EXCLUSIVE: The appetite for scripts and partially finished films is soaring. Lionsgate is tying up a deal today to pay $7 million to pre-buy U.S. distribution rights to American Ultra, the action comedy that begins shooting in New Orleans in five weeks with Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart starring for Project X director Nima Nourizadeh. In the script by Chronicle writer Max Landis, Eisenberg plays a stoner whose small-town life with his live-in girlfriend (Stewart) is upended when his past catches up with him, putting him the crosshairs of a government operation bent on wiping him out. It’s a co-production between A Likely Story and Circle Of Confusion, with Anthony Bregman, David Alpert and Britton Rizzio producing, and Kevin Scott Frakes of Palmstar Media Capital and Raj Brinder Singh of Merced Media Partners exec producing.
The buzz on this one has been building since Berlin, and I thought a deal might be made there. This rivals the record $7 million Berlin deal that The Weinstein Company paid for U.S. rights to the Morten Tyldum-directed The Imitation Game, the film that sold based on script and promo reel about WWII war hero Alan Turing, with Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley starring. The same team at CAA brokered this giant American Ultra deal with Lionsgate after the agency packaged the film and arranged the financing. While many felt that the results of the Berlin market were underwhelming, sometimes those festivals need to be evaluated by results that are not immediately evident. It is becoming more common for dialogue on big films like this one to begin at Berlin. Some of the deals fall in place shortly after, or during the Cannes Film Festival in May. Clearly, studios need to fill slots and haven’t been developing enough, so strong prices should continue to be paid for material and packaged pictures like American Ultra. Landis is repped by WME and Circle of Confusion.