Back to IndieWire

Fox Searchlight Takes Nate Parker’s ‘Birth of a Nation’ in $17.5 Million Deal After Electrifying Sundance Premiere (Update: Byron Allen Made a $20 Million Bid)

Fox Searchlight Takes Nate Parker's 'Birth of a Nation' in $17.5 Million Deal After Electrifying Sundance Premiere (Update: Byron Allen Made a $20 Million Bid)

UPDATE #3: Following the below news from earlier today that Fox Searchlight won the bidding war over Nate Parker’s “Birth of a Nation,” paying what is reportedly a Sundance Film Festival record $17.5 million for worldwide rights, Deadline is reporting that there was an even larger bid for the film that came from an unexpected buyer – Byron Allen! Yes, that Byron Allen and his production/distribution company, Entertainment Studios, who bid $20 million for worldwide rights to the film, $2.5 million above the winning bid made by Fox Searchlight, and matching Netflix’s $20 million offer as well. Who knew Byron Allen was rolling like that? I knew he was doing very well – especially after he bought independent film distribution company Freestyle Releasing last October for an undisclosed sum; but even this news of his aggressive bid for “Birth of a Nation” took me by surprise! “Yes, we did make a bid for $20 million and a wide theatrical release for this outstanding film,” Allen said. “Nate Parker made the right decision by going with Fox Searchlight, and we made the right bid. I’m very proud of Nate, and he owes me lunch.” Well Mr Allen, if you’ve got the money to spend like that, there are certainly a few other films you could pick up, or maybe even finance! I assume Mr. Allen will suddenly be on every filmmaker’s short list of potential backers and/or distributors – if he isn’t already.


UPDATE #2: Well, it’s a done deal! Worldwide rights for the film have been bought by Fox Searchlight for a whopping $17.5 million! Keep in mind that, as I said in my earlier post below, Fox Searchlight also released “12 Years a Slave” 2 years ago, and saw much success with it, at the box office, and awards received (including a Best Picture Oscar). So this acquisition is certainly fitting for the company.


UPDATE: After yesterday’s electrifying premiere (see below for the details), Variety is reporting this morning exclusively that there’s apparently a bidding war for the film, with The Weinstein Company, Fox Searchlight, Sony and Netflix all believed to be in the mix, with bids for worldwide rights exceeding $15 million, which would make it the biggest sale at Sundance this year (so far anyway). So there’s a good chance that a deal might be announced shortly! Once that happens, you will know. In the meantime, if you missed it, read my summary of reactions to the film after yesterday’s world premiere, below.


It made its world premiere at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, ending just a couple of hours ago. I’m unfortunately not at Sundance this year, so no early review of the film from me – at least, not until it screens in New York City, which I hope will be sooner than later.

But while you wait, I thought I’d round up some Twitter reactions from those who were present for the screening this evening, to give you some idea of what’s being said about it thus far. In brief, reactions have been overwhelmingly positive on the film, which is obviously great, and should lead to a distributor pick up. Both Anne Thompson at Thompson on Hollywood and Deadline suggested that there is distributor is interest; “Potential buyers for the film streamed out of the lobby mere minutes after the cast had left the stage post-screening. Some worked multiple cell phones (with assistants standing nearby fielding calls of their own) in what appeared to be fevered discussions about the awards-bait film,” Deadline said in its post-screening report. Thompson’s tweet was similar, further identifying both Fox Searchlight and Roadside Attractions as potential bidders.

So it may only be a matter of time before we receive news of an acquisition. It would make sense for Fox Searchlight given that they were successful with “12 Years a Slave” two years ago (Nate Parker’s film is, as you might expect, already drawing comparisons to Steve McQueen’s Oscar-winning drama, even if only because of the subject matter/period). It’s also a film that I mentioned in my 2017 Oscar potentials list, published last week.

Titled “The Birth of a Nation,” Parker wrote, directed and also stars in the film, playing Nat Turner. 

The official synopsis reads: Set against the antebellum South, this story follows Nat Turner, a literate slave and preacher, whose financially strained owner, Samuel Turner, accepts an offer to use Nat’s preaching to subdue unruly slaves. After witnessing countless atrocities against fellow slaves, Nat devises a plan to lead his people to freedom. 

Joining Parker in front of the camera are Armie Hammer, Aja Naomi King, Jackie Earle Haley, Gabrielle Union, and Mark Boone Jr.

Still no trailer yet; but the stills (above and below), as well as Sundance premiere reactions (all below), should hold you over until then.

First, a sample of what the critics have had to say about the film so far:

And on, and on, and on… you get the picture! Much enthusiasm for the film after its World Premiere, which may make it a strong contender for the festival’s Grand Jury Prize, although the festival isn’t over yet; another week to go!

This Article is related to: News and tagged , ,



@ KOL, did you confuse the words critic’s "reviews" with "blurbs" and "tweets". Heavy handed=too much of enough" … preachy or hamfisted or a tiresome message.



Yes actual professional critics like, Lanre Bakare ,a Black man who stated that it was too heavy handed.

Or Justin Chang an Asian man who indicated that it has first director plagues.


