EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros has scored the first major acquisition of the Cannes Film Festival, before anybody has gotten on a plane. The studio is closing a deal for U.S. rights to How To Catch A Monster, the film that is shooting now. Writer-director Ryan Gosling‘s film stars Saoirse Ronan, Christina Hendricks, Eva Mendes, Matt Smith Ben Mendelsohn and Rob Zabrecky. The studio is paying a $3 million minimum guarantee for the film, a fantasy thriller in which a single mother is swept into a dark underworld, while her teenage son discovers a road that leads him to a secret underwater town. Marc Platt is the primary producer on the film. READ MORE »
First Major Cannes Deal: Warner Bros Acquires U.S. Rights On Ryan Gosling Helming Debut ‘How To Catch A Monster’
Ryan Gosling reteams with Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn in the Bangkok-set crime pic, which RADiUS-TWC will release July 19. Gosling plays the scion of a drug-smuggling family who runs a Thai boxing club and is sent on a quest for vengeance by his mother (Kristin Scott Thomas). …
Ryan Gosling‘s directorial debut is gearing up for a May start in Detroit with his Drive co-star Christina Hendricks playing a single mother of two in the fantasy noir. Gosling wrote the script for How To Catch …
2ND UPDATE: Focus Features has confirmed Deadline’s scoop. Release is at the bottom of the story
UPDATE: I’m told that Focus Features indeed closed a distribution deal for one of Toronto’s hottest acquisition titles, the Derek Cianfrance-directed The Place Beyond The Pines. The negotiations between the Focus …
The Place Beyond The Pines is perhaps the most eagerly awaited acquisition title of the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival. And Friday night it premiered to an enthusiastic reception from a sold-out crowd. With stars Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper and Eva Mendes lighting up the Princess of Wales theatre’s Red Carpet, there was much anticipation about this unique crime thriller from director and co-writer Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine also starring Gosling). At the 19 Mercer Street after-party, producer Jamie Patricof (Lynette Howell and Alex Orlovsky co-produced with him for Sidney Kimmel Productions) told me they have kept this film under lock and key until the TIFF showing. Because no one had seen it, a lot of distributors were in the audience eager to get a look. Patricof and helmer Cianfrance both said they are looking for a company who is most passionate about the film. Whether it gets out this year (in time for the Oscar race) or later is secondary to that. Cianfrance did add that his natural inclination is always to “have the film out tomorrow” if he could.
A snap poll of reaction after the screening indicated the film had true impact. There’s no doubt buyers will be circling this one – and snapping it up fast. Clearly the movie has a lot of marketing potential with Gosling and Cooper in the leads. Gosling said that working with Cianfrance “has changed my life and changed me as an actor”. He plays a bank robber and said he always had a fantasy about making his getaway by riding a motorcycle into a U-Haul truck which was incorporated here. Cooper might have the most difficult role. ”But I was ferocious in wanting to work with these two guys. It was one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had acting,” he said.
Warner Bros has released the initial trailer Ruben Fleischer‘s Gangster Squad. The cast for the period mob drama about the LAPD’s battle against Mickey Cohen includes Sean Penn (as Cohen), Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin, Emma Stone, Mireille Enos, Anthony Mackie, Nick Nolte, Michael Pena, Giovanni Ribisi and …
AFM: FilmNation Unveils Back To Back Terrence Malick Films ‘Lawless’ And ‘Knight Of Cups,’ With Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale And Cate Blanchett
(Los Angeles, CA) November 2, 2011 – FilmNation Entertainment is continuing their relationship with acclaimed director Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life, The Thin Red Line) and handling international sales and distribution on his next two films. LAWLESS will star Ryan Gosling (Drive, The Ides of March) and boasts a supporting cast that includes Academy Award Winners Christian Bale (The Dark Knight, The Flowers of War), Cate Blanchett (The Hobbit, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) plus Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Social Network) and Haley Bennett (Marley & Me, The Haunting of Molly Hartley).
