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Friday, Oct. 16

‘Man From Toronto’ Adds Jencarlos Canela 

Actor-singer Jencarlos Canela has joined the mistaken identity comedy “Man From Toronto,” starring Kevin Hart and Woody Harrelson.

Patrick Hughes will direct the film written by Robbie Fox and Chris Bremner, from a story by Fox and Jason Blumenthal in which chaos ensues after the world’s deadliest assassin and a stranger, played by Hart, run into each other at an Airbnb. Sony Pictures will release the film on Sept. 17, 2021.

Canela most recently starred in Netflix’s “The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia.” His other credits include starring roles in NBC’s comedy “Telenovela,” starring Eva Longoria, “The Grand Hotel,” also starring Longoria, and musical “The Passion,” which aired on Fox. The news was first reported by Deadline Hollywood.

Restored ‘Damnation’ Receives Release 

A 4K restoration of Béla Tarr’s “Damnation” will receive an Oct. 30 virtual release at New York City’s Film at Lincoln Center, UCLA Film and Television Archive and the Roxie Theater in San Francisco.

“Damnation”  chronicles the doomed affair between a bar regular (played by Miklós B. Székely) and the cruel cabaret singer, played by Vali Kerekes, while scheming to displace her brutish husband. The film was released in 1987.

The film has been restored from the original 35mm camera negative by the Hungarian National Film Institute – Film Archive under the supervision of Tarr. The restoration had its world premiere at the 2020 New York Film Festival.

Kelly Oxford’s ‘Pink Skies Ahead’ Sold 

MTV Studios has bought worldwide rights to the drama “Pink Skies Ahead” ahead of its premiere at the virtual AFI Fest on Saturday.

Best-selling author Kelly Oxford makes her feature film directorial debut with the film based on the essay “No Real Danger” from Oxford’s second book, “When You Find Out The World Is Against You.”  The film is set in Los Angeles in 1998 and follows a young woman who drops out of college, moves back home to live with her parents and reluctantly goes to a therapist as her life unravels.

The film, produced by Greg Silverman’s Stampede, stars Jessica Barden, Mary J. Blige, Marcia Gay Harden, Michael McKean, Lewis Pullman, Devon Bostick , Evan Ross Cameron, Rosa Salazar, Odeya Rush and Henry Winkler. The news was first reported by Deadline Hollywood.

 Thursday, Oct. 15

Vertical, Paramount Unveil ‘Jungleland’ Release Dates

Vertical Entertainment will release the drama “Jungleland,” starring Charlie Hunnam and Jack O’Connell, in more than 100 theaters on Nov. 6, followed by a Nov. 10 launch on premium VOD and digital purchase by Paramount Home Entertainment.

“Jungleland” is produced by Romulus Entertainment in association with Scott Free Productions and Big Red Films, and directed and co-written by Max Winkler. “Jungleland” centers on two brothers whose bond is tested in the underground world of bare-knuckle boxing when one of them fails to pay back a dangerous crime boss (played by Jonathan Majors) and they’re forced to deliver an unexpected traveler, portrayed by Jessica Barden, as they journey across the country for a high stakes fighting tournament.

“Jungleland” premiered at the Toronto Intl. Film Festival.

‘Deliver Us From Evil’ Sold to Well Go USA

Well Go USA Entertainment has acquired North American rights to Korean action movie “Deliver Us From Evil” and set a March release date.

The film, which stars Hwang Jung Min, Lee Jung Jae and Park Jeong Min, is directed by Hong Won Chan, who previously earned a Best Director award from the Busan Film Critics Association for his mystery thriller “Office.”

The story centers on the aftermath of a shocking kidnapping of a little girl in Thailand, with a mercenary with a murky past as a government black ops agent forced to re-emerge from the shadows when he learns the incident is closely connected to him. He flies to Thailand and begins tracking the girl’s whereabouts, moving ever closer to the notorious child trafficking ring responsible for her abduction — but has to face an infamous gangster nicknamed The Butcher going on a bloody rampage to thwart the rescue mission.

