EXCLUSIVE: With Sundance buyers so cautious, how can sellers get them excited enough to step up and make a distribution deal? For Hesher, the answer was showing the film to a paying crowd of regular moviegoers. After the pic received a rousing reception at last night’s screening away from the festival at the Broadway Centre Cinemas in Salt Lake City, Newmarket captured U.S. distribution rights after an all-night bargaining session. Several other distributors were in the mix, insiders said. In the deal negotiated by WME Global’s Mark Ankner and CAA, Newmarket’s Chris Ball and John Crye paid a low 7-figure price and an “aggressive” P&A commitment.
Since it debuted last Friday, Hesher has been one of the most talked-about fest titles, and its provocative subject matter and irreverent tone has divided critics. The Spencer Susser-directed dark comedy focused on the unlikely kinship between a bulled 13-year old boy and the title character, an anarchist loner who smokes pot, lives in a van and likes to blow up stuff. Hesher moves in with the youth and his catatonic father, who, after the accidental death of his wife, is living with the boy’s grandmother. In his own strange way, the anarchist helps the family deal with the loss.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the title character, Devin Brochu plays the youth, Rainn Wilson the father, Piper Laurie the grandmother, and Natalie Portman is a supermarket cashier on whom the teen develops a crush. Portman produced Hesher with Lucy Cooper, Matt Weaver, Scott Prisand, Susser, Johnny Lin and Win Sheridan. The film was financed by Weaver and Prisand’s Corner Store, which also put up the dough for Sympathy for Delicious, the Mark Ruffalo-directed drama which is also heating up for distribution talks.
Newmarket also has been vying for the thriller Splice in a deal that is still coming together with Sony’s Worldwide Acquisitions Group and a $20 million P&A commitment raised from an independent source. Owned by Exclusive Media Group, Newmarket’s indie successes include Donnie Darko and Memento.