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Sundance: Update; Weinstein Co. Closes ‘The Details’ For $7.5 Million, $10 Million P&A

Mike Fleming

UPDATE: The Weinstein Company indeed closed this deal, and here are the details. I’m told the minimum guarantee was $7.5 million, with a P&A commitment upwards of $10 million. That makes The Details the largest minimum guarantee of the festival so far, though TWC’s deal for My Idiot Brother (between $6 million-$7 million m.g.) had a larger P&A commitment, around $15 million. Summit’s bid for domestic rights was between $4 million and $5 million. TWC’s acquisition team of Peter Lawson, Laine Kline and David Glasser made the deal with CAA and UTA, which co-repped the picture.

EARLIER EXCLUSIVE, 6:48 PM: A marathon bargaining session is near a close, and it appears The Weinstein Company will acquire worldwide distribution rights to The Details, the Jacob Aaron Estes-directed dark comedy that stars Tobey Maguire, Elizabeth Banks, Laura Linney, Ray Liotta, Dennis Haysbert and Kerry Washington. TWC and Summit Entertainment have been battling vigorously all night, and I’m told this could end up the Sundance Film Festival’s largest deal. The film, repped by CAA and UTA, began attracting suitors right after its Monday premiere at Eccles Theater. It quickly  got down to TWC and Summit Entertainment, the latter of which has focused on acquiring domestic distribution rights.

When hungry raccoons discover worms living under the sod in a young couple’s backyard, the result is a chain reaction of domestic tension, infidelity, organ … Read More »

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Sundance: Fox Searchlight Cages ‘Bengali Detective’

Mike Fleming

PARK CITY, UT January 24, 2011 – Fox Searchlight Pictures President of Production Claudia Lewis announced today that the company has acquired worldwide remake rights from Native Voice Films to the entertaining original feature documentary, THE BENGALI DETECTIVE, directed by Philip Cox and produced by Giovanna Stopponi, Annie Sundberg and Himesh Kar.

“We adored this film and are delighted to have the chance to work with such entertaining, funny material. We were charmed by this story of a dedicated husband and self-made detective who dreams big,” said Lewis.

“We are thrilled that Fox Searchlight has fallen in love with our leading man Rajesh and his wild adventures as a detective in Kolkata. Fox Searchlight has an amazing track record of bringing stories set in India to a worldwide audience, and we are excited to be sharing this journey with them,” said director Phil Cox and The Bengali Detective team.

In THE BENGALI DETECTIVE, Calcutta’s criminal underworld is explored by intrepid private eye Rajesh Ji. Following both his investigations and Rajesh’s pursuit of his dream to dance on Indian TV, THE BENGALI DETECTIVE provides a look at modern India through the eyes of one of its most unlikely heroes.

The deal was brokered on Fox Searchlight’s side by Senior Vice President of Business Affairs Megan O’Brien with Andrew Hurwitz of Schreck Rose Dapello Adams & Hurwitz, LLP on behalf of Native Voice Films. Creative Executive Richard Gold will oversee development for Fox Searchlight

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Sundance: Screenings Start Very Sloooow; Buyers Circle ‘The Guard’ With Don Cheadle

Mike Fleming

On the second day of Sundance, buyers were beginning to get antsy. The first screenings generated moderate interest, but buyers haven’t loved anything and only liked a few films. So far, the consensus is that the unveiled crop of films can’t be released on a high screen count. Deals will be made on these initial films, but not rich ones. The most promising reaction so far came opening day for John Michael McDonagh-directed Irish film The Guard, which stars Brendan Gleeson as a cranky village cop who’s mismatched with a visiting FBI agent (Don Cheadle) because the drug smuggling ring the fed was chasing had taken up residence in the Irish town. By Friday night, three buyers were circling the film. The director is the brother of In Bruges helmer Martin McDonagh. The Guard isn’t quite In Bruges (which also starred Gleeson) but it is a crowd-pleaser.

Several buyers said that Margin Call, the JC Chandor-directed drama about the financial meltdown of 2008, was compelling but long.

