Image Entertainment has acquired the Toronto title Devil’s Knot and will release it in second-quarter 2014. The Atom Egoyan-directed film stars Reese Witherspoon, Colin Firth, Amy Ryan, Mireille Enos, and Stephen Moyer. Image’s Chief Acquisition …
Could The Book Thief come out of nowhere to pull off a heist in this year’s Oscar race? While distributor 20th Century Fox seems to be putting most of its marbles on this weekend’s New York Film Festival launch of its big Christmas Day release, The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty, the studio has concurrently picked another festival, the lower-profile but respected 36-year-old Mill Valley Film Fest, to World Premiere its stealth entry into awards season. The Book Thief played to a huge standing ovation at its Thursday night unveiling on the Northern California fest’s opening night. Tonight co-star Geoffrey Rush will be the subject of a tribute there. Based on Markus Zusak’s No. 1 best-selling novel, the story set in Nazi Germany during World War II finds a young girl seeking refuge in the world of books while her family hides a young Jewish man in the basement of their modest German home. As they did earlier today with Mitty, Fox has had simultaneous screenings on their lot for bloggers and critics, which is where I caught it yesterday.
With Gravity looking like it is soaring at the box office today and the Harry Potter 8-pack of films successfully behind him, producer David Heyman is riding high. Of course, director Alfonso Cuaron and stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are getting the lion’s share of attention for the space drama, but Heyman is happy to give credit where credit is due. He actually was the one who brought Cuaron aboard for Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban. “We had a great experience on Harry Potter“, he said in a recent interview at Chateau Marmont. ” I asked him to do it which was a big thing.” This time around it was Cuaron who asked Heyman to get involved on Gravity and produce it with him.
“When he asked me to do it I jumped — there was not a moment of hesitation” Heyman said. “One, it’s a lovely compliment that he asked, and as a producer it’s what we dream about. I knew it was going to be challenging. He’s always pushing, never settling. We finished the film early this year and we hadn’t done the mix. He looked at the film and he said ‘Damn’. He had an idea which was to take the spacecraft and flip it because it was coming in top-up. You’re in outer space, there’s not up and down, so if you flip it’s fine but it took 10 weeks. One shot, two minutes. But he’s always pushing and never settling. So I knew it was going to be extraordinary, but to actually now be here and feel the response is pretty great,” he said.
That’s an understatement. The film was rapturously received at all three big fall festivals — Venice, Telluride and Toronto — a decision Heyman said was easy to make considering Cuaron is the director of such films as Y Tu Mama Tambien, A Little Princess and Children Of Men. “I think Alfonso is a filmmaker where festivals are responsive because there’s real art to his direction. It’s beautiful, fluid motion and I think there was faith in that and I think Warners, to give them credit, took a big leap in making this film. You know a female-driven action movie, not inexpensive, with one character alone for most of the time. But they believe in the filmmaker. Then they poured money into it . For a year and a half we had nothing . We were trying to figure out how to do it, and then when Alfonso decided he wanted to change the shot around, that’s probably 100K , they said ‘sure, go ahead and do it’. And then putting it on the festival circuit, they just believed in it,” he said.
Related: Venice: ‘Gravity’ Exerts Strong Pull
EXCLUSIVE: In what might well be the last major deal for a buzz title that world premiered at last month’s Toronto Film Festival, Dimension and RADiUS-TWC have acquired U.S. rights to Horns, the Alexandre Aja-directed thriller that stars Daniel Radcliffe, Juno Temple, Max Minghella, Joe Anderson, Kelli Garner, Heather Graham, David Morse, Kathleen Quinlan and James Remar. The deal was for multiple millions, rivaling the largest deals made for the other Toronto films.
Keith Bunin wrote the script, based on the novel by comic book author Joe Hill. The logline: After being blamed for the death of his longtime girlfriend (Temple), a small-town guy (Radcliffe) awakens one morning to find a pair of horns growing from his head. The film was produced by Red Granite Pictures founders and producing partners Riza Aziz and Joey McFarland in addition to Mandalay’s Cathy Shulman. Aja is also a producer.
Dimension chief Bob Weinstein and RADiUS-TWC co-presidents Tom Quinn and Jason Janego have been working on this deal since the festival. It was certainly a talked-up title that several distributors pursued. They haven’t figured out the release configuration but are looking at 2014.
Listen to (and share) episode 44 of our audio podcast Deadline Awards Watch With Pete Hammond. Deadline’s awards columnist talks with host David Bloom about the challenges facing new Los Angeles film czar Tom Sherak; producer Scott Rudin’s big weekend at the New York Film Festival, where his Inside Llewyn Davis and Captain Phillips debuted strongly ahead of the latter film’s wide sneak previews this weekend; the field of candidates for Oscar’s foreign-language film category, led by Iranian nominee The Past; and some of the movies that won’t be contending this year for Oscar after all. Finally, we’ll get Pete’s take on this week’s new movie releases, including Alfonso Cuaron’s “fantastic” space epic, Gravity, featuring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney; JFK assassination docudrama Parkland, with a sprawling cast featuring Zac Efron, Paul Giamatti, Jacqui Weaver and Marcia Gay Harden; and divorce comedy A.C.O.D., featuring Richard Jenkins, Amy Poehler, Jane Lynch and another large cast.