The second film, KNIGHT OF CUPS, will star Christian Bale with a supporting cast including Cate Blanchett and Isabel Lucas (Immortals, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen). Both films are currently in pre-production and will shoot back-to-back in 2012. Sarah Green (Untitled Terrence Malick Project, The Tree of Life, The New World, Take Shelter, Mud) and Nicolas Gonda (Untitled Terrence Malick Project, The Tree of Life, The New World) will serve as the producers on both films with FilmNation Entertainment handling international sales during this week’s AFM.
SUNDAY AM, 4TH UPDATE: Younger males used to be Hollywood’s target audience. But as I’ve been pointing out recently, they’re just not consistently (and indiscriminately) going to the movies anymore. The reason is either financial or too many other entertainment choices. That was the gist of internal conversations inside studios all summer when uncompelling fare fell short with young guys who stayed away from the malls. But would this troubling pattern continue into fall? It’s fuzzy so far. DreamWorks/Disney’s Real Steel required a mammoth marketing push to pump up mediocre tracking so it could dominate the North American box office all weekend. Grosses went up +25% from Friday to Saturday for a $27.3M opening weekend and an ‘A’ CinemaScore. Problem is Hollywood would have impressed if the result was $35M because of its family overlay and $110+M budget. By contrast, George Clooney’s newcomer The Ides Of March had only a $12.5M production budget after rebates. But this R-rated adult political thriller co-starring Ryan Gosling was hard to sell even for Sony Pictures. The pic eked out $10.4M, less than the modest weekend which Hollywood expected after it was a hit at both the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals. Though well-reviewed, audiences gave it just a ‘B’ CinemaScore though those under age 25 bestowed a ‘B+’. The rest of the box office held well for an overall weak weekend.
Here are the Top 10 movies:
1. Real Steel (DreamWorks/Disney) NEW [3,440 Theaters]
Friday $8.5M, Saturday $10.8M, Weekend $27.3M, International $22.1M
This Shaun Levy-directed bot battle starring Hugh Jackman received a rare ‘A’ CinemaScore overall and ‘A+’ from moviegoers under age 25. But its awareness and wannasee going into this weekend concerned DreamWorks because, if anything of late, tracking has been overperforming box office, not the other way around. This was considered a crucial weekend financially for the rebooted studio. Sources told me as recently as Friday that Real Steel needed to make $125+M all in domestically to keep India’s Reliance funding on track (even though CEO Stacey Snider claimed the partnership is solid). But even though it placed #1, the $27.3M weekend opening (with $3.2 million from IMAX) is soft for the PG-13 father-son drama if it hopes to recoup its $110+M costs. Disney believes Sunday and Monday business could push the cume higher because of the Columbus Day holiday when one-third of kids are out of school. Which is why the pic was sold as feel-good family fare (Levy directed Night At The Museum et al) simultaneously with the Rocky With Robots rock’em-sock’em. Hugh Jackman stars as the relatable “everyman” — that is, if everyone had a hardbody and Sugar Ray Leonard as a boxing trainer — with Dakota Goyo plucked from thousands of 10-year-old boys who auditioned to play son Max.
The pic is based on the 1956 short story “Steel” by Richard Matheson, who seven years later adapted it for a 1963 episode of The Twilight Zone starring Lee Marvin in a futuristic world of android combatants. John Gatins received screenplay credit with Dan Gilroy and Jeremy Leven getting story credit, and Don Murphy, Susan Montford, and Shawn Levy producer credit. Marketing was predictably omnipresent and expensive, including cast personal appearances at Comic-Con, CinemaCon, Super Bowl XLV, NBA finals and NFL fall games. Demonstrating the airline will do anything for a few bucks, Virgin America permanently branded its new Airbus A320 “Real Steel” and wrapped the plane with image from film. Extensive integration took place on ESPN including homepage takeover across all platforms the day before the film’s release. ESPN Deportes, Boxeo Telemundo sponsorship, Univision tie-in to Futbol Liga Mexicana, Solo Boxeo, and more were aimed at Hispanic audiences. Overseas, the pic made $22.1M as it rolled out to 25% of the international market this weekend including Jackman’s native Australia following a global press junket in Los Angeles, and international press tours in France, Russia, Germany, UK, Latin America, plus Toronto and Down Under.
