After all the secrecy that went into the deal making for the book and documentary about reclusive author J.D. Salinger, it is all off to a strong start. The book by David Shields and Shane Salerno is debuting in the sixth slot of The New York Times bestseller list. The Salerno-directed documentary Salinger, which launched last Friday in four theaters, finished with a $22,742 per screen, which was tops in the marketplace. Even Salinger’s work benefited: The Catcher In The Rye hit the top ten on Amazon.
Deadlne readers have known since J.D. Salinger’s death in 2010 that Shane Salerno’s feature documentary would spill secrets about the reclusive author. And Harvey Weinstein took to asking journalists to preserve reveals as he got them …
Sixty-plus years after The Catcher In The Rye began the public’s fascination with enigmatic author J.D. Salinger, a new documentary and book are ready to spill some secrets about him. Just keep them to yourselves, please. The …
EXCLUSIVE: The Weinstein Company has acquired theatrical rights to Salinger, the Shane Salerno-directed feature documentary on the reclusive author of The Catcher In The Rye. The deal is seven figures, around $2 million, and covers world rights except for the previous deal that licensed U.S. television rights to PBS’ American Masters. The plan is to release later this year for Oscar season, and the deal came after Harvey Weinstein, David Glasser and the acquisition team were shown the film Sunday morning, the day of the Academy Awards. TWC was the only distributor that saw the finished film, and closed the deal right after. While everyone was partying over the Oscar weekend, TWC acquired Grace of Monaco with Nicole Kidman and Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom with Idris Elba. All three of these films will be in the Oscar season discussion, as will Fruitvale, the film that came out of Sundance with strong buzz, and which TWC also acquired. After two years of winning Best Picture, Harvey Weinstein watched Argo best his two candidates, Silver Linings Playbook and Django Unchained. Looks like he really, really wants to be in the winner’s circle again.
That validates an unusual sales strategy that Salerno employed on the film with his lawyer Robert Offer. It was first shown to American Masters, which quickly closed a 7-figure licensing deal. The plan is to make it the 200th installment of that prestigious series, early next year. It was then shown to Jon Karp and his editors from Simon & Schuster, and right after they saw it, they closed a 7-figure publishing deal for a biography that Salerno wrote with David Shields.
Now, the documentary distribution rights are being sold to the only distributor that saw the film. I’m told that the entire deal for theatrical, publishing and U.S. TV rights will be north of $5 million, one of the richest pacts ever for a feature documentary.
For Salerno, this completes an eight year odyssey, and he has been made whole after investing $2 million of his own money into the documentary and the book. It also closes the circle for me; shortly after I arrived from Variety to Deadline Hollywood, Salinger passed away. This was not long after I’d seen an early cut of Salerno’s film. I thought it was absolutely fascinating. I haven’t seen it since, and the discretion shown in the dealmaking process indicates there are secrets that were held back. But here is what I said about it back then:
EXCLUSIVE: Nikolaj Arcel and Rasmus Heisterberg, who scripted the Swedish The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and followed with the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominee A Royal Affair, have found their next project. It’s a feature adaptation of The Power Of The Dog, the epic Don Winslow bestseller framed around the drug war and a 30-year struggle between a hard DEA agent and a family of cartel kingpins in Mexico.
Arcel will direct, and the script will be written by Heisterberg, Arcel and Shane Salerno. Salerno will produce through The Story Factory. This is the same Salerno who wrote, directed, produced and financed the J.D. Salinger documentary Salinger that earlier this week was licensed in the U.S. for an American Masters broadcast and is being shopped for feature distribution after a companion biography sold in a 7-figure deal to Simon & Schuster.
2ND UPDATE, 9:23 AM: It has been quite a week for J.D. Salinger. The Shane Salerno documentary Salinger has been shown to only two parties so far, and in both cases, the result was a smashing deal. First to see it was the American Masters team, which quickly paid low-seven figures to license U.S. domestic TV rights and make it the 200th installment of the prestigious program in January. Second to see it were the Simon & Schuster editors, who quickly made a worldwide rights deal on the companion book, The Private War Of J.D. Salinger. Agency sources tell me that deal was closer to $2 million than $1 million for the sprawling book by David Shields and Salerno. It will be published in September, just ahead of the theatrical release.
Next up: the feature distribution deal. I don’t get the impression there will be a big gang bang screening and then an auction; it will be a subtler, more selective process than that. But the goal is to lock in a distributor who’ll give it a nice theatrical play in the months before the American Masters premiere next year, and figure out DVD and those other ancillaries excluding U.S. domestic TV rights. By the time all this is done, it should be a nice outcome for Salerno and the eight years and $2 million he invested to assemble both the film and the book.