EXCLUSIVE: Out in front of its January 28 Sundance Film Festival premiere, Don Verdean has been acquired for North America by Lionsgate in the first significant deal of the festival, unless you count the sight-unseen prebuy that Fox Searchlight made of the Noah Baumbach film Mistress America. The film is directed by Jared Hess from a script he wrote with Jerusha Hess. It’s a return to Park City for the duo, whose 2004 film Napoleon Dynamite was one of those hits that shaped Sundance as a launch pad for prestige films that can do breakout business. The $400,000-budget Napoleon Dynamite turned in a domestic gross north of $44 million for Fox Searchlight.
Don Verdean stars Sam Rockwell, Jemaine Clement, Amy Ryan, Danny McBride, Leslie Bibb and Will Forte. Hired by an ambitious small-town pastor to find sacred relics in the Holy Land, a self-proclaimed biblical archaeologist comes up short, and his attempt to cover up his failure fuels a comic conspiracy. The film was brought to the studio by Barry Brooker and Stan Wertlieb of Grindstone Entertainment. It is produced by Brandt Andersen, Jared Hess and Dave Hunter of Buffalo Film Company.
Jason Constantine, Eda Kowan, Jean Chi, Brooker and Wertlieb negotiated the deal for Lionsgate, and Brandt Andersen on behalf of Buffalo Film Company. UTA is handling international sales.