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FRIDAY Oct. 2

Indican Buys Rights to ‘Tomato Red

Indican Pictures has bought North American rights to the crime thriller “Tomato Red,” starring Julia Garner, Nick Roux and Jake Weary, Variety has learned exclusively.

The story follows Weary as a drifter in search of his next cold beer who gets a lot more than he originally bargained for from a brother and sister, portrayed by Roux and Garner.

Based on the novel by Daniel Woodrell, the thriller was written and directed by Juanita Wilson, produced by Kerry Barden and Paul Schnee, and executive produced by Ronan Flynn, John Weber and Woodrell. Additional cast includes Douglas M. Griffin, Julian Richings and Anna Friel.

“Tomato Red” is a Metropolitan Films production in association with Bord Scannán na hÉireann / the Irish Film Board, Scythia Films and Take 5 Productions.

‘Brokeback Mountain’ Reading Slated for New Fest

NewFest will host a virtual live-read of ‘Brokeback Mountain” on Oct. 18 to celebrate the film’s 15th anniversary, featuring an all-star trans cast.

Leo Sheng, Brian Michael Smith, Jen Richards and Alexandra Grey will portray the main characters and Sam Feder will be the narrator. The announcement was made today by NewFest’s Executive Director David Hatkoff and Director of Programming Nick McCarthy.

The fundraiser will take place during The New York LGBTQ Film Festival. Additional cast for the event will include Mal Blum, Mars Dixon, Theo Germaine, Jordan Gonzalez, Drew Gregory, Vico Ortiz and Jes Tom.

USO Series Features Scarlett Johansson, Chris Evans

The United Service Organizations will bring notable names in comics, film, television and music for the inaugural USO Military Virtual Programming Con, a three-day series starting Oct. 6.

The event will allow service members and their families to interact with Scarlett Johansson, Chris Evans, Norman Reedus from AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” and Jon Bernthal from Netflix’s “The Punisher.” Events include live discussions, webinars and performances to serve the USO’s mission to keep military service members connected to family, home and country.

Since April, the USO has hosted more than 55 MVP events, engaging with more than 26,000 members of the military community worldwide.

THURSDAY Oct. 1

Hollywood-based TCM Festival Scrubs In-Person Events

Organizers of 12th Annual 2021 TCM Classic Film Festival have announced plans to stage a virtual rather than in-person event as part of their ongoing commitment to producing a safe event for all attendees, staff and partners, and the current status of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2020 event, which had been set for April, was called off due to the health crisis this year. In 2019, Ted Turner was honored as part of a series of events to mark the 25th anniversary of TCM’s on-air debut on April 14, 1994, followed by the festival’s 30th anniversary screening of “When Harry Met Sally” at the TCL Chinese Theatre.

“The TCM staff are already hard at work on building an engaging and unique experience for our fans that will feature exciting discussions and panels, memorable TCM Classic Film Festival moments and movies, and the opportunity to gather as a community and share in our love of classic movies,” organizers said Thursday.

ACE Eddie Awards Scheduled for April 18

The American Cinema Editors have set the 72nd Annual ACE Eddie Awards on April 18, 2021 — one week before the 93rd Academy Awards.

Exact plans for the event are not yet solidified and it may become a virtual event in light of the pandemic, ACE said. The awards ceremony will unveil winners for outstanding editing in 13 categories of film and television including this year’s newest category, best edited animated series.

“The burst of incredible animation on the small screen is exciting to watch,” said ACE Executive Director Jenni McCormick. “We’re pleased to add a category this year that recognizes the superlative accomplishments of film editors working in this space.”

Gravitas Buys ‘The Walrus and The Whistleblower

Gravitas Ventures has acquired worldwide rights, excluding Canada, to the documentary “The Walrus and The Whistleblower,” for release in theaters on Oct. 9 and video on demand on Nov. 24.

Directed by Nathalie Bibeau, the documentary was awarded the audience award at Hot Docs Canadian International Film Festival. It explores the story of Phil Demers, an ex-trainer at the MarineLand amusement park in Niagara Falls who disclosed allegedly inhumane treatment of animals at the institution.

“‘The Walrus and The Whistleblower’ is a stranger-than fiction tale that plays out against the swell of a paradigm shift in our relationship with animals,” Bibeau said.

WEDNESDAY Sept. 30

AMC Entertainment Continues Reopenings

AMC Entertainment has announced theatre reopenings at 14 AMC locations in California and Michigan that have been closed since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The circuit will reopen the AMC Manteca 16 in San Joaquin County and the AMC Brentwood 14 in Contra Costa County on Oct. 2. AMC has previously reopened its theatres in the San Diego area, as well as its theatres in Orange County and Riverside County.

In Michigan, following the recent announcement by state officials allowing movie theatres to reopen, 12 AMC locations in the state will resume operations beginning Oct. 9. The chain said the locations will stringently enforce AMC Safe & Clean and will follow all local guidelines and directives.

Romance ‘Wake of Light’ Receives Release

Axispacific Filmworks has signed a deal for a 30-day exclusive engagement for its romance “The Wake of Light” with Laemmle Theaters in Los Angeles and their virtual theatrical platform, Variety has learned exclusively.

“The Wake of Light” centers on the relationship between a young woman — played by newcomer Rome Brooks — who cares for her aging and mute father, following a stroke. One day she meets a young man, portrayed by Matt Bush of “The Goldbergs,” who falls for her, asks her to leave her father and join him on a road trip to see the salt flats in Utah. She ultimately has to make the choice between the deep-felt responsibility to her father or a chance at love.

