WEDNESDAY AM UPDATE: As I reported late last night, Focus Features was 99% done for a deal for distribution rights to the Lisa Cholodenko-directed comedy The Kids Are All Right. Now I can tell you an announcement is expected shortly that ends a bidding war that started last night and stretched into this morning. Sources tell me that Focus paid a shade under $5 million for domestic, and some foreign rights that include UK and Germany.
Focus was all over the property from the moment the premiere ended at the Library Center Theatre, with execs James Schamus, John Lyons and Andrew Karpen milling about Cinetic Media’s Bart Walker. They presented a tight marketing plan and a big bid. Schamus and Cholodenko have a strong relationship that goes back to Laurel Canyon in his Good Machine days. Schamus is also tight with Julianne Moore, going back to the Todd Haynes-directed Far From Heaven, which Focus released.
Summit Entertainment, Fox Searchlight, Sony Pictures Classics and The Weinstein Co. were also in the chase, particularly Summit and Searchlight. More details as they come in.
TUESDAY 11:30 PM: After a sluggish start, buyers and sellers are getting down to it tonight. Focus Features is emerging as the favorite just now to acquire The Kids Are All Right, the Lisa Cholodenko-directed comedy that came out of its Monday evening premiere looking like the festival film with the greatest breakout potential. The rousing Library Center Theatre debut screening of the laffer — which stars Julianne Moore, Annette Bening and Mark Ruffalo — attracted all the major distribution execs who buzzed around Bart Walker from Cinetic, which is brokering the film. At the moment, Focus is into it aggressively along with Summit Entertainment and Fox Searchlight, with Sony Pictures Classics and The Weinstein Co also players in bidding. Chatter is that the film could have gotten close to $10 million for worldwide rights, but Inferno will be selling foreign. Cinetic is looking for $5 million, and I can confirm that bidding crept past $4 million late tonight for domestic and some foreign territories.
A different kind of auction is going on for The Tillman Story this evening when Dannie Tillman, the mother of Pat Tillman, arrived at Sundance to speak before a packed screening at Eccles Theater about the family’s dogged efforts of Tillman’s parents to discover the truth about the death of their son, who famously left his post as star Arizona Cardinals defensive back to join the Army rangers after 9/11 and then died in friendly fire. The family uncovered a U.S. military and Bush administration cover-up that led to a House Oversight Committee hearing in which top military brass and Donald Rumsfeld were compelled to testify. I’ve learned that several suitors including The Weinstein Co and Magnolia are vying for theatrical rights to to the heartbreaking Amir Bar-Lev-directed documentary. I’m confident this A&E-financed pic could have a deal by Wednesday, and several buyers met today to lay out their marketing and release plans.
I’ve also learned that buyers are buzzing about the man-on-woman violence in The Killer Inside Me, with audience members cat-calling director Michael Winterbottom. But not for the right reasons. Whereas films from the docu Catfish to The Extra Man and happythankyoumoreplease, Hesher, Blue Valentine, Winter’s Bone, The Company Men, and others were fun to watch, execs are carefully evaluating the financials of each film, and would rather pass than overpay. “Nobody ever lost money on a movie they didn’t buy,” one buyer told me, reflecting the mood of conservatism.