The adaptation of Anne Rice‘s best-seller is set to hit theaters March 23, 2016, the Wednesday before Easter. Christ The Lord is a fictional account of young Jesus as he comes to discover his real identity and the truth surrounding his birth. It was greenlighted during Cannes in May and is set to begin production September 15 in Italy. No cast is in place, but Cyrus Nowrasteh (The Stoning Of Soraya M.) will direct from a script he wrote with his wife Betsy. Enzo Sisti (Passion Of The Christ) is executive producing. The wide-release pic will arrive two days ahead of its weekend competitors Beverly Hills Cop 4 from Paramount and Warner Bros’ Geostorm.
The first sequel in the latest Blumhouse micro-budget horror franchise has a release date. Sinister 2, the follow-up to last year’s pic that grossed more than $87M worldwide on of a $3M budget, will arrive August 21, 2015. Citadel‘s Ciaran Foy will helm the next chapter, which Sinister director Scott Derrickson is writing with C. Robert Cargill. The new franchise follows Blumhouse’s success with the Paranormal Activity and Insidious series of ultra-low-budget genre hits. eOne is financing the sequel, with Derrickson and Jason Blum producing. Focus Features has positioned Sinister 2 to counter the Warner Bros romance Me Before You.
As Deadline was first to reveal, Focus Features has acquired U.S. distribution rights to Race. with Stephan James playing Olympian Jesse Owens, opposite Jason Sudeikis and Jeremy Irons, in the Stephen Hopkins-directed. Mister Smith Entertainment is handling worldwide sales on Race. The film starts production this month, and it is one of several films about the sprinter who ruined Hitler’s plans to showcase the superiority of German athletes in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. This film has the support of the Jesse Owens Foundation, the Jesse Owens Trust and the Luminary Group.
Oscar winner Kevin Macdonald’s treasure hunt adventure Black Sea starring Jude Law as a submarine captain with a mutinous misfit crew will get a limited release January 23, Focus Features said today. Written by Dennis Kelly, Black Sea also stars Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn, Konstantin Khabenskiy and Michael Smiley. The only wide release dated that weekend is Universal’s Blumhouse thriller The Boy Next Door, directed by Rob Cohen and starring Jennifer Lopez.
Focus also unveiled two date changes today: Tarsem Singh’s sci-fi drama Selfless starring Ryan Reynolds and Michelle Dockery moves from February 27 to April 17, while Leigh Whannell’s Insidious: Chapter 3 slides from its spring date of April 3 to May 29. Both titles remain wide releases. Selfless will face off against Sony’s Paul Blart: Mall Cop and Disney doc Monkey Kingdom during the April 17-19 frame. Insidious: Chapter 3, starring Dermot Mulroney, will be up against Paramount’s Chris Wedge toon Monster Trucks.
Hot Trailer: Focus Features’ ‘The Boxtrolls’ Aims To Join DWA’s ‘Dragon’ As Early Animated Oscar Bet (Video)
It looks like the 2014 Oscar race for Best Animated Feature is already heating up. DreamWorks Animation’s How To Train Your Dragon 2 opens today and could be No. 1 for the weekend. At any rate, it is getting such superlative reviews (especially for a sequel) that it is already looking like a front-runner for that Oscar that was denied to the original in 2010, when it had to compete against the Disney/Pixar juggernaut Toy Story 3, which also benefited from a Best Picture nomination. That movie of course was a second sequel and it obviously wasn’t hurt by the label. DWA has already started its campaign with mailings to various awards groups of the hardcover coffee table book The Art Of How To Train Your Dragon 2 (I have already gotten two copies including one yesterday that came in a black leather backpack that looked suspiciously like Toothless, the star Dragon of the title).
With a sterling 92% fresh score at Rotten Tomatoes, Dragon 2 is definitely in play and many pundits are already predicting it to win, even though it’s only June and there’s more to come including the latest from Focus Features, The Boxtrolls. Focus started its campaign for their animated film even earlier by sending select media a big toy box container with special slots for the various characters in the film starting with Eggs and Fish and the promise of two more shipments. Yesterday, a second shipment arrived containing Winnie and Shoe. Yes folks, the campaign has started in earnest. Here’s the first full trailer:
Laika, the Portland, OR-based animation studio behind Boxtrolls, received Oscar nominations for its first two animated features ParaNorman and Coraline, and now are hoping the third time is the charm with The Boxtrolls, which opens September 26 as the company’s third stop-motion release with Focus Features.
