Janelle Monae Starrer ‘Antebellum’ Removed From Schedule

Lionsgate’s has removed horror film “Antebellum,” starring Janelle Monae, from its Aug. 21 release slot in North America.

The studio made the move Friday in a possible sign of a lack of confidence that moviegoing in the U.S. will be back in full swing before the end of summer. Warner Bros. currently has its sci-fi thriller “Tenet” set for domestic release on Sept. 3.

“Antebellum” had originally been set to debut on April 24, but was pulled in mid-March amid concerns about the pandemic, then re-scheduled in early May for the August date. Monae portrays a modern-day author transported back into the 19th century as a slave in the Southern United States to come face-to-face with her ancestors.

‘Deaf President’ Project Launches at Concordia

Concordia Studio is teaming with deaf actor and activist Nyle DiMarco to develop a  feature film based on the 1988 Deaf President Now movement at Gallaudet University.

The story is set during the week of protests at Gallaudet in 1988 after the Trustees selected a hearing candidate for President of the school over several equally qualified Deaf candidates.  Gallaudet alum DiMarco will produce alongside Concordia Co-Founder, Jonathan King.

Concordia has acquired the rights of the book “Deaf President Now! The 1988 Revolution At Gallaudet University” written by two Gallaudet professors, John B. Christiansen and Sharon N. Barnartt.

Gravitas Ventures Releasing ‘One Hour Outcall’ Drama

Gravitas Ventures has set a Sept. 15 release date for Sophisticated Rogue Media’s “One Hour Outcall,” Variety has learned exclusively.

The film was shot in Los Angeles in 29 days by director T. Arthur Cottam from a script by  William Norrett, who also stars. The drama explores the complex relationship between a high-class escort and a client who meet every Thursday night.

“One Hour Outcall” stars Natalia Ochoa, Kristin Carey, Shannon Leigh Godwin, Octavio Rodriguez and Will Holbrook. Producers are Cottam, Jim Eshom and Sam Hook.


Location Managers Guild Honors Spike Lee

The Location Managers Guild International has selected director Spike Lee as the recipient of its Trailblazer Award.

The 7th Annual LMGI Awards, celebrating the theme “2020 Vision: We See It First,” will be presented Oct. 24 in a virtual ceremony.

LMGI Awards co-chair Lori Balton said, “We are especially grateful that Mr. Lee has brought so much diverse talent into the industry. Actors like Samuel Jackson, Rosie Perez and Giancarlo Esposito, but also so many of us working behind the scenes — Wynn Thomas, Ruth Carter, Ernest Dickerson and Brent Owens to name a few.  He is a Trailblazer on a number of levels.” Lee won the Oscar for adapted screenplay last year for “BlacKkKlansman.”

Academy Selects Film Scholars for 2020

Racquel Gates and Rebecca Prime have been named 2020 Academy Film Scholars by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Their respective book projects are “Hollywood Style and the Invention of Blackness” and “Uptight!: Race, Revolution, and the Struggle to Make the Most Dangerous Film of 1968,” explore in depth the topic of race in Hollywood. The Academy’s Educational Grants Committee will award Gates and Prime each $25,000 on the basis of their proposals.

“Gates and Prime’s unique assessment of film history will shed invaluable insight,” said Marcus Hu, chair of the Academy’s grants committee. “The Academy and our committee are incredibly proud to award grants to two deserving female scholars for the second year in a row, both of whose book projects address vital subjects that are more relevant than ever.”

Horror Film ‘Self Isolated’ Shooting in Los Angeles

Filmmaker/actor Chad Ridgely (“Massacre on Aisle 12,” “6:66 PM”) has begun shooting the horror feature “Self Isolated” in Los Angeles, Variety has learned exclusively.

Ridgely is directing, practicing social distancing protocols and utilizing limited cast and crew. He is also starring with Maggi Mayfield, Doug Burch and Rachel Alig in a story set amid a global pandemic, centering around a woman who awakens from a coma to find her caretaker husband has gone missing.

Ridgely is co-producing under his Full Auto Films banner, in conjunction with  Mayfield of MMMade It Media.


Octavia Spencer, Riz Ahmed Starring in ‘Invasion’

Octavia Spencer and Riz Ahmed are starring in the science-fiction thriller “Invasion” for Amazon Studios.

“Invasion” centers on two young brothers on the run with their father, a decorated Marine, who is on a rescue mission to save his boys from an inhuman threat.

Michael Pearce is directing from a script by Joe Barton. Producers are Raw Gear’s Dimitri Doganis, Piers Vellacott and Derrin Schlesinger. “Invasion” will be presented in association with Film4, which developed it with Raw Gear. The news was first reported by Deadline Hollywood.

