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Special Report: Women Directors at the Box Office in February 2014

Women and Hollywood By Serena Donadoni | Women and Hollywood March 10, 2014 at 11:59AM

A look back at the women-directed February 2014 releases.
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Still from Shana Feste's "Endless Love"
Still from Shana Feste's "Endless Love"

Opening on Valentine's Day, the teen romance Endless Love was the first wide release (2,872 theaters) from a female director in 2014. The original, starring teen queen Brooke Shields, was released in July 1981 and made $31 million during its run. Shana Feste's remake, a more hopeful look at obsessive first love, opened in fifth place behind two other remakes of 1980s films (About Last Night and RoboCop) and has grossed $22,311,420 so far. Feste was pregnant with her first child during the filming of Endless Love and brought her newborn son into the editing room. The Universal release is her third film, following a Sundance dramatic competition debut (2009's The Greatest) and the divisive Country Strong (2010). 

Nancy Buirski, the director of Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil le Clercq, founded the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival and served as its director for a decade. (This year's festival takes place on April 3 to 6 in Durham, North Carolina.) Buirski's portrait of the prima ballerina known as Tanny looks at her relationships with famed choreographers George Balanchine (her husband of 17 years) and Jerome Robbins, who created the Debussy pas de deux Afternoon of a Faun specifically for her. After premiering at the New York Film Festival last year, the Kino Lorber release has made $63,980 from three theaters -- the highest grossing documentary by a female director this month.

Former script supervisor Chiemi Karasawa's first documentary, Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me, is a portrait of the living legend. The tart-tongued Broadway veteran dropped the F-bomb on the Today Show while promoting the IFC Films release, and the 89-year-old Stritch doesn't hold back when discussing her acting and singing career, declining health, or leaving her beloved Carlyle Hotel in Manhattan. After debuting at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival, Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me grossed $57,827 from six theaters, including one in the tony Detroit suburb where the Michigan native now resides.

Jenee LaMarque makes her feature film debut as writer and director of The Pretty One, which stars Zoe Kazan as a shy young woman who steps into the shoes of her outgoing twin sister. LaMarque's husband, composer Julian Wass, did the music for The Pretty One as well as her short film Spoonful. The Dada Films release grossed $13,769 from five theaters. Veteran actress and filmmaker Josiane Balasko (Too Beautiful for You, French Twist) has had less luck with her latest film, Demi-Soeur, which made only $943 in one theater. The screwball French comedy distributed by Rialto Premieres reunites Balasko with Michel Blanc (two of the founders of Le Splendid cafe-theater company) as siblings involved in a reluctant family reunion. 

Two documentaries from women directors returned to theaters in February. (These self-distributed films did not report grosses.) After a festival run in 2012, The Standbys got a New York City release at the independent Quad Cinema. Stephanie Riggs profiles a group of Broadway understudies in her documentary debut, which is currently available as a DVD or digital rental and download through the film's website. In The New Black, Yoruba Richen (Promised Land) explores African-American attitudes towards gay marriage leading up to a 2012 voter referendum in Maryland. Initially released last November, The New Black is available for local screenings through Tugg and will air on PBS as part of the Independent Lens series on June 16.

The foreign-language releases 7 Boxes and Mars at Sunrise, from Paraguay and the Palestinan territories, respectively, mine intimate horror from everyday circumstances. Directed by Juan Carlos Maneglia and Tana Schembori, 7 Boxes follows a teen toiling at the massive public market in Asuncion who gets pulled into a devilish obstacle course when he's hired to transport a series of mysterious crates. The Breaking Glass Pictures release is available as VOD via Amazon Instant Video and iTunes. Writer and director Jessica Habie moves from documentaries to her first feature Mars at Sunrise, an impressionistic look at a Palestinian artist reliving his imprisonment and torture by an Israeli soldier (who has his own submerged creative urges). The Eyes Infinite Films production is available as a digital rental or download through the Mars at Sunrise website. Proceeds help fund the Fajr Falestine Film Collective, co-founded by Habie to produce adventurous, experimental narratives about Middle East life. 

Bottled Up is the second feature from writer and director Enid Zentelis, whose lovely Evergreen was released in 2004 after debuting in the dramatic competition at Sundance. Melissa Leo stars as a put-upon working-class woman with a pain pill-addicted daughter and an environmentalist boarder who offers new hope. Zentelis found out she was expecting her second child the day the film was green-lit and a complicated pregnancy delayed production, but she ended up filming Bottled Up with her four-month-old on set. The film is already available on DVD as well as through Amazon Instant Video, iTunes and other digital platforms. A pregnancy also complicated the timeline of Kestrin Pantera's autobiographical Let's Ruin It with Babies. The musician and actress wrote and directed the film, casting herself and her husband Jonathan Grubb as a creative couple contemplating parenthood, and Pantera's much-discussed (but still unexpected) pregnancy added a new urgency to the shooting schedule. Let's Ruin It with Babies is available via Amazon Instant Video and as a download from the movie's website.

These small, independent releases have not posted their grosses, and neither has Disney for its latest animated film, The Pirate Fairy, which began its exclusive run at El Capitan Theatre, just across Hollywood Boulevard from where Frozen received two Academy Awards. The Pirate Fairy, the fifth feature in the Tinker Bell series, was made for Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment and will be released on Blu-ray and DVD on April 1. Director Peggy Holmes has a long history with Disney, making her directorial debut with the straight-to-DVD release The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning (2008) and co-directing the 2012 Tinker Bell movie Secret of the Wings. (A former dancer, Holmes also choreographed the 1992 musical Newsies with director Kenny Ortega.) The latest Tinker Bell installment introduces a rogue fairy named Zarina (voiced by Christina Hendricks) who joins forces with pirates, including a young James Hook (Tom Hiddleston). The Pirate Fairy has been released in theaters in Europe and grossed $13,476,665 since February 13, with more than half coming from the United Kingdom, birthplace of Scottish author and playwright J.M. Barrie, the creator of Neverland. 

Rankings, grosses and theater numbers for February 2014 are courtesy of Box Office Mojo.

 

#7 | Endless Love | $22,311,420 | 2,872 theaters

#24 | Afternoon of a Faun | $63,980 | 3 theaters

#25 | Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me | $57,827 | 6 theaters

#35 | The Pretty One | $13,769 | 5 theaters

#46 | Demi-Soeur | $943 | 1 theater


Serena Donadoni is a freelance film critic in Detroit. She runs thecinemagirl.com (with movie reviews, interviews and more) as well as The Cinema Girl blog, which tracks movie releases and has a page devoted to women directors. Follow her @TheCinemaGirl.

This article is related to: Women Directors


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