3RD EXCLUSIVE UPDATE: The latest development in one of the most spirited festival auctions I have observed in years: I’m hearing that Paramount Pictures has emerged as frontrunner to acquire Top Five, the Chris Rock-directed film that sparked a wild bidding frenzy. The last number I had heard was $12.5 million in a deal that would bring world rights. I’m also told this isn’t done, but it might well conclude one of the largest deals for a film at this festival. The studio saw the film today, and Brad Grey has a longstanding relationship with Rock that goes back 30 years. There is also a long relationship with Scott Rudin, who with Barry Diller backed the film. Nobody was commenting at this late hour, and this might not take a final shape until tomorrow morning.
It has been a whirlwind 24 hours since the film made its premiere in an atmosphere that more closely resembled a rock concert than a movie debut. The feeling from those who saw it is that Rock has turned a major corner as a storyteller and star, and this film positions the iconic stand-up comic to become a major film making voice in the tradition of Albert Brooks and Woody Allen. As I reported a few hours ago, Paramount was among a group of bidders that included Sony, Fox Searchlight, Open Road, A24, Relativity and Lionsgate. More as it comes.
If the deal closes, it would mark the second time this year that Paramount was opportunistic at a festival. At Cannes, the studio pre-bought North American and China rights to the Denis Villeneuve-directed Amy Adams sci-fi film Story Of Your Life. That was an equally spirited auction that had five studios battling. Paramount broke the record for a deal in the Cannes film market. Stay tuned.
2ND UPDATE: I’m told the bidding has exceeded $10 million. Incredible.
1ST UPDATE: Bidding is at $8 million now, and climbing. That’s heady territory for a Toronto film. Last year’s big deal was $7 million for Can A Song Save Your Life. Stay tuned.
EARLIER EXCLUSIVE, 2:43 PM pst: The deal of the day is going to be the Chris Rock-directed Top Five. Sources said that Sony, Paramount, Fox Searchlight, Open Road, A24, Relativity and Lionsgate are all still in. There are different kinds of rights deals on the table, but I’m told that the bidding has exceeded $7 million and might well end up at 8-figures. UTA is repping the movie, and hoped to close before tonight’s premieres. But they aren’t going to call it while multiple suitors are still working on bids. Hopefully this should open the floodgates because there really are some good movies playing here. UTA’s got another hot one in While We’re Young, the Noah Baumbach-directed film that has many of those same bidders chasing, and I’ve heard that bids are in the $4 million range.
Top Five is Rock’s most commercial vehicle so far, and it has all kinds of tantalizing marketing possibilities. The cast includes Rosario Dawson, J.B.Smoove, Gabrielle Union, and comics Tracy Morgan, Cedric The Entertainer, Kevin Hart, Jerry Seinfeld, Adam Sandler, Whoopi Goldberg, Jay Pharoah. Those folks in a movie about a standup comic turned movie star is plenty to sell, but the title refers to top hip hop stars, and there is Jay-Z and Kanye West in producing capacities. Both movies, backed by Scott Rudin and Barry Diller through IAC, killed at last night’s premieres. Rock’s film resembled a rock concert, said several who attended.