Abramorama Buys ‘Starting at Zero’ Documentary

Abramorama has bought the theatrical rights to the documentary film “Starting at Zero: Reimagining Education in America” and will release it in virtual cinemas starting on Aug. 14.

The film is presented by the Saul Zaentz Charitable Foundation, The Hunt Institute and The Ounce of Prevention. It advocates significant investments in high-quality, early childhood education, both to support today’s workforce and to build the workforce of tomorrow.

Governors Roy Cooper of North Carolina, Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Steve Bullock of Montana and Ralph Northam of Virginia are supporting the documentary as well as senior officials with The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Bezos Family Foundation.

IFC Midnight Buys Tamara Lawrence Drama ‘Kindred’

IFC Midnight has bought the North American rights to the psychological drama “Kindred,” starring Tamara Lawrence and directed by Joe Marcantonio.

“Kindred” explores themes of control and a pregnant young woman’s struggle with the slow breakdown of her own sense of reality after her boyfriend dies and she wakes up in a crumbling old manor house in the middle of nowhere. Jack Lowden, Fiona Shaw and Edward Holcroft also star.

IFC Midnight will release the film on Nov. 6.


Focus Buys Star-Studded ‘Armageddon Time’

Focus Features has bought the period drama “Armageddon Time,” starring Oscar winners Robert De Niro, Oscar Isaac, Anne Hathaway, and Cate Blanchett.

Variety first reported in May that Blanchett would star in “Armageddon Time.”

James Gray is directing the pic, drawn from his own childhood memories. The coming-of-age story explores friendship and loyalty against the backdrop of an America poised to elect Ronald Reagan as president.

De Niro and Hathaway previously worked together in the 2015 comedy “The Intern.” The Focus news was first reported by The Wrap.

Screen Gems Exec Jolene Rodriguez Heading Broken English

Broken English Productions, part of film finance company Grandave Capital, has hired Screen Gems executive Jolene Rodriguez as president.

She is overseeing Omar Chaparro’s “7th & Union” as executive producer. Rodriguez exec produced the 2019 feature “Keyhole Garden,” starring Zoe Saldana and currently in post-production.

Rodriguez worked for more than a decade at Screen Gems. She set up an untitled Gabrielle Union romantic comedy and an untitled Gigi Guerrero Latinx horror project.

Ava DuVernay’s Array Buys Slamdance Winner ‘Residue’

Ava DuVernay’s Array Releasing has bought Merawi Gerima’s drama “Residue,” which won the Slamdance Festival Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature and the Acting Award for star Obinna Nwachukwu.

“Residue” explores the effects of a man returning home to find his neighborhood gentrified beyond recognition. The movie is an official selection for the Venice International Film Festival.

“Residue” marks Gerima’s feature directorial debut.


Fred Willard’s ‘Here Comes Rusty’ Finds a Home

Cinedigm has bought the comedy “Here Comes Rusty,” starring Fred Willard, Bruce Hampton, Joey Lauren Adams and Paulie Litt, for digital release this fall, Variety has learned exclusively.

Hampton portrays the owner of a dog track who makes a wager with Willard’s dishonest owner of a used car lot. It was directed by Tyler Russell and written by Russell, Pierce Wortham and William Ross Smith, who also produced.

The deal was negotiated by Josh Thomashow on behalf of Cinedigm and Russell on behalf of the filmmakers. Willard passed away on May 15.

‘Wuhan – A Season in Hell’ Documentary in Production

Oscar-winning documentarian Malcolm Clarke is in production on “Wuhan – A Season in Hell,” which explores the events in Wuhan, China, during the early days after the discovery of the coronavirus.

An ARTeFACT Entertainment production, the film is produced by Shanghai-based independent producer Han Yi. CAA Media Finance represents the film’s worldwide distribution rights.

“This is by far the most challenging film I’ve ever made, shooting a film in a place where the country, the entire society, has taken itself to ‘war,’” said Clarke. “The Wuhan experience has since become a microcosm – an object lesson in how the whole world could, and perhaps should have responded to this terrifying, invisible, mortal threat. This film is about responsibility; it’s the stories of those who stepped up and risked their lives, and the stories of those who could’ve done much more.”

Virtual Black Carpet Speaker Series Unveiled

The Black Hollywood Education and Resource Center has unveiled a virtual Black Carpet Speaker series, starting with Gina Prince-Bythewood and Kasi Lemmons.

The free conversation takes place on July 31 from 5 pm to 6 pm at http://www.bherc.org. BHERC’s annual “Reel Black Men Film Festival” will start on Aug. 1 through Aug. 8.

Most recently, Lemmons directed “Harriet” and Prince-Bythewood directed “The Old Guard.”