2. The Ides Of March (Sony) NEW [2,199 Theaters]
Friday $3.4M, Saturday $4.2M, Weekend $10.4M
Let’s be honest: George Clooney can’t marquee a major movie anymore unless it’s an ensemble. But even though he’s only modest box office, Hollywood still wants to be in business with him and his classy low-budget films that get attention at awards time. So $11M-$13M grossing pics (his average without frequent co-star Brad Pitt) are acceptable as long as the production budgets stay in that range as well. Like The Ides Of March did. Sony Pictures acquired rights to distribute while the project was still in development. It’s based on the play Farragut North by Beau Willimon, a writer who’d worked on Howard Dean’s presidential campaign. It’s the first film with Sony since Clooney and his Smokehouse Pictures partner Grant Heslov moved from Warner Bros to Sony in 2009. The Ides Of March was fully financed by Cross Creek Pictures so Brian Oliver shares producer credit. Millimon’s first Farragut North draft came in so clean that Clooney and Heslov committed immediately. They re-wrote the script with Willimon and renamed it The Ides Of March, perhaps a too-obvious reference to all that Shakespearean plotting in Julius Caesar. Film had a 23% uptick from Friday to Saturday. Ultimately, Sony hopes the pic can do a 5X multiple because of word of mouth and the standout cast’s Oscar chances including Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei, and Evan Rachel Wood.
The film’s first trailer went up with Crazy, Stupid, Love in July. But the real buzz launched at the Venice Film Festival at the end of August, and built to the Red Carpet gala at Toronto. Nevertheless, marketing a political film from the liberal Clooney — especially when he’s director, producer, and writer — is a tough task in this deeply divided 2012 election climate. (Supposedly the script would have made it to the big screen sooner but it was deemed too cynical to release when President Obama first took office. Not so now…) Interesting how Ryan Gosling is featured more prominently on the one-sheet than Clooney even though George appeared on Time magazine’s cover in real life. This also explains why, in the TV ad, Sony took great care to barely show Clooney or even hint at the specific ideology behind The Ides Of March. (Like, duh.) The media campaign targeted adults of both sexes and its highlights included the Emmy Awards, new season primetime premieres, NFL fall games, and the MLB divisional playoffs. Trailers were aired during CNN’s Piers Morgan talk show as well.
There are many box office deaths that are deserved. But few and far between are the box office deaths that get grieved. Welcome to the wake for Drive. This well-reviewed favorite at the Cannes and Toronto film festivals, with 92% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, was a cut above other movies so this is more of a post-mortem than an autopsy report. As FilmDistrict’s president of theatrical distribution Bob Berney emailed me the weekend of its opening, ”Don’t know if you’ve seen Drive or not. But it’s extreme in many ways: ultra-violent, very different pacing. As Albert Brooks (sleazy crime lord and ex-movie producer in the film) says about his character’s films, ’some critics call them European’. This film is not a typical formulaic wide release. Yes, the CinemaScore is ‘C-’ but I just think that their methodology is designed for the average, wide release film. They never anticipated asking people about a Nic Refn movie! I don’t buy it and hope they are very wrong.”
