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Sony Pictures Classics Acquires Mother and Child, Seeks World Domination

Sony Pictures Classics Acquires Mother and Child, Seeks World Domination

Thompson on Hollywood

Is Sony Pictures Classics going to release every indie art film? I’m exaggerating, but not by much. As the rest of the indie distribs either adopt a bigger or smaller economic model, SPC is left to clean up in the middle range.

If a movie doesn’t sell to Fox Searchlight, Weinstein Co. or Focus Features (with WIP, Picturehouse, Miramax, Vantage now out of the equation) the only other option besides the smaller outfits IFC, Magnolia, Roadside Attractions, Goldwyn and Apparition is the one remaining established studio subsid, SPC. While Weinstein Co. acquired A Single Man at the Toronto Fest and other films went to small indies, SPC acquired various territories on other releasable titles: French fest pre-buy Micmacs (2010), Israeli film Lebanon (2010) and Robert Duvall drama Get Low (2010).

And now finally, SPC has picked up U.S. rights to Rodrigo Garcia’s intense ensemble drama Mother and Child that features strong performances from Annette Bening, Naomi Watts and Samuel L. Jackson. Exec producer is Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel). UPDATE: SPC will open the film in May, says co-president Michael Barker. “Annette Bening is staggering in the film. It’s like the performance that Julie Christie gave some years back. It’s an accessible drama that will resonate with women of all ages.”

SPC also released Being Julia in 2004, which earned Bening her third Oscar nomination (after The Grifters and American Beauty). SPC could push Bening for a nom, given that she’s overdue. This is just the sort of movie that the Academy actors could eat up. But it’s too late in the day to mount a campaign for this year.

SPC already has a lot piled on its plate. Already in release are An Education, starring Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard and Alfred Molina, who all have strong awards potential. Outside shots are possible for Michael Sheen for The Damned United and Audrey Tautou for Coco Before Chanel. Set for limited December 23 release is Telluride premiere The Last Station, which boasts awards-friendly Helen Mirren. Cannes pick-ups A Prophet and White Ribbon are submitted for foreign Oscar consideration by France and Germany, respectively.

Less likely to head into Oscar territory are Moon, starring Sam Rockwell (which boasts a grassroots internet Oscar campaign), Cannes title The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus (December 25) and Pedro Almodovar’s Broken Embraces, starring Penelope Cruz, which will nonetheless require some promo work (November 20). SPC will have to give it a whirl. If they have any energy left.

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I also love Sony Pictures Classics. In the past, some people complained SPC wasn’t as [high-profile] as its competitors; but as time goes by, it shows that SPC is the model that other studios’ specialty divisions can follow.

Among smaller outfits, Apparition would also be a good opinion; it has Bob Berney and a good ancillary deal (with Sony).

Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions Group (SPWAG) is also becoming a big buyer for indie art films. By if a SPWAG’s film couldn’t be accepted by one of Sony’s distribution labels, it would very likely to be dumped in a very brief theatrical release. Apparition/SPWAG’s “The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day” opened surprisly decent, though. (“The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day” is from SPWAG’s Stage 6 label, which mostly focus on making straight-to-videos films)

I had expected that Fox Searchlight would buy “Mother and Child”; the film seems like a higher-profile festival hit that Fox Searchlight may need now. Fox Searchlight’s official final 2009 release “Gentlemen Broncos” just opened weakly (“Gentlemen Broncos” was cost nearly $10 million to make).

Anne Thompson

Roadside Attractions is Lionsgate’s specialty film distributor. Precious was picked up by Lionsgate as a more commercial release, as was the Oscar-winning Crash.


What about Lionsgate?

Ryan Sartor

I really love Sony Pictures Classics. It’s not just that they release independent films, but they are so supportive of the best in foreign cinema. I can criticize Amy Paschal, but I suppose her success allows SPC to flourish, so I hope Sony keeps making money and let it trickle down.

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