Focus Features has picked up an untitled feature spec by Amy Welsh, who most recently was supervising producer on the ABC Family series Bunheads, and who has written on sitcoms from Roseanne to It’s Like You Know and Men Behaving Badly. They are keeping the logline under wraps. JC Spink, Jake Weiner, and Chris Bender are producing for Benderspink, which recently exec produced Ride Along and Hangover 3, and produced We’re The Millers and the just-wrapped Horrible Bosses 2. Welsh is repped by ICM Partners.
Here’s our first look at Jeremy Renner as Gary Webb, the real-life journalist who wound up on the business end of an ugly CIA smear campaign. The Pulitzer winner reported on the agency’s alleged involvement in launching America’s crack epidemic, reporting that it was aware of major dealers who were smuggling cocaine into the U.S., and using the profits to arm Nicaraguan rebels. Director Michael Cuesta‘s Kill The Messenger also stars Rosemarie DeWitt, Ray Liotta, Tim Blake Nelson, Barry Pepper, Oliver Platt, Michael Sheen, Paz Vega, Michael Kenneth Williams, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Andy Garcia. Peter Landesman wrote the script for the thriller, which Focus Features will release October 10. Check it out:
Focus Features has acquired North American rights to The Forest, the supernatural thriller from David Linde’s Lava Bear Films and Phantom Four that is being being directed by newcomer Jason Zada. The script, rewritten by Sarah Cornwell and based on an original idea by David S. Goyer, is set in the Aokigahara Forest, a real-life place in Japan where people go to end their lives. Against this backdrop, a young American woman comes in search of her twin sister, who has mysteriously disappeared. Despite everyone’s warnings not to “stray from the path,” Sara dares to enter the forest to discover the truth about her sister’s fate, only to be confronted by the angry and tormented souls of the dead who now prey on anyone who crosses their paths. Focus has set a January 8, 2016 release date. Good Universe is partnering with Lava Bear to handle international sales at Cannes. Goyer and Phantom Four’s Nellie Reed are producing, with Lava Bear president Tory Metzger overseeing.
If this setting sounds familiar it is: the Gus Van Sant-Matthew McConaughey pic Sea Of Trees that has been making the rounds at Cannes is also set in the forest. In that pic’s case, a suicidal man (McConaughey) visits the dense forest and sets out to help save a Japanese man (Ken Watanabe) and changes his own life in the process. The genre angle of Forest jibes with Focus’ direction under new CEO Peter Schlessel.
Studiocanal added Bastille Day to its roster on the eve of the festival last week in a package that stars Idris Elba and Blue Is The Warmest Color‘s Adèle Exarchopoulos. Focus Features has now acquired North American distribution rights to the action thriller to be directed by The Woman In Black helmer James Watkins. Andrew Baldwin wrote the script for the Paris-set pic that sees a rogue CIA agent forced to team with an unsuspecting American con-artist to thwart a terrorist attack on French soil. Principal photography starts later this summer. Philippe Rousselet is producing via his Vendome Pictures along with Steve Golin, David Kanter, and Bard Dorros for Anonymous Content. Studiocanal is financing and handling international sales. It will distribute in France, the UK, Germany, Australia, and New Zealand.
EXCLUSIVE: Ocean Blue Entertainment, in conjunction with CJ Entertainment, Echo Lake and Ingenious Media, have set the financing for Christ The Lord, a feature adaptation of the Anne Rice bestselling novel Christ The Lord: Out of Egypt. A September 15 start date has been set in Italy. Focus Features, which obtained U.S. distribution rights from the movie’s original domestic distributor FilmDistrict when Peter Schlessel took over the former, is planning a wide U.S. release and Hyde Park International is handling the sale of foreign rights. 1492 Pictures will produce with Ocean Blue, CJ Entertainment, Hyde Park and Ingenious.
Cyrus Nowrasteh, who helmed The Stoning Of Soraya M., will direct the script he wrote with his wife Betsy. This fictional story follows young Jesus as he comes to discover his real identity and the truth surrounding his birth. Enzo Sisti (Passion Of The Christ) is executive producing. Shooting will take place at Cinecittà Studios in Rome, and on location in Matera, Italy. Given the heightened interest in faith-based fare, a film about the formative years of Jesus Christ should fare quite nicely.
