The longest-running theatrical release of 2013 and will more than triple its screen count Friday — two weeks before Oscar nom balloting begins. Twenty Feet From Stardom, which puts a spotlight on backup singers for some of …
Radius-TWC, the specialty division of The Weinstein Company devoted to multi-platform strategies, has only been in business now a couple of years. But it is clearly setting out to make its mark in the Oscar race in a big way this year with four documentaries, all with a strong chance of making the Academy’s short list if industry buzz is any factor at all. Cutie And The Boxer, Inequality For All, Twenty Feet From Stardom and The Unknown Known are the titles Radius co-presidents Tom Quinn and Jason Janego highlighted when we met for coffee to discuss their awards strategy.
Oddly, though the company is known for day-and date VOD and theatrical releases — like the recent Ryan Gosling film Only God Forgives, Keanu Reeves’ directorial debut Man Of Tai Chi and Lovelace to name a few — all four of its docu contenders are traveling the more traditional route by hitting theatres before rolling out to other platforms. The pair have a definite strategy, not only for financial success but also hopefully at the Oscars. “We have I think approached this in a pretty transparent way. And we have put together our blueprint for what we think puts us into the race for each film — and the good news is they are all different”, Quinn said. “I feel like they each fit a very different mold in what could be a possible doc nominee. None of these have been released day and date.” He added that they don’t currently believe there is an audience for these movies on VOD, but there will be one day. “In order to build bigger value for these films in ancillary platforms we need to build them theatrically first,” he said.
And they look at all of these contenders as movies first. They pointed out that their first “traditional release” — the highly successful Twenty Feet From Stardom, the Morgan Neville-directed music docu about background singers — has grossed nearly $5 million (the year’s best for a docu) after successfully taking on non-docus in the specialty realm during its summer release including Frances Ha and Much Ado About Nothing. It’s also brought renewed heat in the music business to the careers of the veteran singers it chronicles. Music- and showbiz-centric documentaries have a tougher time with the Academy committee, which seems to gravitate toward heavier subject matter, but Quinn and Janego are hopeful about Twenty Feet, which I think transcends the genre in the same way as last year’s docu feature winner Searching For Sugar Man.
After landing a domestic deal from Radius-TWC on Friday, Twenty Feet From Stardom has been acquired for foreign rights by Elle Driver/Wild Bunch at the Sundance Film Festival. Here’s the announcement.
Park City, UTAH January 20, 2012 – Gil Friesen Productions and director Morgan Neville/Tremelo Productions announced today that they have sold all foreign rights to TWENTY FEET FROM STARDOM to Elle Driver/Wild Bunch. Produced by legendary record executive, Gil Friesen, whose dream was to tell this story about the unheralded back up singers, TWENTY FEET FROM STARDOM is directed by Grammy nominated Morgan Neville.
Park City, UTAH January 18th, 2012 – RADiUS-TWC is proud to announce that it has acquired North American rights to the Sundance hit TWENTY FEET FROM STARDOM that celebrated its world premiere with an overwhelming standing ovation at last night’s Eccles screening. Produced by the beloved late A&M Records executive Gil Friesen whose dream was to tell this story about the unheralded back up singers to the world’s greatest industry legends, TWENTY FEET FROM STARDOM was directed by Grammy nominated Morgan Neville.
The film is a celebration of the voices from the edge, which brought shape and style to the soundtracks of our lives. Neville follows half a dozen diverse and gifted back up singers from throughout music history, each of whom has a story to tell of life in the shadows of superstardom (Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder, Sting, Joe Cocker, Bette Midler to name just a few). These talented artists represent a range of styles that come from all eras of popular music, but each singer belongs to the first family of American voice. Now is their turn for the spotlight.
RADiUS will release the film theatrically with a target date of late summer 2013.