Peter Kujawski

Source: Focus Features

Peter Kujawski

Focus Features chairman Peter Kujawski kicked off the company’s CinemaCon presentation on Wednesday with a rousing speech in which he declared, “The specialty sector are the honey bees of the movie business”.

Kujawski said Focus and other major specialty distributors recovered faster than the overall marketplace. “We recovered better, faster… And while this may be a surprise, it makes sense because we know that specialty films attract the highest percentage of avid moviegoers of any genre. Period.”

He continued, “These are diverse audiences. They are fans of all genres. They are young and old, they come from every race and background and they live in every city in the world. However, they are united by a mutual craving for elevated and unique stories that step outside the mainstream.

“And beyond this, the creative boundary pushing that we do to satisfy this audience seeds future generations of blockbusters. Christopher Nolan, Rian Johnson, Ryan Coogler, Taika Waititi, Patty Jenkins, Chloe Zhao and countless others all got their start making films for the specialty audience.

“In this sense, the specialty sector are the honeybees of the entire movie business, quietly pollinating by developing frequent audiences, new voices, and bold aesthetics that build a more sustainable model for the industry and create a more vibrant cinematic landscape along the way.”

Kujawski then made way for head of distribution Lisa Bunnell who teed up the trailer for Asteroid City, Wes Anderson’s latest feature centres on a Junior Stargazer convention in the 1950s. It will premiere in Cannes ahead of the US launch on June 16.

The ensemble cast includes Jason Schwartzman, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks, Jeffrey Wright, Tilda Swinton, Bryan Cranston, Ed Norton, Adrien Brody, Liev Schreiber, and Hope Davis.

Stressing the importance of making a range of films to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, Bunnell teed up a clip from Alexander Payne’s The Holdovers (November 10).

Focus paid $30m for worldwide rights at TIFF last year to the comedy drama, which reunites Payne with his Sideways star Paul Giamatti and takes place in 1970 as an unpopular New England prep schoolteacher is forced to spend the Christmas holidays with a stranded, unruly student and the school’s head cook whose son has just died in the Vietnam War. The cast includes Da’Vine Joy Randolph and newcomer Dominic Sessa.

The session also showed a clip from Ethan Coen’s solo feature directing debut Drive-Away Dolls (September 22), a caper about a free-spirited young woman who embarks on a road trip with her uptight friend to Tallahassee. The cast includes Margaret Qualley, Geraldine Viswanathan, Beanie Feldstein, Pedro Pascal, Colman Domingo, Bill Camp and Matt Damon.

Rounding out the session, which was sandwiched between the Universal presentation, Bunnell brough a teaser from Nia Vardalos’ My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 (September 8), in which the family visits their homeland.