2014 Oct 02

“Serena” Find Distributor

The long awaited “Serena” found a distributor in the US and it has been announced that the movie will be released on VOD on February 26, 2015 followed by a theatrical release on March 27, 2015. IndieWire spoke to Magnolia Pictures’ Eamonn Bowles and director Susanne Bier about why the movie got delayed.

Back in 2012, before Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence co-starred in David O. Russell’s Oscar-winning “Silver Linings Playbook” and its follow-up “American Hustle,” the duo shot period drama “Serena,” which was once going to star Angelina Jolie with director Darren Aronofsky.

Oscar-winning Danish auteur Susanne Bier (“A Better World”) took the helm for producers Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner’s 2929 Productions, and has been delayed trying to finish it. Based on Ron Rash’s 2008 novel, the film is set in 1929 North Carolina and follows George and Serena Pemberton, ambitious newlyweds with their hearts set on a timber empire. They become obsessed with success, and their lives take a Shakespearean turn when Serena finds that she can’t get pregnant and tries to harm her husband’s illegitimate son.

Why the delays? “Once it finished shooting we’ve all been busy,” Bier told me in Toronto, which invited “Serena,” but the stars weren’t available. “I’ve been doing another film [TIFF world premiere ‘Second Chance”]. Cooper and Lawrence were super-busy, just doing the [post-production sound recording] has been tricky. She had only one day off in two years!”

There were some different cuts that took a lot of time,” says Magnolia Pictures president Eamonn Bowles. Seller CAA screened the movie for several studio buyers and several made offers but none were substantial enough to make it worthwhile for 2929 not to release the film itself. “There was some play with the studios, but it didn’t get to the place where it needed to get.” Thus 2929 sister company Magnolia Pictures will release the film in early 2015. Details below.

Bowles says he saw “a couple of different versions of the movie” (which one unidentified buyer told THR “made no sense”). What was the difference? “Frankly I don’t know what cut they saw,” says Bowles. “It was a question of emphasis. It’s not a radically different cut. Susanne tweaked it and it got better. The one they have now is the best one. It’s a beautiful-looking period piece, a fantastic-looking production. It’s completely relatable and understandable and a really good film. It’s a serious drama, a big-scale romance, and a bit of a tragic Lady MacBeth story.”

Canal Plus, which is handling Europe, booked the film for an October 13 world premiere at the London Film Festival in advance of its European release. That’s when we’ll see reviews. And Magnolia is waiting until 2015 to open stateside because of the availability of the stars. Cooper is starring on Broadway in “The Elephant Man” until the middle of February, and has to promote Clint Eastwood’s Christmas release “American Sniper” as well, while Lawrence is stuck with “Hunger Games” chores.

So Magnolia will open the movie stateside February 26 on VOD–counting on Lawrence and Cooper to drive viewer desire to see the movie at a high purchase point– followed by an “aggressive” theatrical release in 20-25 major markets on March 27. “Our projections on it are good,” says Bowles. “If people go in thinking it’s a bad film they will be pleasantly surprised. It’s a good film. I stand by it. Susanne Bier did a good job directorially on this film.”