Digital release for Ben Lawrence’s ‘Hearts and Bones’

'Hearts and Bones'.

‘Hearts and Bones.’

Madman Entertainment had dated Ben Lawrence’s debut feature Hearts and Bones for an April 30 premiere on 40 screens, the marketing campaign was ready and Hugo Weaving was set do a a publicity tour.

That was until the sky fell in – all cinemas closed due to the pandemic – so the distributor and producer Matt Reeder had to rethink their strategy.

The upshot: The drama which follows Weaving’s war photographer and a South Sudanese refugee (newcomer Andrew Luri), who discovers a photograph that threatens to destroy them both, will be available to buy on digital platforms for $19.95 from May 6.

“Matt and Ben are fully on board with the decision; this is a great time to experiment,” says Madman Entertainment MD Paul Wiegard.

Wiegard is confident the download-to-own offer will get significant take-up through iTunes, Google Play, YouTube, Sony PlayStation, Telstra and Fetch TV. That will be followed by the DVD and VOD release on June 3.

Weaving, who is back in Sydney after the UK’s National Theatre was forced to cancel Tony Kushner’s new version of Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s The Visit, in which he co-starred with Lesley Manville, will help promote the digital release.

Madman released Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite on digital platforms and its share of the revenues is close to seven figures, benefiting from the spike in at-home entertainment during the lockdown.

Scripted by Lawrence and Beatrix Christian, Hearts and Bones premiered at the Sydney Film Festival last June and has since screened at the Toronto International Film Festival and numerous other festivals.

Reeder tells IF: “I think we had a real chance of drawing a sizable cinema audience until the world turned upside down. At least audiences were able to experience the film at festivals.”

‘The Trip to Greece.’

The international sales agent Vista Film is negotiating deals in the US and the UK. Meanwhile Reeder is developing a reboot of Brian Trenchard-Smith’s BMX Bandits, the 1983 adventure drama which introduced the world to a gangly red-haired teenager named Nicole Kidman.

Reeder, who bought the rights from producer Tom Broadbridge, is working with screenwriter Steve Worland (Paper Planes, GO!).

Madman is taking a similar approach with Michael Winterbottom’s The Trip to Greece, which will be available on digital platforms from May 20 and on DVD/VOD on June 3.

Wiegard says he was “gutted” in not being able to launch the comedy starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon in cinemas; IFC Films is releasing the film online in the US.

In a webinar with Screen Producers Australia’s Matt Deaner last Friday, Wiegard said Madman had not stood down any staff. The JobKeeper wage subsidy has helped the company retain its 80-odd staff in Melbourne; there are five in New Zealand.

The closure of cinemas has resulted in a 25 per cent – 30 per cent drop in its revenues but its SVOD services DocPlay and Garage are showing strong growth and in the past four weeks its DVD business was up by 15 per cent- 20 per cent on a year ago.