EXCLUSIVE: Solstice Studios has acquired worldwide rights to The Plane, an elevated action thriller that stars Gerard Butler. The film is currently booked for takeoff on June 28, 2021, shooting in Southeast Asia.
Deadline revealed earlier this week that Lionsgate exited the film because the production could not get COVID insurance and the risk became too great for the indie studio on the $50 million budget film. The picture was the hottest package at 2019 AFM that sold out every territory, and it was originally supposed to be shooting now in Malaysia but stalled because of a COVID spike there. Same thing happened when an attempt was made to move production to the Dominican Republic and then the U.S. The Plane illustrates the troubles facing any indie distributors and producer/financiers trying to mount pictures because insurance companies aren’t writing COVID policies now or are doing it for COVID and “civil authority” clauses at prohibitively high rates.
Solstice Studios found a way to make it all work by self-insuring the production, and The Plane is a momentum building opportunity for the upstart theatrical release company. Solstice’s first film, the Russell Crowe-starrer Unhinged, became the first new movie back in US theaters in August and to date is closing in on $43M at the worldwide box office. The studio also recently acquired at the virtual Toronto Film Festival market Joe Bell, a drama that stars Oscar-nominee Mark Wahlberg. CAA Media Finance set the new deal with MadRiver International.
The film is produced by Di Bonaventura Pictures’ Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Mark Vahradian, MadRiver Pictures’ Marc Butan, and Butler and Alan Siegel under their G-BASE banner. This is the first of several projects to happen between di Bonaventura and Solstice Studios. Solstice will finance, distribute the film in the U.S. and handle international, including servicing the international distribution deals made by MadRiver International when the project was first announced at AFM 2019.
Butler’s slots are coveted, but the filmmakers figured out a scenario that will give them time. Butler will make another movie, Kandahar, in the United Arab Emirates, where those filmmakers have figured out a way to work with local government to cushion the COVID aspects of the movie. The plan right now is for that film to step in front of The Plane and shoot in January, and then The Plane will follow.
Based on a story by Charles Cumming and Christian Gudegast, with a script by Charles Cumming, JP Davis and a recently revised draft by James Coyne, The Plane follows commercial airline pilot Ray Torrance (Butler) who heroically lands his storm-damaged aircraft on a remote jungle island in the Philippines, only to find himself stranded in a lawless war zone and the newfound target of ruthless pirates gunning to take the plane and its passengers hostage. As the world searches for the missing aircraft amidst a growing media frenzy, Ray must keep his passengers alive long enough to be found or to find a way out.
The deal was negotiated by Butan, di Bonaventura and Schuyler Moore of Greenberg Glusker with Solstice’s Mark Gill and Karen Barna.
Butler is currently in production on Cop Shop and is fresh off Ric Roman Waugh’s Greenland, which opened successfully abroad and will be released in the US next month. He and Solstice CEO go a ways back. Gill produced the highly successful Olympus Has Fallen trilogy that starred Butler.