PEN America Pans ‘Cuties’ Indictment

The PEN America advocacy organization has blasted the recent Texas grand jury felony indictment against Netflix over the film “Cuties” for lewd depictions of children.

The Sept. 23 indictment follows controversial backlash from conservative groups over scenes in the film in which pre-adolescent girls dance provocatively. The plot revolves around a Senegalese-French girl with a traditional Muslim upbringing who is caught between traditional values and modern culture.

“A Texas grand jury’s indictment of Netflix over the film Cuties is an egregious infringement on the expressive freedoms protected by the First Amendment,” PEN America said. “While people are free to criticize the film’s depiction of children in provocative clothing and dance performances, the claim that this fictional film transgresses legal lines is patently false. The film does not depict sexual acts, nor is there any accusation that children were abused or exploited in its creation.”

Wednesday, Oct. 14

First-look deal for Veteran Exec Quincy Newell

Shout! Studios has signed a first-look deal with entertainment executive Quincy Newell and his content production company TwentyOne14 Media for feature films, series, and short-form content.

Newell has worked on business, marketing and distribution strategies for UrbanWorks Entertainment, Vivendi Entertainment, Codeblack Entertainment and Lionsgate. He co-founded Codeblack and produced “Why We Laugh: Black Comedians on Black Comedy,” “Laugh at my Pain,” the “Shaq All Star Comedy Jam” franchise and stand-up comedy specials from Eddie Griffin, Aries Spears,  Mike Epps, DeRay Davis and Kat Williams

While at Lionsgate, Newell oversaw all development and acquisition activities for the label and went on to produce Showtime Network’s “Why We Laugh: Funny Women,” Kevin Hart’s follow-up concert film “Let Me Explain,” additional installments to the  “Shaq All Star Comedy Jam: franchise, and “Blood Brother,” a co-production with WWE. Most recently, Newell produced the short form series “Comedians & Cocktails,” “Date. Love. Repeat.” and “Truth to Power.”

50 Cent Signs 3-Picture Horror Deal

Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson is expanding his G-Unit Film & Television empire with a three-picture deal in the horror genre with the Arts District Entertainment banner and 3BlackDot.

The three entities will collaborate on each film, while also utilizing 3Blackdot’s in-house resources in gaming, publishing, and merchandise to simultaneously build out complete entertainment properties around each narrative. The intellectual property  will then be leveraged using Jackson, Eli Roth and 3Blackdot’s expertise.

Arts District was formed by Roger Birnbaum, Michael Besman and Roth, whose credits include “Cabin Fever,” “Hostel,” “Hemlock Grove” and the upcoming “Borderlands” for Lionsgate. The idea for the joint slate resulted from discussions among 50 Cent, Roth and James Frey, who oversees all creative development and production for 3BlackDot.

Costume Designers Guild Awards Scheduled 

The 23rd Costume Designers Guild Awards will take place on April 13, 2021, as a hybrid live and streaming event — a dozen days before the 93rd Academy Awards.

Nominations will be announced on March 4, 2021. The CDG includes more than 1,200 costume designers and illustrators working in motion pictures, television, commercials, music videos and new media programs throughout the world.

The awards season calendar has been upended by the COVID-19 pandemic. Following the decision by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences to delay the Oscars until April 25, organizers of the other major awards shows have shifted their events backwards, including the Golden Globes, the SAG Awards, the BAFTAs, the Writers Guild Awards and the Directors Guild Awards.

Tuesday, Oct. 13

Gravitas Buys Jackie Chan’s ‘Vanguard’

Gravitas Ventures has acquired North American rights to the Stanley Tong and Jackie Chan action film, “Vanguard,” and plans a wide theatrical release on Nov. 20.

Directed by Tong, “Vanguard” marks the ninth collaboration from the director and Chan. The films centers on covert security company Vanguard being the last hope of survival for an accountant after he is targeted by the world’s deadliest mercenary organization.

