eye in the Sky” helmer Gavin Hood directing.

The project is based on an adaptation of the Sylvain Neuvel novella “The Test,” set in a near future dystopia in which Boyega will portray a behavioral psychologist supervising a citizenship test and confronting a far-right terrorist group. Hood is writing the script.

Erwin Stoff will produce with Zev Foreman and Ilda Diffley overseeing for eOne. The news was first reported by Deadline Hollywood.

Boston Film Festival Unveils Lineup

The 36th edition of the Boston Film Festival will include the world premieres of documentaries “Beyond Zero,” “This Hits Home” and “25,” which examines the career of the late Boston Red Sox legend Tony Conigliaro.

The festival, which run Sept. 24-27, will include U.S. premieres of the features “Small Town Wisconsin” and “The Memory of Water,” plus the documentary “Me the People.” East Coast premieres will include “Paper Spiders,” “The Girl Who Wore Freedom,” “After the Rain” and “Stro: The Michael D’Asaro Story.”

The festival’s opening night will include an episode of “Jay Leno’s Garage,” followed a Q&A with Leno and presentation of the Boston Film Festival’s Excellence in Entertainment Award. A limited number of the festival’s entries will be screened at the Showplace Icon Seaport Theater.

THURSDAY, SEPT. 17

‘Ms. White Light’ Slated for October Release 

Freestyle Digital Media has bought North American rights to the drama “Ms. White Light,” starring Roberta Colindrez and Judith Light, Variety has learned exclusively.

Freestyle plans an Oct. 6 digital release of “Ms. White Light,” which centers on Colindrez’s counselor to terminally ill clients, who is at a loss when it comes to dealing with everyone else. She comes into conflict with Light’s sharp-tongued free spirit, who has no time for her own mortality.

Written and directed by Paul Shoulberg, the film was produced by Zachary Spicer, John Robert Armstrong and Gordon Strain for their Pigasus Pictures banner. It was an official selection at the SXSW Film Festival and won awards at the Torino Film Festival.

Sony Pictures Delays Animated ‘Connected’ 

Sony Animation’s road comedy “Connected” has been moved off its Oct. 23 domestic release date to an unspecified slot later this year.

“Connected” is the latest studio title to be delayed amid ongoing uncertainty over customer support for moviegoing at U.S. multiplexes due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. About 70% of the nation’s theaters have re-opened over the past two months.

The film, directed by Mike Rianda, centers on family trying to bond on a road trip while the Earth is faced with destruction from an unknown force. Phil Lord and Chris Miller are producing. Voice cast includes Abbi Jacobson, Maya Rudolph and Danny McBride.

‘Lie Exposed’ Bought for November Release

Indican Pictures has acquired U.S. distribution rights to the drama “Lie Exposed, starring Leslie Hope, Jeff Kober and Bruce Greenwood, Variety has learned exclusively.

The film will have a limited theatrical release as well as a digital and DVD release on Nov. 10. Directed by Jerry Ciccoritti (“Schitt’s Creek”) and produced by Hope, the film is based on Kober’s play, “Pornography,” which unravels an intoxicating love triangle between the three leads.

The cast includes Megan Follows (“Anne of Green Gables”), David Hewlett (“The Shape of Water”), Kris Holden-Ried (“The Umbrella Academy”), Grace Lynn Kung, Kristin Lehman (“Altered Carbon”) and Daniel Maslany (“Murdoch Mysteries”).

WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 16

Beatles Documentary Set for John Lennon’s Birthday

Gathr Films has set an Oct. 9 release date for on-demand showings of its feature film documentary “Meeting the Beatles in India,” coinciding with what would have been the 80th birthday of John Lennon.

The documentary chronicles filmmaker Paul Saltzman’s time with the Beatles learning transcendental meditation at Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram in India in 1968. The pay-per-view offer features interviews with many of those who were there with The Beatles in 1968 and never-before-seen David Lynch interviews with Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. Lynch is an executive producer of the documentary.

“Gathr Films is pioneering the modern movie rollout in the age of Covid,” said founder and CEO Scott Glosserman. “On a daily basis, we are rewriting the rule book of how you release a film in today’s challenging landscape. At the core of that strategy is one mandate: the ability of the cinema lover to access a movie whenever, however they choose. That’s Gathr’s mission.”

A3 Artists Agency Boosts Literary Divisions

A3 Artists Agency has hired veteran agent Valarie Phillips as partner and co-head of the Motion Pictures Literary Division, which she will co-run with Adam Kanter.

The talent and literary agency is also tapping Martin Spencer as agent in the Motion Pictures Literary Division, and Antoni Kaczmarek and Kasey Muraszko as agents in the Television Literary Division.

“Since signing the WGA code of conduct nearly a year ago, A3 has remained committed to building a world-class literary team that reflects the philosophy of the agency: putting the client first,” said A3 CEO Robert Attermann. “From the rebranding and to launching and revamping of divisions, we’ve managed to fit the puzzle pieces together to set the foundation of a leading agency.”

South African Horror Movie ‘The Hex’ Bought

Cleopatra Entertainment has acquired the North American distribution rights to the South African horror movie “The Hex” for December release, Variety has learned exclusively.

