Sony Pictures Classics acquired North American rights to Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive, the vampire pic that premieres tomorrow at Cannes in the In Competition section. The film was produced by Jeremy Thomas of Recorded Picture Company and Reinhard Brundig of Pandora Film. Christos Konstantakopoulos of Fairilo House served as executive producer. Starring Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska, John Hurt, Anton Yelchin and Jeffrey Wright, Only Lovers Left Alive takes place against the romantic desolation of Detroit and Tangier and follows an underground musician, deeply depressed by the direction of human activities, who reunites with his resilient and enigmatic lover. Their love story has already endured several centuries at least, but their debauched idyll is soon disrupted by her wild and uncontrollable younger sister. “It would take a stake through the heart to keep Barker, Bernard and Leiner away from a good movie,” stated Producer JeremyThomas. Thorsten Schumacher and Jan Spielhoff for HanWay Films and ICM negotiated the deal.
The third installment in the Richard Linklater-Julie Delpy-Ethan Hawke trilogy generated serious heat at Sundance this year. Seven buyers circled Before Midnight after its well-received premiere there until Sony Pictures Classics won out by sealing of the biggest deals of the festival. This one follows Jesse and …
BREAKING: Sony Pictures Classics has acquired North American, Latin American and Eastern European rights to an untitled film by Mike Leigh that will focus on JMW Turner, considered England’s greatest artist. Leigh has set his Secrets & Lies star Timothy Spall to star, with Georgina Lowe producing and Gail Egan exec producing. The film will begin production in spring 2013 for a 2014 release. Production partners on the film include Film4, British Film Institute (BFI), Focus Features International, LipSync and Xofa Productions. The National Gallery, Tate Britain and the Royal Academy have granted special access to some of Turner’s original works.
When it comes to Oscar savvy we often hear Harvey Weinstein talked about as the kingpin of the game, but when you look at the success of Sony Pictures Classics you realize it rivals Weinstein, Searchlight, Focus and other comers in consistently, and annually, releasing and nurturing one contender after another in the quest for the elusive statuette of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Since the company was founded in December 1991, key to its success has been its co-Presidents Michael Barker and Tom Bernard who first worked together in similar specialty divisions at United Artists and Orion and now continue to run one of the most stable indie shops in the industry. But with a total of 25 Oscar wins and 109 nominations just at SPC they clearly have the Midas touch, and that includes a slew of Best Picture nominations for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (their biggest hit to date), Howard’s End, Capote, An Education, Midnight In Paris and this year’s Amour which won the Palme d’Or in Cannes and has amassed five Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best Foreign Language Film, only the fifth film in Academy history to be named in both categories. With writing and directing nods for Michael Haneke as well as a realistic Best Actress bid for star Emmanuelle Riva the film looks to be another strong contender for the pair who continue to be one of the few high profile companies that still champions foreign language films. SPC serves up a wide variety of specialty fare of all types and always seems to find a footing in the Oscar race which has become an important part of their business plan. With two contenders for Best Documentary and two for Best Foreign Language Film in addition to the Best Picture bid, the pair are fixtures at every major film festival and are once again making lots of noise in their high season. I spoke to both late last week about the upcoming Oscars and what it means to their bottom line.
Deadline: How important is this Oscar business to the actual business of Sony Pictures Classics?
Bernard: It’s part of the business for Sony Pictures Classics because we can get movies, or have movies, that won’t get the recognition that they deserve any other way. And if they get that recognition what we have found is that the boxoffice and ancillary and profits of these movies get much better. We can go all the way back to Camille Claudel when we had Isabelle Adjani and somebody close to her suggested that you should run a campaign for her for Best Actress and we said ‘it will never happen, no one will watch the movie. We can’t get them to the theatre. And the person said ‘well why don’t you send out VHS cassettes to the Academy’ so we did and sent them to the actors branch and lo and behold we got a nomination. And it took that movie to a level it would have never gotten if it didn’t happen.
NEW YORK (January 30, 2013) – Sony Pictures Classics announced today that they have acquired all North American rights to Charlie Paul’s directorial debut, FOR NO GOOD REASON from Itch Film. Foreign sales are being handled by Independent Film Sales. Charlie Paul, who has been a director in advertising for years and is a former artist himself, spent 10 years making FOR NO GOOD REASON. Produced by Itch Film’s co-founder Lucy Paul, the intimate documentary portrait focuses on Ralph Steadman and features Johnny Depp observing Steadman’s fascinating working process at his home studio.
BREAKING: This hardly qualifies as a cliffhanger, but Sony Pictures Classics has formalized a deal for North American rights to Blue Jasmine, the next film written and directed by Woody Allen. SPC partners Michael Barker and Tom Bernard make this their sixth picture and fourth in a row with The Woodman. That includes From Rome With Love and Midnight In Paris, the latest in Allen’s picture postcard tour of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Blue Jasmine, for which Allen returned to his old Gotham haunt to shoot, stars Alec Baldwin, Cate Blanchett, Bobby Cannavale, Louis C.K., Andrew Dice Clay, Sally Hawkins, Peter Sarsgaard and Michael Stuhlbarg. It is the story of the final stages of an acute crisis and a life of a fashionable New York housewife. The film is produced by Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum and Edward Walson, and the deal was made by Gravier Productions.
