Focus Features said today that Kill The Messenger will get a platform release on October 10, 2014, and expand the following two weekends. Jeremy Renner stars as Gary Webb, the Pulitzer-winner journalist who uncovered a CIA link to coke trafficking in the U.S. as a way to funnel money to the Nicaraguan Contras. Webb was subsequently discredited by a smear campaign which ruined him and he eventually committed suicide. Michael Cuesta directed the pic written by Peter Landesman. The cast includes Ray Liotta, Barry Pepper, Josh Close, Rosemarie DeWitt, Andy Garcia, Lucas Hedges, Tim Blake Nelson, Robert Patrick, Oliver Platt, Michael Sheen, Paz Vega, Michael Kenneth Williams and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Focus picked up worldwide rights ahead of the 2013 Berlin Film Festival.
Focus Features will release Wish I Was Here on July 18, 2014 in a platform release in NY and LA before the pic expands the following week and again on August 1. The news was announced via the film’s page on Kickstarter, the crowdfunding site that gave life to the Zach Braff comedy that marks the writer-director second feature following the well-received 2004 indie Garden State. Overall the film raised $3.1 million after eclipsing its $2 million goal in three days, and Focus acquired rights for $2.75 million at Sundance after its world premiere there. Kickstarter backers who pledged for advance screenings rewards will be invited to attend early previews in their local markets. Wish I Was Here enters on a thirtysomething man who finds himself at major crossroads that forces him to examine his life, his career, and his family. Braff, Kate Hudson and Mandy Patinkin star.
Amid last year’s shake-up at Focus Features, the group’s international sales arm was shuttered. Focus is now turning to Nick Meyer’s Sierra/Affinity to handle rights outside North America on select titles from the company. The formalized relationship will complement the activities of Universal Pictures International, which distributes Universal and Focus movies internationally. The new tie-up had been expected, notably after Sierra/Affinity took over Mike Flanagan’s Oculus and follow-up, Somnia, at the AFM, both of which were previously with Focus Features International. The relationship with Focus and Sierra/Affinity kicks off at this EFM where the latter will service existing licensing and distribution agreements on Kevin Macdonald’s Black Sea and Jeremy Renner-starrer Kill The Messenger, a hot property for FFI last Berlin. Click over for more details on the new pact:
PREVIOUS: Focus Features is getting on the board here at Sundance, just closing a distribution rights deal to Wish I Was Here, the film which Zach Braff wrote and directed, and stars as a father struggling to home school his kids. Braff stars with Mandy Patinkin, Josh Gad, Kate Hudson, Jim Parsons, Ashley Greene, Pierce Gagnon and Joey King. The deal is $2.75 million for a theatrical release over 500 screens, and generous P&A to support it. There is also a strong back end.
Interest in this one kick-started right after the film debuted Saturday night at the MARC. It came in as one of the high profile pics at Sundance, by merit of the Kickstarter crowd funding campaign undertaken by Braff and his producers, Stacey Sher, Michael Shamberg and Adam J. Braff. The film was repped by CAA with Wild Bunch. Kickstarter and Worldview financed the film.
It’s the first major acquisition since Peter Schlessel took over the shingle.
Focus Features said today that Jason Bateman‘s Bad Words will bow in limited release on March 14, expand out on March 21 and open wide on March 28. On that date it will face off against Open Road’s Haunted House 2, Paramount’s Noah, Cohen Media Group’s Breathe In and Lionsgate’s Cesar Chavez. The comedy from Darko Entertainment, Aggregate Films and MXN stars Bateman in his feature directorial debut. He plays a 40-year-old Guy Trilby, who finds a loophole in the National Spelling Bee rules and enters the competition. As he dusts his preteen rivals, a reporter (Kathryn Hahn) digs into Guy’s story, and he finds himself forging an unlikely friendship with a 10-year-old boy (Rohan Chand). Allison Janney, Ben Falcone, Rachael Harris and Philip Baker Hall co-star.
Universal and Focus Features have been busy rounding out the cast of Fifty Shades Of Grey, which stars Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey opposite Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele. Callum Keith Rennie (Battlestar Galactica) has been cast in the adaptation of EL James’ bestselling erotic novel as Ray Steele, Anastasia’s stepfather. Rennie recently finished filming Weinstein acquisition The Young And Prodigious TS Spivet with Helena Bonham Carter and indie feature Ride with Helen Hunt. He’s repped by APA, Hodgson Management Group, and Kleinberg Lange Cuddy & Carlo.
The comedy from Darko Entertainment, Aggregate Films and MXN stars Jason Bateman in his feature directorial debut. He plays a 40-year-old Guy Trilby, who finds a loophole in the National Spelling Bee rules and enters the competition. As he dusts his preteen rivals, a reporter (Kathryn Hahn) digs into Guy’s story, and he finds himself forging an unlikely friendship with a 10-year-old boy (Rohan Chand). Allison Janney, Ben Falcone, Rachael Harris and Philip Baker Hall co-star in Bad Words, which Focus Features picked up for $7 million at Toronto in September and will open in March. Here’s the NSFW red band trailer:
As part of the October deal that saw FilmDistrict being absorbed into Focus Features, the latter has taken over distribution of two more titles and announced a new release date for one of them. The sci-fi thriller Selfless, starring Ryan Reynolds, originally had been set for September 2014 but now will go out wide on February 27, 2015. The Tarsem-directed pic from writers Alex and David Pastor has that weekend to itself for now. It centers on a terminally ill billionaire who buys a chance for eternal life through an experimental underground medical procedure. Focus also will handle the Zac Efron flick That Awkward Moment, which was retitled from Are We Officially Dating? a few months ago. Its release date remains January 31. Focus said last month that it will release the former FilmDistrict title Insidious: Chapter 3 in April 2015.