This weekend the New York Film Festival got rolling and if you mistook it for the Scott Rudin Film Festival you wouldn’t be far from wrong. Rudin’s October 11th Sony Pictures release Captain Phillips world premiered to a standing ovation on Opening Night Friday. On Saturday the much-awaited New York premiere of his December 6th CBS Films pic Inside Llewyn Davis made its local debut with stars Oscar Isaac, John Goodman and writer/directors Joel and Ethan Coen among those on hand. But if that wasn’t enough of a Rudin takeover of the Fest (which runs a longish 18 days) there is an unprecedented sold out concert going on tonight at the Town Hall engineered by Rudin, the Coens and T-Bone Burnett called Another Day, Another Time: Celebrating The Music Of Inside Llewyn Davis. The concert featuring numerous folk singers of the early 1960s period in which the New York-based film is set also scheduled appearances from some of the movie’s stars including Isaac and Goodman. It’s clear Rudin, using the festival that also launched his The Social Network two years ago, doesn’t have to leave his hometown to make a mark in Hollywood’s nascent awards season. Game on.
In the case of Inside Llewyn Davis, the strategy seems particularly smart. Unlike Phillips or other upcoming Oscar-hopefuls like NYFF World Premieres for 20th Century Fox‘s The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty starring and directed by Ben Stiller and playing next weekend, and the October 13th closer, Spike Jonze‘s Her from Warner Bros, Davis has already been making the fest rounds since beginning in May at Cannes where it won the Grand Prize (second place), and then in a North American launch at Telluride on Labor Day weekend that included a tribute to the musical movie collaboration between the Coens and T- Bone Burnett.
Controversy put Randy Moore’s Escape From Tomorrow on the radar at Sundance, where critics predicted that the fictional drama filmed without permission at Disney World would have to get past a courtroom before it reached theaters. As Escape nears its October multi-platform release, it has been deafening silence from Disney; not even Jiminy Cricket is chirping. That is the worst thing that could happen to a film where the venue is the only recognizable thing in a feature made on the cheap with no stars. Escape earned early notoriety for its subversive shoot after the filmmakers got The New York Times to flog a brewing David Vs. Goliath battle at Sundance. Turns out that newspaper was simply slinging hype and reflecting wishful thinking from the film’s backers. Disney doesn’t seem to care and the film is left to fly or die by its merits. At this weekend’s genre-heavy Fantastic Fest, where movie geeks gobble up subversive films, the pic screened with a whimper.
Cinetic sales rep John Sloss, whose Producers Distribution Agency is releasing the picture after it went unbought at Sundance, tells me some interested buyers were wary of crossing Disney when the film first screened. Sloss said he had offers, but Deadline has heard they were smallish and that Disney’s ire wasn’t the big factor. Getting a rise out of a corporation can be the best thing that can happen to a small film; earlier this year, the documentary Blackfish got on the map after its subject, Sea World, publicly griped about the characterization of multiple deaths involving its killer whales. Disney hasn’t made a peep, robbing Escape From Tomorrow of a lot of free publicity.
EXCLUSIVE: Craig Borten has signed to rewrite/polish The 33, the survival struggle of 33 miners trapped far below the earth after a cave-in in Copiapo, Chile, in 2010. It is Borten’s first job since writing with Melissa Wallack on Dallas Buyers Club, the fact-based drama that generated strong Oscar buzz at the Toronto Film Festival.
In another development on the film, Jennifer Lopez has just dropped out of The 33, because of a scheduling problem that cropped up when she committed to a return to American Idol. The 33 will be directed by La Misma Luna’s Patricia Riggen, with Antonio Banderas and Martin Sheen committed to star in the rescue tale that is being produced by Mike Medavoy, Robert Katz and Edward McGurn. Carlos Eugenio Lavin and Leopoldo Enriquez will be exec producers.
EXCLUSIVE: RADiUS-TWC, the boutique label of The Weinstein Company, has acquired North American distribution rights to Supermensch: The Legend Of Shep Gordon. The documentary, which premiered in Toronto on September 7 at Roy Thompson Hall, marks the feature directorial debut of Mike Myers. RADiUS co-presidents Tom Quinn and Jason Janego plan to release the film theatrically in the first quarter of 2014. They tell me they see the breakout potential of 20 Feet From Stardom, the acclaimed docu they turned into a prestige film hit this spring after acquiring it at Sundance.
