Nixon Tape Found On Watergate Anniversary by “18 12” – Specialty Preview

“It’s been the great mystery in political history of the past 50 years,” said Slamdance Film Festival founder, writer and director Dan Mirvish of the 18½ minutes famously missing from the Nixon Tapes. His campy political thriller out this weekend takes a stab at what might have happened.

Adventure Entertainment opens 18 1/2 today on four screens in NY, LA and Fort Lauderdale, FL, expanding next week to about 60 including a special screening Wednesday at the Landmark Theatres E Street Cinema in Washington, D.C. to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Watergate break-in. The National Archives is screening CNN documentary series Watergate: Blueprint for a Scandal the same night at a dueling event with John Dean, who was President Richard Nixon’s counsel from July 1970-April 1973. The mother of U.S. political scandals exploded on June 17, 1972 when five men broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate hotel and office complex in Washington, D.C.

Mirvish was a history and political science major in college who says he knew a few people tangentially involved in Watergate and worked in Washington for two years, as a journalist then an aide to Sen. Tom Harkin. Watergate “was always percolating.” His film took off when an opportunity arose to shoot it at the ’70s-vibey Silver Sands motel in Greenport on the North Fork of Long Island, closed during off-season. “Then it was, how do you reverse-engineer a story about the 18½-minute gap and come up with something that could plausibly take place at a seaside motel?” Like this: a White House transcriber, who found the only copy of the infamous gap in Nixon’s Watergate tapes. meets with a journalist at the hotel to leak it, but her attempts run afoul of hippies, swingers and nefarious forces.

Filming started in March 2020 for 11 days, making it one of the last films shooting in North American before a six-month pandemic shutdown. It resumed, wrapped and played a dozen festivals in between Covid surges. “Now, I think we are in this trough between Covid and monkeypox,” Mirvish said. (Let’s hope not.)

18 1/2 opens at IFC Center, Laemmle Monica (Los Angeles), Brooklyn (Film Noir inCinema in Greenpoint) and Fort Lauderdale’s Cinema Paradiso, expanding June 3 and hitting VOD on July 5. It stars Willa Fitzgerald, John Magaro, Vondie Curtis Hall. Bruce Campbell voices Richard Nixon, and Jon Cryer does Chief of Staff H.R. “Bob” Haldeman. Screenplay by Daniel Moya. Story by Mirvish and Daniel Moya.

It’s not an easy weekend to open with Top Gun: Maverick sucking up screens. But arthouse theaters that aren’t showing the Tom Cruise juggernaut still need product. The solid launch of Downton Abbey: A New Era, which pulled older demos led by women back into theaters, and a lively Cannes marketplace have added a needed flush of optimism to the indie world.

In other specialty openings, Neon presents A Chiara, the third installment of Jonas Carpignano’s Calabrian trilogy that premiered at Cannes Directors’ Fortnight last year, winning the Europa Cinemas Cannes Label for Best European Film. The gripping story of a 15-year-old girl who learns some hard truths about her close-knit family when her father disappears, follows the director’s 2015 Mediterranea and his 2017 A Ciambra. Both also premiered in Cannes — the first in Critics’ Week and the second (Italy’s representative for the Oscars that year) in the Fortnight.

A Chiara is also the latest in a string of Italian films to open Stateside so far this year from The Tale of King Crab to Il Buco and Mondocane, with a few more still to come.

Utopia’s new rock documentary Freakscene: The Story of Dinosaur Jr. opens theatrically for a one-night event screening nationwide on Tuesday at 70+ arthouse theaters. Ahead of that, it’s playing Saturday at The Opera House in Brooklyn and Sunday in Amherst, Mass at the Amherst Cinema (frontman J Mascis and Dinosaur are locals). Utopia, which just made some waves in Cannes by snapping up Ali Abbasi’s Holy Spider, is estimating close to a $10K per-screen average for the two screenings. Encores have been added in NYC, SF, Raleigh, Portland and Seattle.

Lionsgate presents Rick Dugdale’s Zero Contact – the first feature film created initially as an NFT — on a dozen screens. With Adrian Holmes, Anthony Hopkins, Lilly Krug. Produced in 17 territories entirely virtually in 2020, it follows five characters linked by their devotion to tech titan Finley Hart (Hopkins). They are forced to work together to shut down Hart’s secret invention, a machine that is either the solution to mankind’s problems or the end of life on earth.

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