Focus Features, eOne, Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions and Blumhouse Productions has set original Saw and Insidious writer Leigh Whannell to direct Insidious: Chapter 3. The fright franchise originated at FilmDistrict and was absorbed by Focus when Peter Schlessel took the reins. Whannell, who wrote and acted in the first two Insidious pics, will be making his directorial debut on Chapter 3. Pic will come out April 3, 2015.
Focus Features has acquired U.S. rights to London Has Fallen, the sequel to last year’s White House action hit Olympus Has Fallen. Focus plans a nationwide release on October 2, 2015, pitting the film against Fox’s Frankenstein. Olympus star Gerard Butler returns for the sequel penned by Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt and Christian Gudegast. Round 2 picks up in London, where the British Prime Minister has died under mysterious circumstances. His funeral is a must-attend event for leaders of the Western world. But what starts out as the most protected event on the planet turns into a deadly plot to kill the world’s most powerful leaders. Only three people have any hope of stopping it: POTUS, his formidable Secret Service head (Butler), and an English MI-6 agent who trusts no one. Butler is producing along with Alan Siegel, Mark Gill, Matt O’Toole, and Heidi Jo Markel. Avi Lerner, Trevor Short, Boaz Davidson, John Thompson, Christine Crow, and Focus Features CEO Peter Schlessel will executive produce. Olympus Has Fallen was released on March 22, 2013, by FilmDistrict, the U.S. distrib led by Peter Schlessel before he was named Focus CEO in October. The film earned $98.9 million at the domestic box office.
EXCLUSIVE: Former Focus Features exec Christopher Kopp has been hired by Material Pictures as its new Head of Development. Kopp joins the Tobey Maguire-helmed shingle after an eight-year run out of Focus’s NY headquarters, which shuttered after last October’s surprise exec shake-up. Kopp had served as Director of Development & Production at Focus, overseeeing development on Gerardo Naranjo’s A Man Must Die, Nathaniel Halpern’s Rose with ImageMovers, and The Yankee Commandante with Smokehouse as well as overseeing the Tina Fey-Paul Rudd starrer Admission. In his new post he’ll stay in NYC to head development on Material Pictures’ slate and will report to Maguire and SVP Production Matthew Plouffe, who himself exited Focus in 2011 to join the company. Material Pictures expanded last year after locking new financing. Upcoming pics include Craig Zobel’s Z For Zachariah and Ed Zwick’s Pawn Sacrifice starring Maguire, Liev Schreiber, Michael Stuhlbarg, Peter Saarsgard and Lily Rabe.
Related: Focus Features Day 2: Who’ll Stay?
UPDATE: Focus’ ‘Theory Of Everything’ Set For November; Relativity Dates ‘November Man’ For August; Disneynature’s ‘Monkey Kingdom’ Due In 2015
Eddie Redmayne stars as physicist Stephen Hawking in Theory Of Everything, which Focus Features has set for a platform release on Friday, November 7, 2014. It will then expand the following two weekends. The Working Title biopic directed by Man On Wire‘s James Marsh focuses on the relationship between Hawking and his wife Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones), the arts student he fell in love with while studying at Cambridge in the 1960s. Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Charlie Cox, Simon McBurney, Maxine Peake and Harry Lloyd co-star and the script is by Anthony McCarten.
Relativity Media said today it has dated the Pierce Brosnan spy thriller November Man for Wednesday, August 27, 2014. Olga Kurylenko and Luke Bracey co-star in the pic directed by Roger Donaldson based on Bill Granger’s novel There Are No Spies. The release date news comes a week after Relativity acquired U.S. distribution rights to the film, with a commitment to a wide release this year. Michael Finch and Karl Gajdusek wrote the screenplay, which centers on a former CIA operative who is brought back in on a very personal mission and is pitted against his former protégé in a deadly game involving high-level CIA officials and the Russian President-elect.
Focus Features announced it will release the Juan Antonio Bayona-directed A Monster Calls on October 14, 2016. So far the pic has the date to itself. Based on the award-winning children’s fantasy novel by Patrick Ness, (The Chaos Walking Trilogy), A Monster Calls centers on a young boy who attempts to deal with his mother’s illness and school bullies by escaping into a fantastical world of monsters and fairy tales. Ness wrote the novel based on an original idea by the late Siobhan Dowd, and he and illustrator Jim Kay won Britain’s prestigious Carnegie Medal and Greenaway Medal in 2012, presented to the year’s best children’s literature in the UK. Ness is adapting the screenplay from his novel. A Monster Calls will be produced by Belen Atienza (The Impossible, Pan’s Labyrinth, The Orphanage). Executive Producers are River Road’s Bill Pohlad and Mitch Horwits, Participant Media’s Jeff Skoll and Jonathan King, and Lionsgate Motion Picture Group Co-Chairman Patrick Wachsberger.