UPDATE, 1:45 PM: One day after the rightsholder to the work of William Faulkner filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Sony Pictures Classics over a quote used in Woody Allen’s 2011 film Midnight In Paris, the studio responded:
“This is a frivolous lawsuit and we are confident we will prevail in defending it. There is no question this brief reference (10 words) to a quote from a public speech Faulkner gave constitutes fair use and any claim to the contrary is without merit.” – Ann Boyd, SVP Global Communications Sony Pictures Entertainment.
PREVIOUSLY, OCT. 25, 4:22 PM: The rights holders to William Faulkner’s work say Sony Pictures Classics had no right to use a quote from the author’s Requiem For A Nun in Woody Allen’s2011 film Midnight In Paris. Faulkner Literary Rights filed suit (read it here) today against the studio in U.S. District Court in Mississippi for copyright infringement, commercial appropriation and violation of the Lanham Act. “Sony’s actions in distributing the Infringing Film were malicious, fraudulent, deliberate and/or willful,” says the six-page complaint. “Sony did not have Faulkner’s consent to appropriate William Faulkner’s name or his works for Sony’s advantage,” it adds. In Midnight In Paris, Gil Pender, the disillusioned Hollywood screenwriter played by Owen Wilson, says, “the past is not dead. Actually, it’s not even past. You know who said that? Faulkner. And he was right. And I met him, too. I ran into him at a dinner party.” The rightsholder say the slightly paraphrased quote could “deceive the infringing film’s viewers as to a perceived affiliation, connection or association between William Faulkner and his works, on the one hand, and Sony, on the other hand.”
The Sony Pictures Classics documentary Searching For Sugar Man got a spectacular shot in the arm with a full 60 Minutes segment on the film’s subject, the rediscovered singer Rodriguez. If you didn’t get to watch the segment last night, it’s worth a look because Rodriguez’s story has to be …
NEW YORK (September 16, 2012) – Sony Pictures Classics announced today that they have acquired U.S. rights to THE PATIENCE STONE. The film, adapted from the award-winning novel of the same name (winner of the 2008 Prix Goncourt), is directed by Atiq Rahimi (EARTH AND ASHES). The film recently showed at the Toronto International Film Festival and will be released in 2013.
THE PATIENCE STONE is Rahimi’s second fiction feature. The film features a tour de force performance by Golshifteh Farahani who starred in Asghar Farhadi’s ABOUT ELLY, Marjane Satrapi’s CHICKEN WITH PLUMS and BODY OF LIES.
NEW YORK (September 15, 2012) – Sony Pictures Classics announced today that they have acquired all North American rights to WADJDA from Berlin-based Razor Films. Written and Directed by Haifaa Al-Mansour, WADJDA is the first feature film shot entirely in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia–and the first ever by
With 5 new movies screening just on Saturday alone with many of their stars and filmmakers in tow, co-presidents Michael Barker and Tom Bernard of Sony Pictures Classics are dominating much of the conversation and eyeballs at the 39th Telluride Film Festival. Playing today were SPC’s Cannes sensations Rust & Bone accompanied by star Marion Cotillard, and Palme d’Or winner Amour, whose filmmakers aren’t here. Plus 2013 planned releases No (winner of the Director’s Fortnight in Cannes) and its star Gael Garcia Bernal, and the father/son drama At Any Price whose Dennis Quaid and writer/director Ramin Bahrani are here without Zac Efron. Plus, the remarkable Israeli documentary The Gatekeepers. Barker and Bernard have been coming to Telluride for decades and strongly believe in the value of the festival. “I think anywhere from three to five movies is a good number” to bring here, he told me. And when they aren’t showing their own product, they have been seen at screenings checking out acquisition titles. They also held SPC’s annual filmmakers dinner Saturday night at La Marmotte restaurant.
But other top indie divisions of the majors are virtually sitting out this year’s fest. Telluride regular Fox Searchlight doesn’t have a single film on display here this year, though not for lack of trying. Searchlight has launched movies like Slumdog Millionaire, Juno and last year’s The Descendants among many others at Telluride – and this time wanted to bring their big awards hopeful, The Sessions starring John Hawkes and Helen Hunt. But Telluride generally frowns on movies that first debuted at Sundance. So the only Searchlight presence are reps checking out films for sale.
The Weinstein Company normally shows off their top titles, but only brought the undated musical The Sapphires (first seen at Cannes in May). It’s playing well at screenings here. No The Master. No Silver Linings Playbook. Both those movies will be in Toronto. However Weinstein in years past launched Best Picture winners The King’s Speech and The Artist at Telluride.
True, Universal’s arthouse division Focus Features this year is front and center with Hyde Park On Hudson. Its star Bill Murray hit town today and co-star Laura Linney lives here and is attending the fest. But Focus is saving another awards title, Anna Karenina, for a Toronto debut. Paramount, which has been here in the past, skipped Telluride and will miss Toronto in favor of debuting their awards players Flight and Not Fade Away at the New York Film Festival.