EXCLUSIVE: As we’ve been hearing all along, there’s a fire sale going on at Alchemy with some of its festival acquisitions. Less than a month after A24 saved Alchemy’s Cannes pickup The Lobster from director Yorgos Lanthimos, the Gotham-based distrib — coming off of a hot Oscar season with Room and Ex Machina — has acquired U.S. rights to Ben Wheatley’s action-thriller Free Fire. Alchemy originally acquired Free Fire back at AFM and word is it’s a pretty hot title. The pic puts A24 back in business with its Room Oscar Best Actress winner Brie Larson, who stars in Free Fire alongside Sharlto Copley, Armie Hammer, Cillian Murphy and Jack Reynor.
Last month, Deadline learned that Alchemy slashed its staff as a result of liquidity challenges following its acquisition of content distribution outfit ANconnect and Anderson Digital in July. The company was faced with a shift in its priorities as a result, turning from its role as a distributor of art house titles to a company that had to service output deals to 50 clients including Bagdasarian Productions, owner of the Alvin And The Chipmunks franchise; DreamWorks Animation’s nontheatrical and classics divisions; Vertical; Well Go USA; and XLrator among others. Word around town is that their prestige festival acquisitions including James Franco’s Zeroville, Nanni Moretti’s Mia Madre and Lucile Hadzihalilovic’s Evolution are currently up for sale.
One NYC-based distributor told Deadline recently about Alchemy’s library unloading, “Yeah, there’s a fire sale going on over there, but nothing that they’re peddling is cheap.”
Free Fire centers around an arms deal that goes spectacularly and explosively wrong. Justine (Larson) has brokered a meeting in a deserted warehouse between two Irishmen and a gang led by Vernon and Ord, who are selling them a stash of guns. But when shots are fired during the handover, complete pandemonium ensues, with everyone at the scene suddenly thrust into a heart-stopping game of survival.
WME Global negotiated the deal on behalf of the filmmakers. Protagonist Pictures is handling international sales.
The movie, which also stars Sam Riley and Noah Taylor, was co-written by Amy Jump and Wheatley, and produced by Andrew Starke. Martin Scorsese is an exec producer on the pic. Additional executive producers include Sikelia’s Emma Tillinger-Koskoff, Reno Antoniades, Film4’s David Kosse and Sam Lavender, and Ben Roberts and Lizzie Francke from the British Film Institute.
About the acquisition, A24 said in a statement, “We’re thrilled to be working on Free Fire — Ben Wheatley is one of the most exciting and innovative filmmakers out there, and we have no doubt he will brilliantly orchestrate this story’s electrifying mayhem. This promises to be both one of the most accomplished and one of the most fun movies of the next year, and we’re excited to bring it to a wide audience.”
Wheatley previously directed such critically acclaimed thrillers as High-Rise (which is set for release this summer), Sightseers, and Kill List.
A24 will be releasing The Lobster, an absurdist comedy starring Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz, later this year. This distributor currently has The Witch in theaters, which has become a bit of a cash cow for them. A24 picked up the film at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival for $1M and has minted $21.4M stateside after scoring a company record opening with the period Robert Eggers film with $8.8M.