Though defined as an American genre movie, I felt the pre-release marketing with its superficial one-sheet and film trailer and TV ad failed by never distinguishing Drive as anything more special than just another Fast And Furious ripoff. Based on the book by James Sallis, with a screenplay by Hossein Amini, Drive was FilmDistrict’s widest release to date — 2,886 locations. It arrived by way of a pre-buy for U.S. from script stage. Ryan Gosling hand-picked Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn (Bronson with Tom Hardy, The Pusher Trilogy). Refn, who went on to win Best Director at Cannes for Drive, has told the story of his “blind date” with Ryan when he first came to Los Angeles: Nic had the flu and was on some type of American medication and was completely out of it at the meeting. After awkwardly looking down and not saying anything, he finally asked Ryan to drive him home. (Nic doesn’t drive.) On the way, with REO Speedwagon playing, he began crying but was living the concept of the movie; a guy driving at night listening to pop music. Ryan said he was in. Through the process they became pals and planning more films together. (Then again actors respond to Refn. It’s rumored that, instead of “action”, he yells “Let’s fuck!” when starting a scene.) In Toronto, Nic, Ryan, Bryan Cranston, and scene-stealing Albert Brooks all wore dark suits and looked like they had just stepped off the set of Reservoir Dogs.
Despite all the Internet/fest hype, Drive‘s weekend box office was surprisingly low-key. FilmDistrict had projected Drive would open #2 with a $12M-$14M weekend. While many R-rated action and horror films normally drop on Saturday over the first weekend, it had a healthy 11% jump, signaling good word-of-mouth for Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks, Ron Perlman, and Albert Brooks who could get supporting actor nominations for playing against type. But it eked out only an $11M weekend for #3. Younger males used to flock to such an original, violent, and stylized R-rated film that breaks a lot of rules. They didn’t. But now young guys who used to be Hollywood’s target audience are just not consistently (and indiscriminately) going to the movies anymore. The reason is either financial or too many other entertainment choices. That was the gist of internal conversations inside studios all summer when uncompelling fare like Conan The Barbarian, Fright Night, Cowboys & Aliens, and Green Lantern fell short with young guys. ”It didn’t dawn on us they weren’t coming to the malls,” one perplexed exec told me. “Instead, adults did.”
Was the 2011 Toronto Film Festival a good one for dealmaking? Even after organizers announced a 20% uptick in film deals last Friday (the festival includes foreign territories in its count), the sales kept coming. A long-expected deal with Lionsgate on the Jennifer Westfeldt-directed comedy Friends With Kids finally got done (in partnership with Roadside Attractions, which will actually release the film), and Music Box announced overnight it had acquired the Rachel Weisz-starrer The Deep Blue Sea. Lionsgate was hotly pursuing another film, the Midnight Madness sensation You’re Next, which of all the festival films seems to have the best chance of approaching the box office turned in by Toronto 2010’s breakout Insidious. There have been about 20 acquisitions so far and that many more could come in the next few weeks.
Still, can you call the Toronto acquisitions marketplace “solid” when no films have been bought so far by The Weinstein Company, Sony Pictures Classics, Focus Features, or Fox Searchlight (yeah, I revealed that they bought Shame during Toronto, but it was a deal all but sealed in Venice), or for that matter FilmDistrict, Open Road or Relativity Media, each of which jumped into the distribution business to release films that can play on upwards of 2000 screens? Buyers and sellers said it was a pretty good festival at least. One filled with mostly small deals and a show of distributor discipline that is a positive sign for an indie film sector that just started pulling out of a nosedive this time last year.
Toronto: As Magnolia Turns 10, Owner Todd Wagner Says It’s Not For Sale And That VOD Strategy Is Thriving
EXCLUSIVE: Along with everything else about the 2001 Toronto Film Festival, the launch of Magnolia Pictures was quickly forgotten on September 11, as co-founder Eamonn Bowles and other indie film execs scrambled to find ways to get home. Magnolia marked its 10th anniversary at 2011 Toronto. While the company still doesn’t carry the profile of some other indie distributors, Bowles and co-owner Todd Wagner said their model — mixing traditional indie theatrical distribution with emerging digital technology — has made them distinctive and profitable. VOD revenues now often outpace theatrical for Magnolia films, and they return profit to filmmakers because of low P&A spends. Bowles and Wagner have been honing the VOD model since they were branded charlatans by theater chains in 2005 when Steven Soderbergh’s micro-budget film Bubble was released simultaneously on movie screens, VOD and DVD. Wagner and partner Mark Cuban put Magnolia and other film assets under the 2929 Entertainment banner on the selling block earlier this year, but pulled them back when they didn’t get a high price. Wagner said he’s staying.
