EXCLUSIVE: Open Road is in the final stages of acquiring U.S. rights to Joe Carnahan’s The Grey, and it’s shaping up to be a whopper of a deal. The numbers I’m hearing are in the $8 million minimum guarantee range, with a $25 million P&A commitment and a gross corridor built in. Deadline told you Wednesday there was heat on the finished film as CAA was showing a 30-minute reel to buyers all week. The film is about an oil-drilling team struggling to survive in the wilds of Alaska after their plane crashes smack in the middle of a territorial rogue wolf pack, with Liam Neeson, Dallas Roberts, James Badge Dale, Dermot Mulroney, Frank Grillo, Nonso Anozie and Joe Anderson starring. Scott Free’s Jules Daly produced the film with Mickey Liddell. I’d heard that Warner Bros, Open Road, Summit, Lionsgate, The Weinstein Company and FilmDistrict were all in the mix.
Nobody was confirming, and Open Road chief Tom Ortenberg didn’t return a text and a call, but the deal could be sealed by this evening. It gives Open Road a major film for its inaugural slate after being launched earlier this year by theater chains AMC and Regal. Ortenberg has been in the mix on numerous high-profile films shopped for acquisition, and Open Road also acquired The Host, the Andrew Niccol-directed adaptation of the novel by Twilight Saga’s Stephenie Meyer that will star Saoirse Ronan. The film will be released March 29, 2013, which is Easter weekend.
No word yet on when The Grey will be released, but a major part of the deal was the insistence that The Grey be released later this year on as many as 4,000 screens. I’ve heard from buyers who viewed the footage that Neeson is quite good in those scenes and could be an awards-season contender. It also makes sense that a movie set in the frozen tundra would be released in the winter. But it complicated matters for some distributors that have crowded Oscar-season schedules. Watch for the film to lock in a slot at one of the fall festivals like Toronto. Stay tuned.