With backing from A&E IndieFilms, Myers devoted the documentary to the life journey of Shep Gordon, who became a music manager after a chance encounter in the 1960s with Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. Specifically, the latter felt bad after punching Gordon in the face the night before after Gordon, concerned she was being attacked, broke up what turned out to be a consensual sexual encounter taking place in the grass outside his hotel room window. From there, he colorfully steered the careers of such musical artists as Alice Cooper, Anne Murray, Teddy Pendergrass and Blondie, and he created the “celebrity chef” culture and became a confidante of the Dalai Lama. Myers, who met Gordon when he was trying to get Alice Cooper to appear in a Wayne’s World scene, interviewed himself and the likes of Michael Douglas, Sylvester Stallone, Willie Nelson, Emeril Lagasse and more. Myers creates a picture of a charming Hollywood mensch whose Midas touch for dealmaking realized the dreams of others, as he put his own happiness on the back burner. I found the Zelig-like subject and the film irresistible.
The sales market at the Toronto Film Festival was the healthiest and most vigorous that I can remember, certainly since that barren year when the prestige film bubble burst and the sole festival sale was the Tom Ford-directed A Single Man. During the first five days at least of this Toronto, there was deal action going into the wee hours of the morning. One quality, crowd-pleasing acquisition title after another un-spooled each night and then distributors were left trying to restrain themselves from going past their sober revenue projections as they tried to fill holes in 2014 slates.
At last count, around 28 Toronto films have sold in deals large and small, agents tell me. I thought the biggest challenge for sellers would be to get distributors to focus because of the inordinate amount of titles they launched into the Oscar race with lavish Toronto premieres. Instead, the biggest challenge for sellers, and buyers for that matter, was stamina. We are all getting older, and pretty much everyone was walking around like zombies after taking part Friday and Saturday in the fest’s biggest deals—Focus paying $7 million for world rights to the Jason Bateman-directed comedy Bad Words, and The Weinstein Company paying $7 million and $20 million in P&A for U.S. rights to the John Carney-directed Can A Song Save Your Life?
Dare I say that Toronto was the first seller’s market in as long as I can remember? I asked the top agents at the three most prolific deal making agencies if that was true. None of them were cocky enough to use the “S” word, but all three of them said they expect to clear their considerable inventories by the end of next week. Even if nothing got done until the time everyone but insomniacs are asleep.
Mike Fleming Jr broke this news from Toronto last week that Magnolia was finalizing a seven-figure deal for Ti West’s contemporary found-footage thriller that played in the Vanguard sidebar. Now Magnolia says the pic will go out through its genre distribution label Magnet Releasing sometime in 2014. The release:
NEW YORK, NY (September 17, 2013) – IFC Films announced today that the company is acquiring US rights to Liza Johnson’s HATESHIP LOVESHIP. The film, based on a short story by Alice Munro with a screenplay by Mark Poirier, stars Kristen Wiig, Guy Pearce, Hailee Steinfeld, Nick Nolte, Christine Lahti, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Sami Gayle. HATESHIP LOVESHIP was produced by Robert Ogden Barnum, Michael Benaroya, Jamin O’Brien, Dylan Sellers and Cassian Elwes and executive produced by Jacob Pechenik, Michael Raimondi and Abigail Disney. The film made its world premiere as a special presentation at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Multiple Deals For Nicolas Cage Drama ‘Joe’; Vodafone OKd For $10.2B Kabel Deutschland Buyout; More
WestEnd Films Seals Multiple Deals For Nicolas Cage Drama ‘Joe’
International sales company WestEnd Films has closed a raft of deals on David Gordon Green’s drama Joe, starring Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan. The film debuted in Venice, where Sheridan won the best newcomer prize. The Worldview Entertainment-produced and -financed film then appeared in Toronto, where deals were sealed with Japan (CCC), Australia (Madman), Benelux (Cinéart) and Scandinavia (Non Stop). Artificial Eye picked it up in the UK, and the film had previously sold to 15 territories include France (Wild Side), Germany (Koch Media), Latin America (Swen), China (Media Asia), Israel (United King), and Greece (Spentzos Films). CAA is repping the North America rights, with Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions and Magnolia Pictures being the front-runners as of Friday.
Vodafone Set To Acquire Germany’s Kabel Deutschland For $10.2B
Shareholders of Kabel Deutschland — Germany’s largest cable company — voted Friday to accept Vodafone’s buyout offer of €87 ($115.70) a share, which includes a €2.50 dividend payment. Vodafone, Germany’s top mobile network with 32 million subscribers, said the required 75% minimum of Kabel investors had been met. The deal, which gives Vodafone 7.6 million cable subs, continues its strategy of offsetting declining revenue by selling mobile phone subscriptions alongside TV, landline and broadband services. Reuters reported Friday that three hedge funds that tendered shares enabling Vodafone’s successful Kabel bid plan to sue for a better price for their outstanding holdings.