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FRIDAY, AUG. 28

Natalie Morales, Cyrina Fiallo Set Miami Project

Universal has acquired an an untitled Miami project, based on an original pitch from Natalie Morales (“Dead to Me”) and Cyrina Fiallo (“Brooklyn Nine-Nine”) for Phil Lord & Chris Miller to produce.

The studio has tapped Morales and Fiallo — who are both Florida natives — to write the screenplay and serve as executive producers. The story is centered on a Cuban-American woman forced to return to her overbearing family in Miami for a baptism, a quinceañera, a wedding and a funeral.

Lord and Miller will produce with Lord Miller’s President of Film Aditya Sood. Will Allegra from Lord Miller and Vincent Nastri of Bleecker Street Entertainment will serve as executive producers.

Christmas Release Date Scheduled for ‘Truffle Hunters’

Sony Pictures Classics will release Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw’s “The Truffle Hunters” on Dec. 25.

The documentary will screen at the Toronto International Film Festival next month. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, where it was acquired by Sony Pictures Classics.

The film follows a handful of men in their 70s and 80s in Piedmont, Italy, on the search for the elusive Alba truffle, guided by their trained dogs. The documentary explores the devastating effects of climate change and deforestation on an age-old tradition.

‘Kajillionaire’ Release Date Pushed Back

Focus Features has pushed back the North American theatrical release date of Miranda July comedy “Kajillionaire” by a week to Sept. 25.

Debra Winger and Richard Jenkins portray con artists who have spent 26 years training their only daughter, played by Evan Rachel Wood, to swindle, scam, and steal. During a desperate, hastily conceived heist, they charm a stranger (Gina Rodriguez) into joining their next scam, only to have their entire world turned upside down.

Producers are Plan B Entertainment’s Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner, and Youree Henley.  Plan B Entertainment’s Brad Pitt, Annapurna’s Megan Ellison, and Jillian Longnecker executive produced.

THURSDAY, AUG. 27

Margaret Cho Selected for Out on Film Award

The Atlanta-based LGBTQIA+ Out on Film festival will honor stand-up comedian Margaret Cho with its Icon Award at its virtual festival on Sept. 24-Oct. 4.

The festival has selected  Cindy Abel’s documentary “Surviving the Silence”as its opening night film. Monica Zanetti’s Australian prom comedy “Ellie and Abbie” will be the closing night title.

It has also scheduled a Conversation of Film event with “Scream” and “Dawson’s Creek” scribe Kevin Williamson. Out on Film will offer 39 features (24 narrative films, 15 documentaries), 15 shorts programs with 82 films representing 20 countries.

Emmett Till Movie in Development

“Clemency” director Chinonye Chukwu is developing a movie based on the 1955 lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Louis Till and its impact on his mother, Mamie Till Mobley.

The producers said Mobley’s pursuit of justice for her son and insistence on an open casket funeral became a galvanizing moment that helped lead to the creation of the civil rights movement. The Till story will be produced by Keith Beauchamp, Barbara Broccoli, Whoopi Goldberg, Thomas K Levine, Michael J P Reilly and Frederick Zollo.

The film is scheduled for production in 2021 coinciding with what would have been Till’s 80th birthday. The news was first reported by Deadline Hollywood.

Samuel Goldwyn Films Buys ‘Triggered’

Samuel Goldwyn Films has acquired North American rights to Alastair Orr’s horror movie “Triggered” for release in the fall, Variety has learned exclusively.

The film stars Reine Swart, Liesl Ahlers, Russel Crous, Steven John Ward, Cameron Scott, Paige Bonnin, Kayla Privett , Suraya Rose Santos, Michael Lawrence Potter, Sean Cameron Michael and Craig Urbani.

The film centers on nine friends — all harboring a dark secret — going camping in the woods. After a wild night of partying, they wake up with suicide bombs strapped to their chests, all with varying times on their countdown clocks. The film was produced by Ariye Mahdeb and Pepper Dlulane; and executive produced by Orr, David D. Jones, Simon Ratcliffe, James Mathess, Daniel Caleb, Sean Braam, Ryan Van Den Berg, and Charles Singleton.

WEDNESDAY, AUG. 26

Ella Fitzgerald, County Basic Documentaries Scheduled

Eagle Rock Entertainment will celebrate two jazz icons with the Sept. 11 digital release of “Ella Fitzgerald: Just One Of Those Things” and “Count Basie: Through His Own Eyes.”

The Fitzgerald documentary is directed by Leslie Woodhead and produced by novelist Reggie Nadelson. It combines never-before-seen footage with conversations featuring Smokey Robinson, Tony Bennett, Johnny Mathis, Itzhak Perlman, Norma Miller, the late Andre Previn, and a rare conversation with Ella Fitzgerald’s son, Ray Brown Jr.

“Count Basie: Through His Own Eyes” is directed by Jeremy Marre and contains home movies and photo albums, underscoring Basie’s conversations of his relationship with wife Catherine and his protective, undying love for his daughter Diane, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. It features rare performances with Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, and Sammy Davis Jr.

‘Dead in the Water’ Cast Unveiled

Peter Porte (“The Young and the Restless”) is starring alongside Catherine Lidstone and Angela Gulner in “Dead in the Water,” Variety has learned exclusively.

