Sundance: HBO Buys Competition Documentary Opener 'Project Nim'

HBO has acquired all domestic rights to Project Nim, the new documentary by the team behind the Oscar-winning Man on Wire. The film, which is directed by James Marsh, tells the story of a chimpanzee taken from its mother at birth and raised like a human child by a family in a brownstone on the upper West Side in the 1970s. The film premieres Thursday as the opening night film of the World Documentary competition. Simon Chinn is producing.

When Sheila Nevins’ HBO Documentary Films division makes an acquisition, HBO usually buys all rights, and its priority is to put the movie on its pay channel. Here, HBO will send the brokers of this deal, Submarine and Icon Entertainment International, to make a theatrical distribution deal that will precede the TV run. HBO was among several TV outlets that got an early look at the film when the filmmakers were seeking finishing funds. Several possible outlets were shown rough footage, with the idea they’d buy TV rights. The film was expected to be a hot property at Sundance, as the team behind it won the 2008 Sundance Grand Jury and Audience prizes for Man on Wire.

HBO then stepped up for all rights, and the feature rights will be shopped on its behalf. Submarine Entertainment’s Josh Braun and Icon Entertainment International brokered the deal.

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