BREAKING: Open Road is closing a deal for U.S. distribution rights to End Of Watch, the David Ayer-directed cop drama that stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Pena and Anna Kendrick. I’m told that Open Road will release the film later this year. They’ve committed to a 2,000-screen run, with a minimum guarantee just north of $2 million and a $20 million P&A commitment.
It is not quite as sizable commitment as Open Road made when it acquired The Grey for $8 million with a $25 million P&A commitment, but it is substantial, and evidence that when Tom Ortenberg sees a film he can market, he goes after it hard. The Grey has so far grossed $50 million domestic.
Ayer, who wrote Training Day and wrote and directed the cop dramas Harsh Times and Street Kings, began this film as a “found footage” type drama about two LAPD partners and best friends. The story was to be told from the vantage point of surveillance cameras and the camera mounted on the front of every patrol car. That evolved into more of a traditional narrative, but a lot of the vantage point still comes from cameras that give the film a first person feel.
“David has a unique voice as a filmmaker, he writes with authenticity and portrays real characters from the streets where he grew up,” said John Lesher, who produced through his Le Grisbi banner. “He moves you, but the film is very accessible and with these small cameras fabricated and fitted on characters and other places, it creates a 360-degree environment, like it was shot by the cops themselves and has changed the grammar of filmmaking somewhat. Jake and Mike trained five months to be police officers and it shows.”
Lesher said they decided to re-create a festival environment by showing the film in a recruited screening, which happened last night at the Arclight. They had several distribution options but were wowed by Open Road’s aggressiveness and distribution plans. “We wanted distributors to see it with an audience and it was standing-room only,” he said. “The film is gripping but there is also a lot of humor. It is better than a screening in an empty room with four executives; I’ve been through those. It’s a different experience watching with real moviegoers and buyers responded.”
Ayer produced with Lesher through his Crave Films banner, along with Exclusive Media’s Nigel Sinclair and Matt Jackson. The film was financed by Emmett/Furla Films and Exclusive Media. Gyllenhaal is exec producer along with Guy East, Tobin Armbrust, Randall Emmett, Adam Kassan, Chrisann Verges, Stepan Martirosyan and Remington Chase. CAA brokered the deal and arranged financing on the film.