UPDATE: Amazon Studios chief Jennifer Sales on the record setting Late Night deal: “Mindy Kaling has crafted the rare film that is both entertaining and powerful,” said Jennifer Salke, Head of Amazon Studios. “The moment the lights came up after the premiere, we knew Late Night is a film our viewers will love and talk about. It’s an incisive workplace comedy that reinvents all the tropes about women. We too rarely get to see female characters like this — complex, flawed, and unapologetically ambitious. And that’s a credit to Kaling’s writing, Nisha Ganatra’s directing, and Emma Thompson, who delivers a brilliant performance alongside the always incredible Kaling. We can’t wait to share this wonderful movie with our customers, first in theaters and then on Amazon Prime Video.”
EXCLUSIVE: After an electric all-night bidding battle that kicks off the Sundance market in high style, Amazon Studios is in advance negotiations on a $13 million U.S. rights deal for Late Night, the Nisha Ganatra-directed comedy that Mindy Kaling scripted, produced, and stars in with Emma Thompson and John Lithgow. While there have been bigger worldwide rights deals made at past Sundance fests — The Birth of A Nation went for $17.5 million several years back — this is the rare U.S. only deal to hit 8-figures. It exceeds past pacts for Sundance films that include the $12 million deal made by Amazon for The Big Sick, for U.S. and some other territories. That film became a commercial breakout hit for the distributor.
It was clear from the moment the lights went up after the film’s Friday Eccles premiere that this had the potential to be one very big sale. Amazon was among four serious bidders for the property. This is a statement deal for new Amazon chief Jennifer Salke, her first big film festival pact, and she burned the midnight oil with her film team of Ted Hope, Julie Rapaport, Matt Newman and Bob Berney. Salke had a previous relationship with Kaling going back to their days at NBC and The Office.
In the film, a veteran late-night talk show host (Thompson) feels the pressure that might cost her job to a shinier shock comic (Ike Barinholtz). She tries to switch things up and modernize the show with several stunts that backfire. She also changes the all-male writer’s room, adding the show’s first female writer of Indian descent (Kaling). Much of the film is about the relationship that develops between them.
It is a perfect deal for this Sundance, which made a concerted effort to showcase films with diversity and female filmmakers. Everybody came into the premiere hoping for the next The Big Sick, a meaningful film with breakout potential and suitors felt strongly this fit the bill. Ganatra made her feature directorial debut on the comedy, after directing episodes of Kaling’s The Mindy Project, as well as Mr. Robot, Transparent, and Girls.
The film is produced by FilmNation, Imperative Entertainment and Kaling Intl. Kaling, Howard Klein, Ben Browning and Jillian Apfebaum produced. FilmNation and 30WEST cofinanced it.
30WEST and CAA Media Finance brokered the U.S. deal with FilmNation. Latter is selling offshore territories.