EXCLUSIVE: Just as the Cannes Film Festival is about to get underway, David Dinerstein, who founded Paramount Classics and was the architect of Fox Searchlight, is opening the doors to Aviron Pictures. The new distribution company will release up to eight wide releases a year beginning with the Halle Berry thriller Kidnap on August 4, followed by the Alec Baldwin-Salma Hayek comedy Drunk Parents in the fall, and an untitled horror film directed by Johannes Roberts in 2018 that’s a reboot of 2008’s The Strangers.
P&A funding for Aviron Pictures comes through Aviron Capital, a consortium of financiers including principal William Sadleir. Aviron Capital is an asset-backed senior lender with financing provided by BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager with more than $5 trillion under management. In addition, Aviron Pictures has a deal in place with Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. Dinerstein was joined by former Universal Pictures acquisitions executive Jason Resnick to help build out the Aviron Pictures slate and the label will be expanding its executive team in the near future. Aviron Pictures will also explore new media models on appropriate titles and platform release those movies as they see fit.
Says Dinerstein, “Our intent has always been to let the films speak for the company, so we are proud to announce this slate of diverse pictures. For the past several months, we’ve been quietly tracking productions as we’ve been finalizing our financing. We are looking for the highest quality product and will only make a move if we are true believers in a film’s commercial potential theatrically and through all ancillary revenue opportunities. In that respect, our model is driven by creative execution and the potential for commercial excellence. We believe that these films squarely fit that bill.”
Aviron Pictures will be at the Cannes Film Festival looking for acquisitions.
Kidnap was originally set to be released by Relativity Media, and jumped around the calendar with its last date being March 10. Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Erik Howsam produced Kidnap, alongside Joey Tufaro, Gregory Chou, and Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas and Berry under the Oscar-winning actress’ 606 Films banner. Given the film’s promising test scores particularly among African Americans, the producers sought to extract the adrenaline-fueled story about a woman trying to save her kidnapped son out of Relativity and were successful. Berry’s The Call was a profitable genre hit, made for $13M and grossing $68.6M worldwide. “Kidnap is a film we really believe in,” says Dinerstein, who took all U.S. rights to the Luis Prieto-directed thriller.
“The executives at Aviron have been passionate, treated us as collaborators, and demonstrated real outside-of-the-box thinking,” said producers di Bonaventura and Berry in a statement. “We know Kidnap is in very capable hands.”
Gold Star Films and Caspian Media Capital financed the Knate Gwaltney-penned film, with CAA representing the sale.
Aviron’s second release, Drunk Parents, comes from writer-director Fred Wolf, whose credits include The House Bunny, Grown-Ups and Grown-Ups 2. Baldwin and Hayek star as a married couple who make one bad decision during a night of heavy drinking that takes their lives on a zany downward spiral. Jim Gaffigan, Tony nominee Ben Platt and Joe Manganiello also star. Wolf co-wrote the screenplay with Peter Gaulke. Bron Studios’ Aaron Gilbert and Fortitude International’s Robert Ogden Barnum produced the film, with Jason Cloth, Nadine de Barros and Daniel Wagner, and Jai Khanna serving as EPs. CAA, WME and UTA co-repped the film’s sale to Aviron Pictures.
“Drunk Parents is a film that we made a preemptive strike on and bought while it was in production,” Dinerstein tells Deadline. “We’re thrilled to be in business with Alec and Salma and it’s a comedy that I think so many people can identify with.”
Said Barnum, “We are thrilled to partner with Aviron Pictures. Aviron was very aggressive at tracking Drunk Parents and we were struck by their irreverent campaign ideas, which are perfect for this hysterical comedy.”
At script stage, Aviron acquired domestic rights to an untitled horror film that is a reboot of 2008’s The Strangers ($82M global B.O.). Bryan Bertino, who directed and wrote the original, is co-penning with Ben Ketai with Roberts directing. The helmer’s next movie is the Mandy Moore-Claire Holt shark diving thriller 47 Meters Down, due out June 15. The Strangers reboot follows a family whose road trip takes a dangerous turn when they arrive at a secluded mobile home park and hunker down for the night in a borrowed trailer after the power goes out. Under the cover of darkness, three masked psychopaths pay them a visit to test the family’s every limit as they struggle to survive. Casting is underway for a stateside shoot. The Fyzz Facility Pictures’ Wayne Marc Godfrey, Robert Jones, Mark Lane and James Harris are producing. Intrepid Pictures’ Trevor Macy, who produced 2008’s The Strangers, will serve as EP. Bloom is handling international sales.
Recently, Dinerstein served as an EP on the Oscar-nominated Netflix documentary Winter On Fire, for which he was also nominated for an Emmy. He also executive produced the documentary Cries From Syria which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was acquired by HBO.
Over the past two decades, Dinerstein has been a force behind on 200-plus prolific independent films, helping launch the careers of such filmmakers as Quentin Tarantino, Steven Soderbergh, Paul Greengrass, Justin Lin, Sofia Coppola, Baz Luhrman, Jane Campion and Kevin Smith; and amassing 96 Oscar nominations and 15 Academy Awards. In addition to co-founding Paramount Classics and serving as one the original architects of Fox Searchlight, Dinerstein was the President of Lakeshore Entertainment and Mickey Liddell’s LD Entertainment, and served as Miramax’s Head of Marketing during its heyday.
Dinerstein’s distribution credits include Pulp Fiction, The Illusionist, The Full Monty, Hustle & Flow, Mad Hot Ballroom, The Virgin Suicides, You Can Count On Me, The Brothers McMullen, The Ice Storm, The Piano, The Crow; sex, lies and videotape; The Crying Game, My Left Foot, Reservoir Dogs, and Clerks. More recently he worked on the release of American Hustle and Her for Annapurna.