“The Wake of Light” won 18 awards on the festival circuit in 2019, including six best Film awards, 8 best performance awards  for Brooks and Bush, and four director awards and one screenplay award for writer-director-producer Renji Philip. Following the 30-day exclusive engagement with Laemmle, it will expand to other streaming platforms, cable VOD and BluRay/DVD.

Freestyle Buys ‘Heart of the Shore’ Documentary

Freestyle Digital Media has acquired North American rights to the documentary “Heart of the Shore,” which will be available to rent and own on DVD and North American digital HD internet, cable, and satellite platforms on Oct. 23.

“Heart of the Shore” follows one year in the lives of people recovering from the devastation of 2012’s Superstorm Sandy along the Jersey shore. This film directed by Cliff Charles and Ron Elliot, who also produce with Cordelia Donovan and Dennis Petrocelli.

“Heart of the Shore” is narrated by veteran comedic actor and New Jersey native, Joe Piscopo.

TUESDAY Sept. 29

Regal Cinemas Expands California Reopenings 

The Regal Cinemas chain has expanded its California openings to nine locations in Sacramento, Fresno, Contra Costa, Yolo and San Joaquin counties.

Those counties were moved Tuesday from the state’s “purple tier” to a “red tier,” which takes place when COVID-19 rates drop. That designation allows movie theaters to begin operations with capacity limited to 25% or 100 people, whichever is less.

Regal began reopening California multiplexes in early September with its theaters in San Diego, El Dorado and Tuolumne counties, then opened sites in Orange County on Sept. 8. Riverside, Solano and San Luis Obispo counties were reopened last week. Los Angeles County remains in the top “purple” tier due to its COVID-19 rates being more than seven new daily cases per 100,000 with a positive test rate above 8%.

Alicia Witt’s ‘Modern Persuasion’ Bought by Samuel Goldwyn

Samuel Goldwyn Films has picked up the U.S. rights to the romantic comedy, “Modern Persuasion,” starring Alicia Witt in an adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Persuasion,” and plans a December release.

Witt portrays a happily single and self-confessed workaholic who finds herself coming home every night to her cat. When her firm is hired by a former love interest, long-lost feelings are stirred.

The film is directed by Alex Appel and Jonathan Lisecki from a script by Lisecki and Barbara Radecki. It also stars Shane McRae and Bebe Neuwirth. Myriad Films is handling international sales.

Virgil Films Buys Documentary ‘Nasrin’

Virgil Films has bought the North American sales rights to the documentary “Nasrin,” a portrait of human rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh, an outspoken leader of Iran’s women’s rights movement

The film is narrated by Olivia Colman, directed by Jeff Kaufman and produced by Marcia S. Ross. “Nasrin” was secretly filmed in Iran by men and women who risked arrest. Washington Post columnist and former political prisoner Jason Rezaian serves as one of the film’s executive producers.

“Nasrin” includes footage of filmmaker Jafar Panahi, Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi, journalist Ann Curry, and Sotoudeh’s husband and fellow activist Reza Khandan. The film will be shown this week at the 2020 GlobeDocs Film Festival.

MONDAY Sept. 28

Ava DuVernay Selected for Inaugural MacDowell Trophy

Ava DuVernay will accept the inaugural Marian MacDowell Arts Advocacy Award on behalf of her Array Releasing during MacDowell’s Virtual National Benefit on Oct. 19.

“As I have learned more about MacDowell, and the range of artists who have been in residence over decades, I am moved by how their work has influenced our world,” DuVernay said. “Marian MacDowell was the woman who, in 1907, had the unique vision to support artists from many different walks of life in an effort to remove barriers to creativity. I am touched that our narrative change collective Array, which is built upon a mission to articulate and amplify stories from the widest range of art makers, is being honored in Ms. MacDowell’s name.”

This year’s award is being underwritten by Agnes Gund, who said DuVernay’s documentary “13th” inspired the formation of Gund’s Art for Justice Fund.

‘Friday Afternoon in the Universe’ Sets Production 

The independent comedy film “Friday Afternoon in the Universe” will start production in February in Portland, Oregon, with Elisha Cuthbert, Jay Chandrasekhar and Bojana Novakovic, Variety has learned exclusively.
“Friday Afternoon in the Universe” centers on an alcoholic playwright who discovers that her play has been stolen and is being staged. The producers include Sean Patrick Burke, who produced the  film “As You Are,” which premiered in the American Drama competition at the Sundance Film Festival in 2016 and won a special Grand Jury Prize award.

The producers said they are conscious of the fact that due to COVID-19 multiple productions are being pushed into next year, and are working with the actors and their representation to ensure the shooting schedule will accommodate other projects.

Kino Lorber Buys ‘Nationtime’ Documentary

Kino Lorber has acquired the U.S. and Canadian distribution rights to William Greaves’ documentary “Nationtime,” which explores the National Black Political Convention of 1972 held in Gary, Ind.

The film will be released in virtual cinemas through Kino Marquee starting Oct. 23. The 4K version was restored by IndieCollect under the supervision of Louise Greaves, the director’s widow and filmmaking partner, with color correction by Oskar Miarka. Jane Fonda and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association Trust funded the restoration.

The Gary Convention gathered more than 10,000 Black politicians, activists, and artists from across the political spectrum, including more than 500 media representatives. The film is narrated by Sidney Poitier combined with poems recited by Harry Belafonte. Delegates included Black Panther co-founder Bobby Seale, Coretta Scott King, PUSH founder Rev. Jesse Jackson and elected officials Ron Dellums, Charles Diggs, Walter Fauntroy, Richard Hatcher and Carl McCall. Belafonte, Dick Gregory, Isaac Hayes and Richard Roundtree performed for the crowds over the three days.