EXCLUSIVE: Dylan Neal is the latest actor to join the cast of Universal Pictures and Focus Features’ adaptation of EL James’ bestselling Fifty Shades Of Grey. He’ll play Bob, Anastasia Steele’s (Dakota Johnson) stepfather and husband of Carla Adams (Jennifer Ehle). He begins shooting this week in Vancouver. Neal currently stars in Hallmark Channel’s Cedar Cove opposite Andie MacDowell. He is also shooting the second season of The CW’s Arrow, in the recurring role of the villainous Dr. Anthony Ivo. Jamie Dornan has been set to play Christian Grey opposite Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele in the pic directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, which will hit theaters February 13, 2015.
OSCARS Q&A: Matthew McConaughey On The Struggle To Get ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ Made & Diving Into Dramas
Over the last two years, Matthew McConaughey has transformed from simply being a bankable romantic-comedy lead to a gritty performer who doesn’t hesitate to roll up his sleeves and plumb emotional depths. In the same year he showed his flashy, exhibitionist side in Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike, McConaughey demonstrated exceptional range in a trio of smaller films with distinctive directors: Richard Linklater’s Bernie, William Friedkin’s Killer Joe and Lee Daniels’ The Paperboy. This year’s slate, which includes Dallas Buyers Club and Mud, shows that the actor isn’t finished taking risks. He lost 47 pounds to play AIDS activist Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club and was a major force in getting the film into production; he’s working with Martin Scorsese in The Wolf Of Wall Street; and he’s shooting a sci-fi film, Interstellar. All that, and he still finds time to helm his nonprofit JKL Foundation, which focuses on the health and wellness of high-school students.
AwardsLine: What compelled you to help get Dallas Buyers Club produced?
Matthew McConaughey: It was something that I had on my desk that I was trying to do for a while, but it wasn’t popular enough for anyone to come up with the money. So we were like, “Let’s find the right team.” The more pieces you put in place, the more you show somebody that you’ve got a full package, then it becomes a more viable situation to get the money. And (director) Jean-Marc (Vallee) and I were locked, and we’re like, “Let’s set a date and do this thing this year.” We had Jared (Leto) and Jennifer (Garner) cast, and we budgeted for a lot less than Jean-Marc thought he could make it for. A week before the shoot, Jean-Marc calls me and says, “This is just not enough money to make this. We don’t have it, and we shoot in a week. (But) I’ll be there if you’ll be there.” I was like, “Yeah.” I had been losing the weight, and then I kept hearing “This is not happening.” And I was like, “This is happening.” Then that last bit of money came like a wave.
AwardsLine: What kind of feedback did you get from financiers as to why they didn’t want to come onboard?
McConaughey: (Laughs.) Well, Hollywood’s not quick to really expound on the “why not?” Usually the message that gets to me is, it’s not for them. Period piece, AIDS drama? That one line hurt. I’m sure there were many desks where that one-liner was all they read.
The video below is part teaser, part behind-the-scenes tribute to the meticulous detail that goes into stop-motion. From Coraline and ParaNorman animation studio LAIKA, The Boxtrolls is still some way off – Focus opens it on September 26, 2014 – but the folksy tune that accompanies this new teaser seems fitting for a holiday. The Boxtrolls is based on Alan Snow’s novel Here Be Monsters! and follows a boy named Eggs who’s raised by an unconventional family of underground-dwelling creatures who live in cardboard boxes. Among the voice cast are Isaac Hempstead Wright, Ben Kingsley, Elle Fanning, Simon Pegg, Toni Collette, Nick Frost, Jared Harris and Richard Ayoade. Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi co-direct.
The Contenders 2013: ‘Place Beyond The Pines’ Director Derek Cianfrance Details Ryan Gosling’s Dream To Rob A Bank (Video)
For much of 2013 Derek Cianfrance‘s complex drama, The Place Beyond The Pines was the number one grossing independent film of the year. But at one time after it was bought by Focus Features at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival where it was the hot acquisition title, producers had hoped that it would be released in time to be part of last year’s awards season run. Focus decided to wait and opt for a Spring release which turned out to be a good decision for the box office. Now it’s in the mix this awards season. Sitting on the Focus panel, Cianfrance shared some of the secrets of the film, particularly co-star Ryan Gosling‘s real-life plans to rob a bank, for an audience of AMPAS and Guild members at Deadline’s THE CONTENDERS event earlier this month.
