EXCLUSIVE: The Weinstein Company has acquired theatrical rights to Salinger, the Shane Salerno-directed feature documentary on the reclusive author of The Catcher In The Rye. The deal is seven figures, around $2 million, and covers world rights except for the previous deal that licensed U.S. television rights to PBS’ American Masters. The plan is to release later this year for Oscar season, and the deal came after Harvey Weinstein, David Glasser and the acquisition team were shown the film Sunday morning, the day of the Academy Awards. TWC was the only distributor that saw the finished film, and closed the deal right after. While everyone was partying over the Oscar weekend, TWC acquired Grace of Monaco with Nicole Kidman and Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom with Idris Elba. All three of these films will be in the Oscar season discussion, as will Fruitvale, the film that came out of Sundance with strong buzz, and which TWC also acquired. After two years of winning Best Picture, Harvey Weinstein watched Argo best his two candidates, Silver Linings Playbook and Django Unchained. Looks like he really, really wants to be in the winner’s circle again.
That validates an unusual sales strategy that Salerno employed on the film with his lawyer Robert Offer. It was first shown to American Masters, which quickly closed a 7-figure licensing deal. The plan is to make it the 200th installment of that prestigious series, early next year. It was then shown to Jon Karp and his editors from Simon & Schuster, and right after they saw it, they closed a 7-figure publishing deal for a biography that Salerno wrote with David Shields.
Now, the documentary distribution rights are being sold to the only distributor that saw the film. I’m told that the entire deal for theatrical, publishing and U.S. TV rights will be north of $5 million, one of the richest pacts ever for a feature documentary.
For Salerno, this completes an eight year odyssey, and he has been made whole after investing $2 million of his own money into the documentary and the book. It also closes the circle for me; shortly after I arrived from Variety to Deadline Hollywood, Salinger passed away. This was not long after I’d seen an early cut of Salerno’s film. I thought it was absolutely fascinating. I haven’t seen it since, and the discretion shown in the dealmaking process indicates there are secrets that were held back. But here is what I said about it back then: (more…)