UPDATED: Amazon Studios and Open Road said today that Gleason will open on July 29 in North America.
PREVIOUS EXCLUSIVE: Amazon Studios is closing a deal for all U.S. rights to Gleason, one of the most acclaimed documentaries to premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The docu focuses on Steve Gleason, a former NFL defensive back who played for the New Orleans Saints and was a local hero there who blocked a punt in the first game when the Superdome reopened after the devastating Hurricane Katrina. He was diagnosed with ALS at age 34 and given five years to live. Through vividly shot video journals that are a big part of the film — Gleason wanted to leave a record of his life for his unborn son — director Clay Tweel shows how Gleason took that to heart to live life as fully as one possibly can. Since his diagnosis, Gleason has: gone skydiving, interviewed Pearl Jam, spoken at the United Nations, starred in a Super Bowl Commercial, attended the State of the Union Address, helped pass the Steve Gleason Act, founded the largest ALS research project in the history of the disease, and started one of the world’s most recognizable ALS organizations, Team Gleason. And most importantly, he became a father. The footage was shot over a period of four years.
Sundance 2016 has proven to be quite the coming out party for Amazon and its top execs Ted Hope and Bob Berney, who got under way with the second biggest deal of the festival with a $10 million domestic deal for Manchester By The Sea, and with this deal acquired a total of six films (the others are Love & Friendship, Complete Unknown, Author: The JT Leroy Story, and Weiner-Dog). On Gleason, Amazon has bought theatrical, TVOD and SVOD rights, and is partnering with Open Road Films to co-release theatrically a picture that has Oscar potential. Open Road is coming off Spotlight, a film that opened in the fall and is still playing strongly in theaters with six Oscar nominations including Best Picture. Overseas rights are close to being done, and the collective value of the deal when that happens should be around $3 million. WME Global is handling the deal.
Tweel, who previously directed Finders Keepers, is also editor of Gleason and the film is produced by Seth Gordon (the Oscar winning sports docu Undefeated), Kimi Culp, Scott Fujita, Tom Lavia, Kevin Lake, Mary Rohlich and Thomas McEachin. Mark Shapiro and Will Staeger are exec producers. The docu was financed by IMG Films, a division of the sports agency, along with a large group of donors/supporters surrounding Team Gleason that includes exec producer Paul Varisco and New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees. Microsoft and Go Pro also supported the film, which premiered Sunday at The MARC Theater.