“Vanguard” also stars Yang Yang, Ai Lun, Mu Qimiya, Xu Ruohan and Zhu Zhengting. Gravitas Ventures Vice President of Acquisitions Tony Piantedosi negotiated the deal with Shanghai Lix Entertainment.

IATSE Moving to Boost Inclusion

The Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees is expanding its International Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee by partnering with Right Size Media.

Both groups will work in tandem to identify and prioritize concrete steps that the below-the-line union, which represents 150,000 members, can take to move aggressively toward the anti-racist goals it has committed to publicly.

“It’s time the conversation turns to action. Real, measurable change that removes all barriers against self-fulfillment and full potential, against the rewards to us all of full and equal participation. It will be difficult, uncomfortable at times and involve sacrifice. But none so great as those faced each day by being oppressed by an unjust system,” said IATSE International President Matthew D. Loeb.

Melora Walters’ ‘Drowning’ Slated for Release

Gravitas Ventures will release Melora Walters’ family drama “Drowning” on all North American digital VOD platforms on Oct. 20, Variety has learned exclusively.

Walters stars as a mother coming to terms with her emotions as her only son is deployed to war. Walters, whose son was deployed to Iraq and Syria, also wrote the film, inspired by her own experiences.

The film also stars Gil Bellows, Jay Mohr, Joanna Going, Steven Swadling, Sergio Rizzuto and Mira Sorvino. Rizzuto and Walters also serve as producers; and Swadling as an executive producer.

Monday, Oct. 12

Denver Festival Schedules Drive-In Showings 

The 43rd Denver Film Festival will open on Oct. 22 with a drive-in showing of Chloe Zhao’s “Nomadland,” starring Frances McDormand, at the Red Rocks Park.

The festival will be mostly virtual but will also hold drive-in showings of “Nine Days” as its Centerpiece title on Oct. 24 and “Ammonite” as its Big Night screening on Oct. 29. “Nomadland” premiered at the Venice Film Festival on Sept. 11, and won the Golden Lion. The film is set after the economic collapse of a company town in rural Nevada, with McDormand’s character Fern exploring a life outside of conventional society as a modern-day nomad.

Festival Director Britta Erickson said, “I can’t think of a better, more appropriate way to experience all three of these films — and ‘Nomadland’ in particular — than in your car, surrounded by beautiful Western vistas.”

Miami Festival Unveils Audience Winners 

“The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend A Broken Heart” and “Sound of Metal” have tied as winners of the audience award at the Miami Gems Film Festival.

The Bee Gees documentary, directed by Frank Marshall, centers on Barry Gibb recalling how the music act evolved their unique sound after relocating to Miami in the mid-1970s. “Sound of Metal,” directed by Darius Marder, focuses on a heavy metal drummer, played by Riz Ahmed, whose life begins unravelling when he discovers he is losing his hearing.

The hybrid event took place Oct. 8-11. Spain’s “Out in the Open,” directed by Benito Zambrano, was chosen by audiences as first runner-up, followed by HBO documentary, “537 Votes,” directed by Billy Corben of the Miami-based production company Rakontur.

Spike Jonze Joins ‘Nine Days’ as Exec Producer

Sony Pictures Classics has announced Spike Jonze has joined Edson Oda’s “Nine Days” and that the film will be released in theaters early 2021.

“Nine Days” stars Winston Duke, Zazie Beetz, Benedict Wong, Bill Skarsgård, Tony Hale, David Rysdahl and Arianna Ortiz. The film follows Duke’s character, who is conducting a series of interviews with human souls for a chance to be born. The victor will be rewarded with a coveted opportunity to become a newborn in the real world, while the others will cease to exist.

“Spike Jonze has been one of the biggest influences in my life as a filmmaker,” said Oda. “His work — which made me see pictures in motion with new eyes — inspired me to pursue this career, and constantly encourages me to tell my own stories in the most human, personal and heartful way I can.”