Tom Hanks (Ben Bradlee) and Meryl Streep (Kay Graham) star in THE POST, directed by Steven Spielberg. In cinemas January 11. An Entertainment One Films release.

Tom Hanks (Ben Bradlee) and Meryl Streep (Kay Graham) in The Post (Photo credit: Niko Tavernise).

EOne’s global strategy of forming partnerships with Hollywood producers and production companies will deliver a raft of films featuring marquee talent next year.

The theatrical release slate in Australia/New Zealand boasts two titles starring Cate Blanchett, Steven Spielberg’s The Post, which stars Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep, a Laurel and Hardy biopic and films featuring Jessica Chastain, Amy Schumer and Helen Mirren.

The market for art-house and middle-ground films has contracted and it’s tough to acquire films with commercial potential in the traditional way, according to Sandie Don, who was elevated to MD for Australia/New Zealand last month as Troy Lum was promoted to  executive VP of international productions.

Hence eOne has formed partnerships with producers Mark Gordon and Brad Weston and production companies including the Spielberg-led Amblin Partners, Participant Media and Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures.

“You live and die by your opening weekend. That saying is as true as ever,” observes Don, who says it’s been a smooth transition to her new role after five years as head of distribution, which included running the theatrical business and on-going involvement with acquisitions.

“Securing screens and dates very much comes down to the perception of how successful each film can be and what the competition is each week. It’s not getting any easier for indies theatrically.

“As a distributor it makes you more selective in what you’re releasing: ensuring each film has an audience and how it’s going to play and be positioned on screens. I read a quote from The Post producer Amy Pascal recently in which she said, ‘You know immediately if it’s a movie.’ I think that is true all the way down the line, to securing exhibition and getting an audience excited.”

This year the distributor set a company record with La La Land, which grossed more than $20 million. Among its other successful releases were A Dog’s Purpose, Hampstead and Jackie. However Berlin Syndrome, Loving, Detroit, Valerian and Home Again underperformed.

“Every year there’s ups and downs with releases; some surprise and some disappoint, which keeps you on your toes and continually proves film distribution is an art and not a science,” Don says.

Sandie Don.

“We really believed in La La Land from the moment we first saw it and pushed hard with releasing it and securing the best date to open.

“Some films just don’t seem to connect with audiences as you hope they will, and capturing people’s attention and translating that to a visit to the cinema is a challenge. There’s a different reasoning for each film that appeared to underperform at the box-office this year.

“However you can’t always judge a film by its box-office number alone. There are more factors in play including what was spent releasing: each film’s life cycle doesn’t end there. For instance Valerian is now in its home entertainment and digital release and the results are excellent. ”

In 2018 eOne will release about 15 titles theatrically, about the same as this year. The Post, which stars Streep as The Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham and Hanks as the paper’s editor Ben Bradlee as they race against time to expose a massive cover-up of government secrets, opens on January 11.

Chastain and Idris Elba star in Molly’s Game (February 1), the true story of the mastermind behind an underground poker empire which marks the directorial debut of Academy Award winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin.

Blanchett plays an eccentric former architect who mysteriously disappears from her claustrophobic life in Seattle, leaving behind her husband and 15-year-old daughter in Richard Linklater’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette.

Due to open in the September holidays, Eli Roth’s The House with a Clock in Its Walls is based on John Bellairs’ 1973 horror novel which follows a recently orphaned 10-year-old boy who discovers a world of hidden passageways, magic and danger. Jack Black stars as his eccentric uncle and Blanchett is the uncle’s neighbour, a witch.

Schumer plays a woman who believes she is drop-dead gorgeous after suffering a head injury in I Feel Pretty, a comedy from writer/directors Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein.

Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly play Laurel and Hardy as the famous comedy duo embark on a gruelling theatre tour of post-war Britain in director Jon S. Baird’s Stan and Ollie.

Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland plays an elderly couple looking for adventure on one boisterous and bittersweet final road trip in director Paolo Virzi’s The Leisure Seeker.

On the production front, shooting has wrapped in Sydney on the Roache-Turner brothers’ Nekromancer , which stars Monica Bellucci.

In collaboration with Goalpost Pictures, romantic comedy Top End Wedding will be filmed in the Northern Territory early next year, reuniting The Sapphires director Wayne Blair and its co-star Miranda Tapsell.

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