Insidious: Chapter 2 opened to a record-setting $41M in September, and now we know when the next installment of the franchise will arrive. With FilmDistrict — which released 2010′s Insidious and the sequel — having been absorbed into Focus Features, the latter will distribute Insidious: Chapter 3, and Focus said today that the threequel’s reign of terror will begin on April 3, 2015. It’ll open that weekend against Passengers, the Weinstein Co’s Keanu Reeves-Rachel McAdams sci-fi pic. Insidious regular and Saw alum Leigh Whannell is back to pen the script for Round 3, but no director has been set. Regular Whannell collaborator James Wan, who helm the first two Insidious pics, is working on Fast & Furious 7. Jason Blum will produce Chapter 3 for Blumhouse Productions with Oren Peli. Steven Schneider, Brian Kavanaugh Jones, Peter Schlessel, Lia Buman and Xavier Marchand are exec producing.
Fans of the global bestseller will have to wait longer than planned to see Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) come to life on the screen. Universal Pictures and Focus Features’ have pushed the release date for Fifty Shades Of Grey into 2015. It will open on February 13th, just in time for Valentine’s Day that year. It was previously scheduled for August 1, 2014. Universal’s James Brown biopic Get On Up will now move onto the August 1, 2014 date – it was originally scheduled for October 17, 2014. Also shifting is Dracula Untold, the Gary Shore-directed origin story starring Luke Evans. It will go out on October 17th next year, rather than October 3rd.
BREAKING: Peter Schlessel, who took over Focus Features after Universal swallowed his FilmDistrict label, has begun assimilating the staffs of those two companies for January’s company relaunch. This happens a day after the company formalized the widely expected news that Focus Features International would shutter. More of this mixing and matching will happen over the next few weeks, and we’ll get a sense of the final layoff count soon. For now, here’s who is staying:
· FilmDistrict’s Beth Lemberger will be EVP Business Affairs, joining Howard Meyers who is currently EVP Business Affairs, Production at Focus Features. Both executives will report to Schlessel. FilmDistrict’s Kevin Monroe will also serve as SVP Business Affairs for Focus reporting to Lemberger.
Word has just gone out internally that Focus Features International is shuttering in December. There were 16 people who worked there, most of them will be out of jobs, and the London office is closing by year’s end. This is hardly a surprise, after Peter Schlessel was named the new head of Focus and supplanted topper James Schamus, and after that Andrew Karpen declined to relocate to the Universal lot and made his own plans to leave.
All the films that were greenlit under the former Focus regime will continue to be serviced and delivered to buyers when they are complete. Beyond that, Focus will use Universal Pictures International to distribute some of its films overseas, and some will be done independently using an outside sales agent. A lot of these Focus Features International staff will be at AFM, and will continue to sell the films already in the pipeline. So give them a pat on the back and buy them a drink, willya?
Deadline’s sold-out award season kick-off The Contenders unspooled Saturday at the Wallis Annenberg Center For The Performing Arts in Beverly Hills. Take a look at our special guest panelists from this year’s crop of Oscar hopefuls from The Weinstein Company, Roadside Attractions/Lionsgate, Focus, CBS Films, Paramount, Fox Searchlight, Warner Bros, Sony Pictures, Sony Pictures Classics, Walt Disney Pictures, Universal and Dreamworks Animation. Click through for the updated gallery:
EXCLUSIVE: The 103 employees of Focus Features knew layoffs were inevitable when Peter Schlessel took over the label with the intention to meld the unit with his FilmDistrict staff. That doesn’t make it any easier as it has unfolded today. I don’t have a head count, but staffers are being informed in New York and Los Angeles whether or not they are being let go in the restructuring. Marketing, distribution and publicity are the areas getting hit hardest. This comes after my colleague Nancy Tartaglione reported a little while ago that the London office of Focus Features International is likely to shutter. “It’s the saddest day here,” said a source stating the obvious. The intention is to eliminate staff duplication, and the exit time of those being laid off will vary. Those who are working on the Focus Oscar campaigns for Dallas Buyers Club, the Julian Assange documentary We Steal Secrets and The Place Beyond The Pines, will stay on until those tasks are carried out. I’ll let you know the head count when I confirm it.
EXCLUSIVE: As part of the revamp at Focus Features, I’m hearing that London-based international sales arm Focus Features International is likely next to shutter. The news comes three weeks after Deadline revealed the company is closing its New York office and centralizing operations in LA. The timing of FFI’s closing is unclear, believed to be due to certain UK laws that require a consideration period, but I understand this could be official within a few weeks. It is not known for certain whether some staff would be relocated and international sales of Focus films would continue from the U.S. base. Another scenario would see international sales cease entirely, with movies going through parent company Universal.
Related: Pink Slip Monday At Focus Features
FFI, overseen by co-president Alison Thompson, has been a key fixture on the global scene. At Cannes in May a hot title was the Focus Features pic Black Sea starring Jude Law among its films. Other titles on FFI’s recent slate have included the Woody Allen pic Blue Jasmine, the Amy Winehouse documentary from director Asif Kapadia, and Julian Temple’s Marvin Gaye biopic. In Toronto this fall it handled the Toronto Midnight Madness horror pic Oculus from Relativity and Blumhouse Prods.