Magnolia Pictures and new company CNN Films have confirmed the acquisition of U.S. rights to Gabriela Cowperthwaite's documentary thriller "Blackfish," about the killer whale Tilikum who killed three people including, in an eery echo of "Rust and Bone," a trainer. The movie screened Saturday night at the Temple Theatre in Park City. Several distribs were circling, including TWC-Radius, Lionsgate, eOne, HBO and Sony Pictures Classics.
"Blackfish" traces a 39 year history of killer whales in captivity leading up to a 2010 incident where an experienced Sea World trainer was killed by the 12,000 lb. Orca whale Tilikum, a whale previously associated with the death of two other people. Blackfish chillingly shows that this incident of violence is hardly an isolated one, along the way exploring the extraordinary nature of Orcas, thought to be one of the most intelligent species in the animal kingdom. Ultimately, it is a story about the life and death consequences of a spectacle that has thrilled millions.
Magnolia plans a summer theatrical release for the documentary, followed by a domestic broadcast premiere on CNN later in 2013. Magnolia has had much success with summer doc releases, including The Queen of Versailles, acquired at last year’s Sundance festival, which went on to be one of the top grossing documentaries of 2012.
The film is produced by Cowperthaite, and Manuel Oteyza. Executive produced by Judy Bart, Erica Kahn, and Rick Brookwell. The acquisition deal was negotiated by Magnolia SVP Dori Begley and CNN SVP Vinnie Malhotra, with Josh Braun, David Koh and Dan Braun of Submarine.