EXCLUSIVE: Focus Features has acquired the Taylor Materne & Jacob Rubin’s Black List script Times Square for Justin Lin to direct. The film will be produced by Chernin Entertainment, Perfect Storm Entertainment and Far Hills Pictures. The crime thriller is set in the last days of the old Times Square, when it was transitioning from a seedy lawless Midtown Manhattan dump to a family-friendly corporate mecca. In that backdrop, when a secret from his past is unearthed, a young man’s loyalties are divided between his neighborhood boss who raised him and the grizzled ex-cop who swore to protect him.
Lin and Troy Craig Poon are producing for Perfect Storm with Chernin Entertainment. Stone Douglass is exec producer and Mike LaRocca brought in the project. After stepping away from steering the Fast & The Furious franchise, Lin is right now helming the CBS pilot Scorpion and will then helm the next installment of the Bourne franchise with Jeremy Renner starring. He’s also still attached to helm L.A. Riots, which was scripted by Oscar-winning 12 Years A Slave writer John Ridley for Universal and Imagine’s Brian Grazer.
Materne & Rubin are represented by WME, Oasis Media Group and lawyer Howard Abramson, while Lin is repped by CAA, Cinetic Management and Sloss Eckhouse Law Co.
The sci-fi thriller that screened at Sundance will hit theaters June 13 before expanding the following two weekends. In the Focus Features pic, three college students on a road trip across the Southwest experience a detour: the tracking of a computer genius who has already hacked into MIT and exposed security faults. The trio find themselves drawn to an eerily isolated area when suddenly, everything goes dark. When one of the students, Nic, regains consciousness, he is in a waking nightmare. The Signal, from director William Eubank, stars Brenton Thwaites, Olivia Cooke, Beau Knapp and Laurence Fishburne. Cutting Edge Group boarded the project during the Baja Film Festival in November.
The latest peek at Focus Features‘ upcoming 3D stop-motion pic is a more a dialogue-free look at its look than a preview of its story. To fill you in, The Boxtrolls – from ParaNorman and Coraline toon studio Laika and based on Alan Snow’s novel Here Be Monsters! — centers on a boy raised by a group of cardboard-clad subterranean beings. Directed by Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi, the voice cast includes Isaac Hempstead Wright, Ben Kingsley, Elle Fanning, Simon Pegg, Toni Collette, Nick Frost, Jared Harris and Richard Ayoade. It’s all set to CeeLo Green channeling Elvis on an oft-covered Leiber & Stoller classic. Check it out:
Focus Makes $20 Million P&A Deal For River Road, Participant And Lionsgate Intl-Funded Juan Antonio Bayona-Helmed ‘A Monster Calls’
EXCLUSIVE: In the third huge pre-buy deal this year, Focus Features is committing $20 million in P&A to release A Monster Calls, a film that will be financed by River Road Entertainment and Participant Media. The film will be the next directed by Juan Antonio Bayona, who helmed the tsunami film The Impossible and made his breakthrough on The Orphanage. The film is an adaptation of the children’s fantasy novel series by Patrick Ness and it is already on course to begin production this fall for release in 2016. The novel focuses on a young lad who tries to deal with school bullies and his mother’s illness by losing himself into a vivid world of monsters and fairy tales. Ness adapted his own prize-winning work.
In the configuration taking shape, Focus releases the film wide domestically and Universal Pictures International releases in Spain. Lionsgate International is a key piece of this puzzle, as Patrick Washsberger’s troops will sell all other world territories. Producing is Belen Atienza, who teamed with Bayona on his films and produced Pan’s Labyrinth. Bill Pohlad’s River Road is coming off the Best Picture for 12 Years A Slave, and I’m told Pohlad and his team will exec produce with Participant Media’s Jeff Skoll and his team, along with Wachsberger.
This becomes the first major deal for Peter Schlessel since James Schamus and Andrew Karpen left Focus and Schlessel merged his FilmDistrict shingle in the company and took the reins. While Bayona is separately attached to helm a sequel to the zombie saga World War Z 2, this film will come first.