mattjohnson_EXCLUSIVE: Lionsgate has taken U.S. and Canadian rights to thriller Operation Avalanche, the next film from Slamdance-anointed The Dirties filmmaker Matt Johnson. Plot is being kept under wraps but film investigates the truth behind the CIA’s involvement in the space race. Multi-hyphenate Johnson wrote, directed, and starred in the The Dirties which won the 2013 Slamdance Grand Jury Prize and in October was tapped to script the Encyclopedia Brown flick for WB. For Operation Avalanche he’s reteaming with Dirties co-writer Josh Boles, co-star Owen Williams, and producer Matthew Miller, with Lee Kim also aboard as producer. “The CIA, the 1960′s and the space program have always been obsessions of mine. Working with partners like Lionsgate, who understand the scope and vision of what we are creating, has been a pleasure. This movie is going to leave audiences with a powerful and imaginative interpretation of what may or may not have happened within the walls of the US’s top government agencies,” said Johnson. XYZ Films’ Nick Spicer is exec producer on the project. Lionsgate’s Michael Paseornek, John Sacchi, and Jessica Switch are overseeing for the studio, with production slated to start June 30 in Toronto, Houston, and Washington D.C. XYZ Films is repping international sales. The company’s Nate Bolotin negotiated the deal with Akin Gump’s Chris Spicer and WME. Johnson is repped by Management 360, WME and Akin Gump.