EXCLUSIVE: Here’s the lowdown with the news today about Gotti‘s departure from Lionsgate Premiere ten days before its debut: the distributor didn’t whack Gotti. 

First of all, Gotti wasn’t getting a wide release via big Lionsgate, but rather Lionsgate Premiere which is typically where specialty films and day and date titles are released. As we understand it, the Gotti producers decided that they wanted a wide release. There was a buy-back clause in the distribution agreement, so the producers exercised it. It was never a matter of Lionsgate dumping the film. An outside investor has backed Gotti so that it could get a wide release in May, and Lionsgate was generous to let the film go. Gotti has been sold back to its producers, Emmett/Furla/Oasis, which produced the film alongside Highland Film Group and Fiore Films. The pic originally went into production in 2016. Starring alongside John Travolta as the Dapper Don is Kelly Preston, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Stacy Keach, and Spencer Lofranco. Lem Dobbs and Leo Rossi wrote the screenplay and the pic marked the third feature to be directed by Entourage alum Kevin Connolly.

The pic had a long development history. At one point, Barry Levinson was set to direct with James Toback co-writing with the director and serving as EP. That was six years ago. Prior to that Nick Cassavetes was attached to helm. At one point, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Lindsay Lohan, Ben Foster, and Chazz Palminteri were attached to star during the pic’s path to production. Travolta and Fiore were some of the constants as the film become a realization.

Fiore Films originally acquired life rights from John Gotti Jr., the son of the late head of the Gambino crime family. That was quite unprecedented as it was the first time that a Gotti family member agreed to tell their story on the big screen.