UPDATE, 9:40 AM: Bleecker Street has confirmed the deal. See the release below original story.
PREVIOUS, 7:03 AM: In a hopeful sign that the acquisition-deal logjam will break after a slow first weekend, Bleecker Street is near a deal to acquire the Gavin Hood-directed Eye In The Sky for north of $2 million. Three bidders battled for it — Bleecker Street, Fox Searchlight and Roadside Attractions — and the plan is for a strong theatrical release in 2016.
The film stars Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman, Aaron Paul and Barkhad Abdi, who was Oscar nominated in his screen debut as a Somali pirate in Captain Phillips. Guy Hibberd scripted the drama, about the decision-making and buck-passing that go into a possible drone strike against a radicalized British woman meeting with terrorists in Nairobi to plan suicide bombings. Among the complications that ensue are indecision, and the sighting of a child in the kill zone. The film received strong reviews after its premiere Friday evening at Roy Thomson Hall.
Entertainment One backed the UK production with Raindog Films. The film is produced by Ged Doherty, Colin Firth, David Lancaster, and the exec producers are Xavier Marchand, Benedict Carver, Anne Sheehan, Claudia Bluemhuber, Guy Hibbert and Stephen Wright. WME Global brokered the deal, the first real acquisition on the ground of a Toronto film.
The glacial pace of deals here at Toronto should quicken today. Buyers see the Jason Bateman-directed The Family Fang, and then they will know everything about films here and which ones they should add to their slates. Several films have action, including the docs Where To Invade Next by Michael Moore, and Amazing Grace, the Sydney Pollack-directed film about a 1972 church concert by Aretha Franklin. Despite continued legal tussling, there are bids north of $2 million on that film, which was bounced from an official screening here by judge’s order, but screened anyway, privately. There is sales buzz on many of the narrative films but they’ve been slow to consummate.
Sellers, and buyers for that matter, completely expected deals to follow a slower track than in recent years, partly because the titles that tend to spark bidding battles and fast deals were pre-bought at fests like Cannes, and came in with distribution.
NEW YORK, NY – September 14, 2015 – Bleecker Street announced it has acquired U.S. rights to Gavin Hood’s drone thriller, EYE IN THE SKY from Entertainment One (eOne). The film had its World Premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival to a standing ovation and rave reviews.
The film stars Helen Mirren as Colonel Katherine Powell, a UK-based military officer, who is remotely commanding a top secret drone operation to capture terrorists in Kenya. The missions quickly escalates when news of a deadly suicide mission spreads and American pilot Steve Watts (Aaron Paul) is conflicted when a nine-year old girl walks into the kill zone. With a civilian life at stake and the clock ticking to stop the terrorist attack, EYE IN THE SKY presents an intense political drama on the edge of modern warfare and human morality.
The film also stars Barkhad Abdi, Alan Rickman, Iain Glen, and Phoebe Fox and was written by Guy Hibbert. EYE IN THE SKY is produced by Colin Firth and Ged Doherty’s Raindog Films and eOne, who also handle international sales and directly distribute the film in Canada, the UK, Spain, Benelux and Australia/New Zealand. David Lancaster also serves as a producer on the film.
Andrew Karpen, CEO of Bleecker Street commented, “When I saw this film in Toronto, I knew we had to have it. The tension created within each scene by Gavin Hood and the stellar performances by Helen Mirren and Aaron Paul was so palpable, that I was on gripped by every moment of the movie.”
Xavier Marchand, President of eOne Features said, “We’re very excited to continue our relationship with Andrew and our friends at Bleecker Street. This is a milestone film for us and we are thrilled to have a partner with the experience and relationships to bring this this bold and topical film to U.S. audiences.”
Colin Firth and Ged Doherty sais, “After the incredible audience and industry reactions to the Toronto premiere, we are delighted to be partnering with Bleecker for the U.S. release. Like eOne, they are a company who is truly passionate about this film.”
The deal was negotiated between Kent Sanderson of Bleecker Street with Avy Eschenasy on behalf of Bleecker Street with WME Global and Marchand for eOne.