Mike Fleming

Deadline told you last Friday that upstart distributor Open Road would close a big deal for U.S. distribution rights to The Grey, Joe Carnahan’s thriller about a group of oil drillers whose plane crashes in Alaska, smack in the middle of the hunting grounds of a territorial rogue wolf pack. This happened after a 30-minute compilation of scenes was shown last week to distributors. Open Road, which Tom Ortenberg started early this year with backing from AMC and Regal, just confirmed the deal. I’d heard the distributor paid near the $8 million minimum guarantee asked by the sellers, with a $25 million P&A commitment and a gross corridor built into one of the pricier recent deals for a finished film. None of that’s in the release, nor is the release date. Open Road launches its first film, the Jason Statham-starrer The Killer Elite, on September 23, and I’ve heard The Grey will be released in time for Oscar season (Liam Neeson turns in a strong performance), which was part of the ask by the sellers. Here’s the official announcement:

LOS ANGELES, CA, July 19, 2011 – Open Road Films has acquired the U.S. rights to the highly anticipated, action-packed survival thriller, THE GREY, directed by Joe Carnahan (A-Team, Smokin’ Aces, Narc) and starring Liam Neeson, from Liddell Entertainment. The announcement was made today by Tom Ortenberg, CEO of Open Road Films and Mickey Liddell, CEO of Liddell Entertainment.

In THE GREY, a group of oil-rig roughnecks are left stranded on the sub-arctic tundra after their plane experiences a complete mechanical failure and crashes into the remote Alaskan wilderness. The survivors, battling mortal injuries, biting cold and ravenous hunger, are relentlessly hunted and pursued by a vicious pack of rogue wolves. Liam Neeson plays the leader of the team, which also features Frank Grillo (upcoming Warrior and Lay The Favorite), Dermot Mulroney (Burn After Reading, About Schmidt), Dallas Roberts (“The Good Wife,” 3:10 To Yuma), Joe Anderson (Across The Universe), James Badge Dale (upcoming World War Z, The Conspirator, HBO’s “The Pacific”?), Nonso Anozie (upcoming Conan The Barbarian, Atonement, RocknRolla).

Ortenberg stated, “Joe Carnahan has done a phenomenal job of bringing this riveting story of the human condition to life. Liam Neeson’s performance is brilliant and I am thrilled to be working with Joe – and to be back in business with Mickey Liddell – on the release of the film.”

“Tom Ortenberg basically started me in this business, so to be working with him and his team at Open Road offers that rare thrill of reteaming with an old friend,” stated Carnahan. “I couldn’t engineer a better partnership for bringing THE GREY to moviegoers, guns blazing.”

Liddell stated, “Working with Joe Carnahan, Jules Daly and Scott Free was an incredible experience under extreme conditions. I would be happy to work with them anytime and anywhere but hopefully in warmer weather. I worked with Tom last year and saw his passion for film. We’re fortunate to be partnering with such a seasoned veteran in the business and I know he’s going to do an incredible job with this film.”

THE GREY is produced by Jules Daly, Joe Carnahan, Ridley Scott and Mickey Liddell. Executive producers are Tony Scott and Jennifer Hilton as well as Jim Seibel, Bill Johnson and Marc Butan of Inferno Entertainment.
The deal was negotiated on behalf of Open Road Films by Ortenberg, General Counsel and Executive Vice President of Operations and Business Affairs, Elliott Kleinberg, and Senior Vice President of Acquisitions, Ben Cotner. CAA, which packaged and arranged financing for the project, negotiated on behalf of the filmmakers.