UPDATE, 10:19 AM: Fox Searchlight confirms that it has closed the deal on The Way, Way Back, saying it’s for just under $10 million. Since I was up all night writing cross-eyed to break the story hours ago, I would rather not repeat myself, so here is the early-morning story again, and I’ll put the official press release below my original story break when it arrives (it’s there now).
EARLIER EXCLUSIVE, 4:09 AM: The Sundance Film Festival has emerged as one of the craziest for deal making in recent memory. After a wild all-night negotiating session following a raucous premiere screening yesterday of The Way, Way Back, Fox Searchlight has emerged as the frontrunner to acquire domestic rights and several other territories. The price tag is around $10 million minimum guarantee, with a P&A and theatrical commitment.
Searchlight was among bidding distributors that include Lionsgate, FilmDistrict, Paramount Pictures, and Warner Bros. Buyers began mobilizing right after the film’s Monday 3:30 PM first screening at Eccles Theatre, and numerous sources have been telling me all night that this has been one of the most spirited auctions in recent Sundance memory.
By the time the deal gets closed this morning, it should also be just about the richest deal ever made at the festival, as the sale of additional foreign territories will raise the value of the deal even higher. The rabid pace of deal making and the high numbers are a surprise to me, because both buyers and sellers expected the films to go in low upfront deals. Then, the buyers started discovering an exceptional crop of films programmed by Sundance.
Just yesterday, Deadline revealed that the Joseph Gordon-Levitt-directed Don Jon’s Addiction went to Relativity Media in another precedent-setting deal that brought $4 million minimum guarantee and a whopping $25 million P&A commitment. In its own way, the total value of The Way, Way Back deal will rival any made at the festival, including another Steve Carell-starrer, Little Miss Sunshine.
Directed and scripted by Oscar-winning The Descendants scribes Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, The Way, Way Back stars Carell, Sam Rockwell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, Maya Rudolph and Liam James. It’s the coming of age story of a 14-year old introvert who spends a summer forming unlikely friendships with the prickly manager and the misfit workers at a run down water park. Pic is a co-production between OddLot Entertainment and Sycamore Pictures and the film was shot in Massachusetts. Kevin Walsh produced with Sycamore’s Tom Rice and OddLot’s Gigi Pritzker is exec producer with Faxon, Rash, and Sycamore’s Ben Nearn and George Parra.
This deal is still being negotiated by WME Global and CAA and attorney Craig Emanuel, and I’ll let you know how it ends up when it closes this morning. Sierra/Affinity is selling foreign. By all accounts, The Way, Way Back is an exceptional crowd-pleasing film that will have wide appeal, but the avid buyer appetite certainly will help as films like The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman, Before Midnight, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints and others become the focus of attention from the distributors that didn’t get this film.
This caps a remarkable 24 hours of dealmaking that has included the Don Jon’s Addiction deal, a strong sale to The Weinstein Company for Fruitvale at around $2 million and theatrical commitments, and a $4.5 million deal by Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions and Sony Pictures Classics for Austenland.
There will certainly be pressure on all these films to perform, but it has been fun as hell to cover. If you’re going to stay up all night waiting to chronicle sales, it’s gratifying that they are electric when they happen.
PARK CITY, UT January 22, 2013 – Fox Searchlight Pictures Presidents Nancy Utley and Stephen Gilula announced today that the company has acquired rights to North America as well as most major territories to the heartfelt comedy THE WAY, WAY BACK. Directed and written by Academy Award® winners Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, THE WAY, WAY BACK stars Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Sam Rockwell, Allison Janney, Maya Rudolph, AnnaSophia Robb, Amanda Peet and Liam James.
The film was produced by Kevin J. Walsh of The Walsh Company and Tom Rice of Sycamore Pictures, and executive produced by Sycamore’s Ben Nearn and George Parra, OddLot Entertainment’s Gigi Pritzker, Faxon, and Rash. OddLot Entertainment and Sycamore Pictures co-financed the project.
The film is scheduled to be released in Summer, 2013.
“Nat and Jim have crafted a uproarious coming of age story and it is great to be reunited with them,” said Gilula and Utley. “The amazingly pitch perfect cast never misses a beat and was well deserving of the standing ovation the film received yesterday.”
“This is a very personal film and it’s been a long journey. We are so overwhelmed by the response it received at Sundance and are beyond delighted that it’s found a home with our family at Fox Searchlight,” said Faxon and Rash
“We are all elated that a vibrant company like Fox Searchlight shares our enthusiasm for the film and faith in Jim and Nat as writers, directors and storytellers,” said Rice and Walsh.
THE WAY, WAY BACK is the funny and poignant coming of age story of 14-year-old Duncan’s (Liam James) summer vacation with his mother, Pam (Toni Collette), her overbearing boyfriend, Trent (Steve Carell), and his daughter, Steph (Zoe Levin).
Having a rough time fitting in, the introverted Duncan finds an unexpected friend in gregarious Owen (Sam Rockwell), manager of the Water Wizz water park. Through his funny, clandestine friendship with Owen, Duncan slowly opens up to and begins to finally find his place in the world – all during a summer he will never forget.
The deal was brokered by Fox Searchlight’s Executive Vice President of Worldwide Acquisitions Tony Safford, Senior Vice President of Business Affairs Megan O’Brien and Vice President of Acquisitions & Co-Productions Ray Strache. Creative Artists Agency (CAA) and WME Global negotiated the deal with Craig Emanuel on behalf of the financiers.
Sierra / Affinity is handling international sales for the project for territories outside those acquired by Fox Searchlight Pictures.
Fox Searchlight Pictures is a specialty film company that both finances and acquires motion pictures. It has its own marketing and distribution operations, and its films are distributed internationally by Twentieth Century Fox. Fox Searchlight Pictures is a unit of Fox Filmed Entertainment, a unit of Fox Entertainment Group.