Magnolia releases 35-40 films each year now, with upcoming releases that include the 2011 Toronto title Melancholia (which got Lars von Trier banned by Cannes for making dumb pro-Nazi comments). Some Magnolia efforts follow a theatrical release cycle, others go direct to DVD. But VOD has increasingly become the distributor’s calling card and Wagner said proof of its viability came when Harvey Weinstein poached Magnolia execs Tom Quinn and Jason Janego to start a VOD venture for The Weinstein Company.
“Harvey’s been in the industry forever, and he thought it was a good enough model to hire some of our folks away,” Wagner told me. “I’m flattered. There are other people doing this now, from IFC to John Sloss. To me, it’s validation that we’ve hit on something. But we’ve got an advantage, a unique collection of assets in the Landmark Theater chain, a home video division, and HDNet. The big theater chains still absolutely won’t play Ultra VOD titles, so having a theater chain is helpful. As is having the television network for the relationships it has made us with all the MSO’s. These synergies allow us to be freewheeling in how we license content. And producers are coming back to us with films because we are cutting them checks. That rarely happens elsewhere because of all the P&A that stands in front of them.”
The film industry poured into town for the Toronto Film Festival’s Gala Opening Thursday night kickoff of Davis Guggenheim’s U2 movie, From the Sky Down. But the festival really got off and running earlier in the day, as least as far as Sony Pictures was concerned. The studio that could have had its first Best Picture Oscar win in more than two decades last year with The Social Network is serving notice that it is back in the race again this year with two potential Best Pic contenders. Both Brad Pitt’s Moneyball and George Clooney’s The Ides of March screened back-to-back in a theater packed with press and industry types this afternoon. This was in advance of the studio’s double gala premieres Friday night at the Roy Thomson Hall. That inevitably will provide a double dose of star power that film festival organizers can only dream of.
In the case of Moneyball, Sony is throwing its world premiere here. Bringing it to the screen was a tumultuous 8-year ride, but it was all worth it. You can definitely add Pitt to the growing list of Best Actor contenders and throw in Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jonah Hill as supporting possibilities. The film, based on Michael Lewis’ book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, is a baseball movie that even people who hate baseball might appreciate. It all started in 2003 when former New Line exec Rachael Horovitz tried to sell it to a studio but got no takers. Finally teaming with writer Stan Chervin (who gets a story credit), they threw a winning pitch, drawing fervent interest in 2004 from both Warners and Sony. They went with the latter and Amy Pascal, who I am told showed great passion for the project from day one.
Initially, baseball freak Steven Soderbergh was involved, but he had to pass because of other commitments, including another baseball-themed movie he had for George Clooney. Eventually Sony brought in producer Michael De Luca to join Horovitz and, five years later in 2009, Soderbergh was back to direct. But in a well-detailed case of creative differences the Oscar-winning director was jettisoned from the film just 72 hours before production was to begin when the studio changed its mind about his changes to Steven Zaillian’s adaptation. His primary addition included Reds-like testimonials from real-life players. Pitt, knowing a good thing when he saw it, stayed on board throughout. The project really got back on track with executive producer Scott Rudin coming aboard along with screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, who did a polish on Zaillian’s script (both get credit now), and the hiring of Bennett Miller (Capote) to replace Soderbergh.
It’s easy to see why Pitt would want to stick with this role even after his friend and Ocean’s 11 director Soderbergh left (he moved on to direct Contagion, which hits theaters today). This is a classic movie star role in the tradition of something that Robert Redford or Paul Newman would have done in their prime. He has never been better, and the movie is the best sports film since Bull Durham, a real triumph considering the long and winding road it took to get to the screen.