Radius-TWC is the multiplatform division of The Weinstein Company launched a year ago. It has partnered with Starz’s home entertainment division Anchor Bay, which will distribute Radius-TWC’s titles on DVD and Blu-ray including Butter, Bachelorette, Pusher, The Details, Dragon and Lay The Favorite. The multiyear deal covers U.S. rights and will kick off with Butter, the Jennifer Garner-starring indie directed by Jim Field Smith, which hits shelves this week. Anchor Bay already distributes Weinstein Co movies as part of a January 2011 deal in which TWC acquired a 25% stake in Starz Media, where Anchor Bay is housed.
Although they are certainly best known for those other awards they hand out in February, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences do a lot more throughout the year. One of its prized events happened Thursday evening at a dinner at the Beverly Wilshire, where the 26th annual Don and Gee Nicholl Screenwriting Fellowships were awarded to what Academy president Tom Sherak described as the “Academy’s Magnificent 7.”
The Nicholl Fellowships were established in 1985 and are now chaired (and hosted) by new Academy governor Gale Anne Hurd, who told me she’s been on the Nicholl committee since 1989. Each of the writing fellows (or teams) will receive a $35,000 prize in order to continue developing their scripts (checks are handed out in installments with the understanding that the recipients will complete a feature-length screenplay during their fellowship year), and the Academy is not involved otherwise commercially with the scripts in any way and holds no rights to them. Even with the Oscars in the mix, Sherak opened the program by saying: “This is my favorite event. It’s nights like this that I wish I were an agent. You want to sign every one of them.” He added these few winners were chosen from among a record 6,730 entries by the 24 judges and committee members who read everything.
It was quite a night that also included a rousing keynote address from David Seidler, this year’s reigning Best Original Screenplay winner for The King’s Speech and “new Academy member” at age 74. At the reception before the dinner, I asked Seidler how the Oscar has changed his life at this age. He joked, “Producers now owe me more, but it takes them longer.” Seidler is red-hot, though, having completed two new scripts over the summer and now embarking on two rewrites. He asked me who I thought was the front-runner to win Original Screenplay this year and I suggested probably Woody Allen for Midnight In Paris. “Well, he has me beat then,” Seidler said. Allen at 76 would usurp Seidler as the oldest winner ever in that category, meaning that Seidler’s record could be short-lived. His speech, which he said was working on right to the last minute, won over the crowd and certainly provided inspiration for the writers in attendance.
I ran into Jennifer Garner Saturday afternoon at the candy counter of Telluride’s tiny Nugget Theatre and told her I was looking forward to seeing the new film she produced and stars in, Butter, which was having an official sneak preview at the festival later that night. “Thanks, but I hate it when people tell me that. It makes me too nervous,” she said. She shouldn’t have worried. The edgy smart comedy played liked gangbusters at its first packed screening at the Galaxy Theatre. There were big laughs for the small-town butter-carving satire, which might get a year-end release from The Weinstein Company to qualify for awards, especially for the Golden Globes and its comedy category. Garner nails the Michele Bachmann-like character in a way that’s smooth-as-buttah. The film itself is reminiscent of Michael Ritchie’s Smile and Alexander Payne’s Election, with both comparisons meant to be a compliment. In fact, shortly afterward, Payne told me he is anxious to see the film himself. Before it rolled, director Jim Field Smith told the crowd what pressure he was under to finish the film in time for next week’s Toronto Film Festival — and then was told it would be needed even earlier for Telluride. “Come on, you can do it,” Harvey Weinstein told him. Then there were the unexpected earthquakes, hurricanes, and a scary landing at the Tellruride airport that all contributed to his feeling he wasn’t going to make the deadline, but he did. “This is the first audience anywhere to see the film, so we could just die,” Garner added before forgetting to introduce co-star Ty Burrell (Modern Family).