Lively launch for Sophie Hyde’s ‘Animals’ in the UK

Alia Shawkat and Holliday Grainger in 'Animals'.

‘Animals’ (Photo credit: Bernard Walsh).

Sophie Hyde’s Animals opened in UK cinemas last weekend, its first territory, winning plaudits from the critics and sizable audiences.

Picturehouse Entertainment launched the female relationships dramedy adapted from the Emma Jane Unsworth novel, which stars Holliday Grainger and Alia Shawkat, on 73 locations: 38 in greater London and 35 in the regions.

The weekend total including Q&A screenings hosted by Unsworth and a National Girlfriends’ Day promotion was £107,000 ($A192,000).

Closer Productions’ Rebecca Summerton, who produced the Irish-Australian co-production with Hyde, Sarah Brocklehurst and Vico Films’ Cormac Fox, tells IF she is very pleased with the UK opening and Picturehouse’s marketing campaign.

That augurs well for the September 12 release via Jonathan Page’s Bonsai Films. Page has booked nine screens and aims to have 15 on board at launch.

“It is hard to stand out but I think our uber-cool cast of Alia Shawkat and Holliday Grainger and our director Sophie Hyde are getting some traction with media,” he tells IF.

“The film is an alternative to very mainstream fare for slightly younger audiences and the themes are relatable to older audience as the film presents them in a fresh way.”

Page is deploying a larger P&A budget than he usually works with and he’s negotiated a pre-sale to SBS Viceland, which will promote the film to its younger-skewing audience.

There were sold-out screenings at the Melbourne International Film Festival totaling 1,700 tickets and Sydney Film Festival screenings generated $12,000.

Grainger and Shawkat play Laura and Tyler, best friends and roommates in Dublin whose relationship is strained when Tyler’s younger sister Jean (Amy Molloy) announces that she and her partner are expecting a baby.

Laura is plunged into a funk that Tyler finds perplexing and their hedonistic existence is further disrupted when Laura gets engaged to Jim (Irishman Fra Free), an ambitious pianist who decides to go teetotal.

The reviews have been largely positive since the world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. In the UK, The Daily Telegraph’s Tim Robey hailed the film as the “perfect hybrid between Fleabag and Booksmart.”

Robey wrote: “The film’s decrepit brand of hedonism could have merely turned sour on us – it’s a risk right through it – so it’s a credit to Australian director Sophie Hyde, Unsworth’s script and their cast that the whole thing manages to deepen and modulate so well.”

Empire’s Beth Webb declared: “Animals is a passionately performed film about women baring their flaws and still being not just likeable but loveable. It’s a simple premise, but one that rarely makes it to the screen, and when it does it should be protected at all costs.

“Grainger is a revelation and Shawkat a rebel in this delightfully defiant celebration of women’s imperfections. Stick with them through the chaos and you’ll be rewarded with an utterly electric tale of female friendship.”

Cornerstone Films is handling international sales and UTA co-reps US rights. “UTA is confident the film will find a home there,” Summerton tells IF.

Meanwhile, Summerton and Hyde are gratified with the responses to Close Productions’ SBS drama The Hunting, which stars Asher Keddie, Richard Roxburgh, Sam Reid, Jessica de Gouw, Luca Sardelis, Yazeed Daher, Pamela Rabe, Leah Vandenberg, Sachin Joab and newcomers Kavitha Anandasivam and Alex Cusack.

The four-parter scripted by Matthew Cormack and Niki Aken, directed by Hyde and Ana Kokkinos, has been acquired by the UK’s streaming service My5, M6 in France and Sky New Zealand. Other deals are in negotiation via DCD Rights.