The pic Martha Marcy May Marlene has the buying crowd talking about its star, Elizabeth Olsen, who’s the younger sibling of the infamous Olsen Twins and also appears in Silent House, the thriller directed by Open Waters team Chris Kentis and Laura Lau. But respect for a performance doesn’t necessarily mean a buy. Silent House is a haunted house story told in one continuous shot, which meant the cast had to perform it all the way through, like a … Read More »

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SUNDANCE OVERVIEW From Mike Fleming: Is Dealmaking Avalanche In The Forecast? Handicapping The High Priority Acquisitions

Mike Fleming

PARK CITY, UTAH: The acquisitions crowd rolls into the 2011 Sundance Film Festival today with a sense of optimism that dealmaking could pick up where it left off at the Toronto Film Festival last fall. On paper, the signs are encouraging: new buyers and hungry established distributors; plenty of titles with name casts and intriguing plot lines; and a sense of urgency created by sellers bold enough not to prescreen titles for buyers. Several that did screen early wound up with pre-festival deals. Roadside Attractions bought the Grateful Dead-themed drama The Music Never Stopped; Sony Pictures Classics’ bought Take Shelter, sight unseen, as SPC read a script and gambled on the elements; OWN acquired the documentary Becoming Chaz; HBO bought the documentary Project Nim and will sell feature rights; and A&E IndieFilms bought TV rights to Corman’s World. Not to mention that Knuckle, a documentary about two families in Ireland that periodically engages in bare knuckle brawls because of a long simmering dispute, has more than one suitor circling remake rights after CAA sent DVDs because bootlegs already were making the rounds.

There is optimism about the indie business in general right now. Indie films have made a strong awards season showing, with 2010 Sundance films The Kids Are All Right, Winter’s Bone and Blue Valentine in the mix for acting categories at least. Buyers and sellers said the indie business is past its painful bottoming-out phase of the last few years. A leaner, smarter model has emerged and while minimum guarantees and P&A commitments are smaller than years past, filmmakers are keeping their budgets at sensible levels. They’re still drawing stars attracted to provocative material. There were also enough success stories from last year to stoke the fire. “You had this period of too much financing, and over production that left too many movies looking for distribution,” said WME Global’s Graham Taylor. “We saw things stabilize in 2010 and we will see growth in 2011. Demand has definitely picked up, and there are new distributors and players coming in.” Added UTA’s Rena Ronson: “We’ve gone through the slates of the major buyers, and there are major holes. Every major buyer has told us they need films.”

There could well be bidding battles on several fronts this year. There is a bumper crop of buyers looking for product that can open on between 1,500 to 2,000 screens. After absorbing Overture Films, Ryan Kavanaugh’s Relativity Media, and Peter Schlessel and Bob Berney’s FilmDistrict fall in step with a reinvigorated Weinstein Company, Fox Searchlight, Summit, Lionsgate, Focus and CBS Films. The question: will any of the Sundance films justify spending the $20 million or more in P&A required to support that kind of release? Dark Castle thought it had such a candidate last year when it committed $25 million in P&A to the horror film Splice, only to see it gross about that much, worldwide. Despite this, several horror titles are high priorities for distributors because they can be opened wide.

All of those players but FilmDistrict will be on the prowl for the specialty films that most of the festival films fall into. Sony Pictures Classics, IFC, Anchor Bay, Roadside Attractions and others that stepped up at Toronto last fall are also expected to be aggressive on films that can be platformed, and widened if audiences respond. “There is clearly a strong market for platform films,” said CAA agent Micah Green. “Those titles can bring their distributors both prestige and profit. Also, the lower cost of entry into platform distribution makes it attractive for independent companies who lack the capital to open films wide.‬‪ ‬We have seen a surge in ancillary value for star-driven specialty films. That was the primary driver for the quick pace of business in Toronto — star talent is very attractive for buyers focused on VOD, DVD, digital distribution and cable outlets. There’s a bullishness on the distribution side of the market. You can feel it‬.”

After checking with several major buyers, here are the films most often identified as priority targets:

MY IDIOT BROTHER - The  Jesse Peretz-directed comedy stars Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer.  Rudd plays a guy who, after serving time for pot dealing, moves in with each of his three sisters as he tries to get back on his feet. His best intentions quickly bring the family to the cusp of chaos and ultimately the brink of clarity.

THE SON OF NO ONE - The Dito Montiel-directed drama stars Channing Tatum, Al Pacino, Katie Holmes, Tracy Morgan, Ray Liotta and Juliette Binoche. Two men in post-9/11 New York are forced to relive two murders they committed as young boys. Their lives start to unravel by the threat of the revelation. Read More »

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