This is writer/director Nanea Miyata’s second feature film following 2018’s “Christmas Harmony.” Lidstone and Gulner portray best friends in a weekend getaway at a lake house. When a mysterious man (Porte) crosses their path, the weekend gets more dangerous than either woman ever expected.

Hot Lettuce is producing. The cast also includes Sam Krumrine (“Lucifer”, “La La Land”) and Michael Blake Kruse. Production just wrapped in Oregon.

Documentary ‘Morgana’ Sells at Fantasia Festival

Juno Films has acquired worldwide rights (excluding Australia/New Zealand) to Josie Hess and Isabel Peppard’s feature-length documentary film, “Morgana,” which is launching at during Fantasia Festival in Montreal.

The film follows a depressed housewife who decides not to kill herself and becomes a celebrated feminist porn director and star. The 71-minute feature documentary film had its world premiere in its home country at the Melbourne International Film Festival.

“Morgana” is produced by Karina Astrup of House of Gary. It is the first feature length film from directors Hess and Peppard.

TUESDAY, AUG. 25

Festivals Back ‘All In: The Fight for Democracy’

The world premiere of the Stacey Abrams documentary “All In: The Fight for Democracy” will be presented by the Mill Valley Film Festival and Telluride Film Festival on Sept. 2 at the West Wind Solano Twin Drive-In in Concord, Calif.

“‘All In: The Fight for Democracy’ is a film for our times and also timeless; the subject matter could not be more important as we enter this election season,” said Mill Valley Festival head Mark Fishkin. “The ability of a great film to not only create empathy, but to activate a cause can never be underestimated.”

The film will be released in theaters on Sept. 9 and streamed on Amazon Prime on Sept. 18. Telluride has scrubbed its Labor Day weekend festival this year while Mill Valley’s 43rd festival will run Oct. 8-18 online and in drive-in locations.

Dwayne Johnson, Dany Garcia Invest in Acorns

Dwayne Johnson and Dany Garcia have strategic investments in the financial services company Acorns, and they announced a partnership to encourage families to invest.

The partnership will use the slogan “It begins with $7 bucks,” named after the Seven Bucks Companies that Johnson and Garcia founded in 1995 after he was cut from the Canadian Football League and had just $7 in his pocket. To kick off the campaign, each new Acorns early family account will receive $7 invested into their account.

The announcement said Johnson and Garcia invested in Acorns to further their shared values of self-reliance, work ethic and commitment to preparing for even the toughest of times, with the hopes of inspiring Americans to shape their future by investing in themselves.

New Mexico Movie ‘The Penny’ in the Works

Goodwest Productions has optioned “The Penny,” a screenplay by noted New Mexico writers Donald Davenport and Harry Musselwhite, with the goal of starting production once pandemic restrictions are lifted.
“We have a great script that weaves a deep and colorful New Mexico tale with diverse characters and strong storytelling,” said Goodwest co-founder Steve Graham. “We’re ready to get started as soon as the state is opened up and it’s safe to move forward.”
Davenport, who has production credits on several Hallmark titles, co-developed the story with Larry Richardson. “The Penny” centers on a struggling single mother working in an Albuquerque convenience store who stumbles across a rare coin and decides to keep it for herself, without realizing she is about to unleash the vengeance of a ruthless corporate boss.

MONDAY, AUG. 24

‘Black Stories Matter’ Series Launches

The American Film Institute and Universal Pictures have launched a week-long “Black Stories Matter” series with  “BlacKkKlansman,” “Get Out,” “Girls Trip,” “Loving” and “Straight Outta Compton” available for free through Aug. 30.

AFI Movie Club content will feature new interviews with composer Terence Blanchard, director Malcolm D. Lee, cinematographer and AFI alum Matthew Libatique, actors Ruth Negga and Ron Stallworth and writer Tracy Oliver. Amazon, Apple, Charter, Comcast, Cox, Dish, FandangoNOW, Redbox, Verizon and Vudu are offering the films.

“For decades, Universal has supported thought-provoking stories and powerful perspectives that have served to enlighten, enrich and entertain,” said Donna Langley, chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group and an AFI trustee. “Through this partnership with AFI, we are proud to further shine a light on these distinctly important works that continue to so poignantly amplify today’s conversation.”

Landmark Theatres Unveils Reopening Plans

Independent film specialist Landmark Theatres has announced plans to reopen venues in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Minneapolis and St. Louis on Friday.

Openings remain restricted by government guidelines in other cities, but the company hopes to reopen by mid-September in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, San Diego, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Detroit, Dallas, Houston and Washington, D.C.

President and Chief Operating Officer Paul Serwitz said the chain will be observing seating capacity and social distancing requirements and intensifying cleaning protocols to comply with guidelines from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services.

AARP Awards Scheduled for March

The AARP’s Movies for Grownups Awards has been scheduled for March 4, 2021, following a revamp of the awards season schedule as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additionally, given changing trends in entertainment, Movies for Grownups will expand its categories to include its first television awards including Best Television Series, Best Movie Made for Television or Limited Series, Best Actress, and Best Actor.

“The growth in streaming in recent years has been fueled in large part by smart, superbly produced, directed and acted content that speaks to a grownup audience,” said Heather Nawrocki, AARP vice president of Movies for Grownups. “It’s time to recognize the groundswell of excellent streaming and television programming and the grownup audience that’s consuming it. AARP’s Movies for Grownups initiative has long sought to fight ageism in the entertainment industry by spotlighting and encouraging the creation of great content for and about older adults.”