“The Hex” premiered at the 2020 Virtual Cannes Film Market. It’s the directorial debut of actress Reine Swart (“Z Nation”) and stars Coco Lloyd, Mary-Anne Barlow, Mari Molefe Van Heerden, and Hungani Ndlovu. The film follows a grieving British girl, played by  Lloyd, who unravels her murdered mother’s secrets connected to a South African witch doctor’s curse. She wants to put an end to this haunting hex by traveling to South Africa – but instead gets cast into even deeper sinister depths.

TUESDAY, SEPT. 15

Lizzy Caplan, Antony Starr Complete ‘Cobweb’ Cast 

Lizzy Caplan, Antony Starr, Cleopatra Coleman and Woody Norman have been cast in the upcoming Lionsgate thriller “Cobweb,” which will start production later this month in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Norman will star as a timid boy who becomes increasingly troubled by the strange tapping he hears within the walls at night. Caplan and Starr will portray his parents and Coleman will play his substitute teacher.

Erin Westerman, president of production for the Lionsgate Motion Picture Group, made the announcement Tuesday. Lionsgate recently completed production of “The Devil’s Light,” also in Bulgaria. Directed by Samuel Bodin, the film is written by Chris Thomas Devlin and produced by Roy Lee through his Vertigo Entertainment banner, and by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and James Weaver, through Point Grey. Jon Berg also produces.

Inclusion Fellowship Unveiled by LALIFF

The Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival is launching its Inclusion Fellowship Series in order to champion an underrepresented group from within the Latinx community.

For its inaugural year, Netflix is sponsoring the program for five directors who identify as Afro Latino to create a short film that will have its world premiere at LALIFF 2021.

Edward James Olmos, co-founder of LALIFF and the Latino Film Institute, said, “For Latino representation in Hollywood to change, we need to create funding and distribution opportunities for our storytellers. The LALIFF Inclusion Fellowship is exactly that. For our first fellowship, we are proud to highlight Afro Latino voices because Black lives are Latino lives.”

Fathom Schedules ‘Stand!’ for December

Fathom has scheduled a Dec. 1 one-night-only screening of the movie musical “Stand!,” an immigrant Romeo & Juliet battling for love and a better life during the general strikes of 1919, Variety has learned exclusively.

Directed by Robert Adetuyi and written by Danny Schur and Rick Chafe, the film stars Marshall Williams (“Glee”), Laura Slade Wiggins (“Shameless”), Gregg Henry (“Guardians of the Galaxy”) and newcomer Lisa Bell who delivers the original song “Stand.”

Fathom, a partnership between AMC, Cinemark and Regal, will release Stand! through Fathom’s Digital Broadcast Network followed by a conversation with director Robert Adetuyi, composer/producer/writer Schur and various stars. The film explores the struggle of an immigrant family while returned soldiers, angry at the lack of jobs after the war, violently threaten a city’s immigrants.

MONDAY, SEPT. 14

Marry Me’ Arriving Valentine’s Day Weekend

Universal Pictures will release the romance film “Marry Me,” starring Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson, on Feb. 12, the start of the Valentine’s Day weekend.

Lopez is starring as a musical superstar and Wilson is portraying a divorced math teacher. Lopez’s character is about to marry a new music star in a worldwide ceremony when she discovers that he cheated on her. She has a meltdown, then locks eyes with Wilson’s character and decides to marry him.

“Marry Me” is directed by Kat Coiro from a screenplay by John Rogers, Tami Sagher and Harper Dill based on the graphic novel by Bobby Crosby. The film is produced by Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, Lopez, Benny Medina and John Rogers. The film’s executive producers are Alex Brown, Willie Mercer, Pamela Thur and J.B. Roberts.

Elizabeth Hurley, John Cleese Join Christmas Comedy

Elizabeth Hurley, John Cleese and Kelsey Grammer are starring in the MSR Media comedy feature film “Father Christmas Is Back,” with principal photography underway in the U.K.

Philippe Martinez and Mick Davis are directing from a script by David Conolly, Hannah Davis Law and Dylanne Corcoran based on an original idea by Martinez who also produces the film, in which a family’s Christmas turns to chaos when the long-lost father arrives at their doorstep with his new girlfriend. The cast include Nathalie Cox, Talulah Riley, Kris Marshall, Caroline Quentin, April Bowlby, Ray Fearon, and Naomi Frederick.

Martinez and Alan Latham from Highfield Grange Studios are producing the film. The film’s financial partner is Kirsty Bell from Goldfinch, who serves as executive producer alongside Lee Beasley and Karinne Behr from MSR Media.

Good to Vote Campaign Taps Celebrities 

The Good to Vote initiative has signed up Samuel L. Jackson, Emma Roberts, Meagan Good, Hailee Steinfeld, Taylor Schilling, and Debra Messing to encourage voter registration.

The non-partisan voting campaign has launched as a way of celebrities encouraging their millions of fans to register, check their registration, or make a voting plan. Talent who participate will offer their fans incentives such as access to never-before-seen piece of content when their followers hit a specific number of registrations.

The content includes JoAnna Garcia Swisher shaving Nick Swisher’s head; Debra Messing reuniting with her “Mysteries of Laura” co-star Josh Lucas; Hailee Steinfeld and Anna Baryshnikov hosting an Instagram Live for a special engagement in the kitchen; Taylor Schilling releasing an exclusive clip from her upcoming series “Monsterland”; and Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein hosting an Instagram Live “Booksmart” reunion.