"Actual critics" is that slang for white reviews that matter???? SMDH! News flash, The "people" who pay to see these movies are the "actual critics".


I will end this conversation with this, Lauren and Carey Carey , what both of you are saying is bs, Nate Parker was not in a starving position, I’m sure he is at least millionaire now. He was offered more money from a black man to not have to work with Fox. Fox offered 17.5 million, Byron Allen offered 20 million. The other part of him not taking a chance is bs, this film is going to be a hit no matter who distributes the film. It has a buzz and is being released at the right time with the OscarssoWhite controversy. It’s a reason it sold for this much and had bigger offers, because anybody can see this is going to be a hit and a potential monster hit with Oscar nominations in which some critics are already predicting. Nate Parker is in a position that he will see millions down the road because of this film from opportunities opening up, another reason he shouldn’t have done the deal with racist Fox. Break the Willie Lynch Syndrome Chains.


@CC… don’t waste your time with D. He or she is not hearing or seeing the plain truth; that even his or her diatribe is being read here because of white people; some likeable some not. Why would a serious filmmaker choose a company that only produces reality, gardening and court shows to distribute an historical drama when they’ve NEVER done that before? Anyway, there’s sure to be another rebuttal but I have better things to do.


D, we’re trying to have non-confrontational conversation with you, so appease us or work with us… for just a few more moments, please. Now Lauren noted that "Nate Parker toiled for 7 years to make his film and his decision to choose Fox Searchlight was his to make." Walter added " it took Parker 7 years to get his film financed [at] $10 million. And I’d be willing to bet dollars to donuts that most of that 10 mill came from folks that weren’t "black." Now D, on a personal noted, I worked over 2 decades for a company owned by Rupert Murdoch (the man has vast holdings). Like Nate Parker I had goals and a family to support. Are you suggesting I shouldn’t have accepted my earnings and/or instead sort work at a "black" corporation, even if that meant standing in the cheese line a few more years? See, I am trying to figure out your exact position. Are you suggesting a black person should never accept money from non-blacks who at times have shown a bias against POC? And if they do, they are automatically a "sell-out". Consequently, if that’s your position. in spite of Nate Parker’s convictions, hard work and perseverance, in your mind he is nothing more than a black sell-out b/c he didn’t give his business to a black man?


I’m sorry Lauren, I just can’t get too excited about a black film that is going to line the pockets of Rupert Murdoch and Fox and choosing to sell the film over a black man to a known racist and racist company to black folks. How ironic, a racist company bought and owns a movie about slavery on a film selling block outbidding everybody else. I support Nate Parker putting in the work getting it made, but I don’t co-sign this bs on selling the film to Fox over a black man that offered you more money. So Lauren I will let you salute Fox and co-sign this, I won’t. The Willie Lynch Syndrome(Lauren and Carey Carey,)white man throw black people a couple of dollars and all his racial practices are forgotten. This is what’s going to happen. The Birth of A Nation will be a box office success, while at the same time, Fox News will be giving their day to day news and racial practices on dissing and discrediting black people, but the Willie Lynch Ni!!!! like Lauren and Carey Carey will be happy because we have a box office hit and the movie gets Oscar nominations while Rupert Murdoch and Fox will be laughing all the way to the bank, we hate black people and made money off of a slave movie, who cares if it’s a slave revolt movie, we own it and can do whatever we please with it for our agenda.


@D… So when you make your movie, give Mr. Allen a call. Nate Parker toiled for 7 years to make his film and his decision to choose Fox Searchlight was his to make. This talented and ambitious man has climbed a mountain to do this. If you can’t find something good in his efforts, the static is all yours. Have a nice day!


BS response Carey Carey or your other name(.)Byron Allen has ran a successful business and made a fortune, so to assume he wouldn’t know how to distribute this film that is going to be a hit because of the subject matter, especially with the OscarsSoWhite movement going on is being dishonest.The movie sold for so much because studios knows it’s going to be a hit and sprinkle with potential awards nominations, you talking big profits. That all money is not good money is bs, Byron Allen has a successful track record. This is the Willie Lynch Syndrome, other black people looking for excuses and ways to discredit other black people to go with white people, especially, a racist company like Fox. You notice . or Carey Carey didn’t acknowledge Fox proven track record of hate when it comes to black people, instead of going with a black man who offer more money, ran successful companies for years, this is the safe and wise move in the eyes of Willie Lynch Syndrome black people.


Me oh my, listen D… and seek first to understand. Lauren said "Mr Parker took the bid with a company that has PROVEN its ability to market his film to reach the widest audience." What film has Byron Allen distributed to a wide audience? And, in case you’re not aware, you should know all money is not good money nor "right" money. To add to those cautionary words, it should be noted that black folks have traditionally, throughout history, been some of the biggest bamboozlers and pimps of black folks. So it’s neither bs nor a "Willie Lynch Syndrome" to go with the lower bid. It’s a safe and wise move.


Lauren that a bs reply and the Willie Lynch Syndrome. To say Byron Allen couldn’t do it and market it to the widest audience is crazy. He outbid Fox ,bought a studio, so where does this reasoning come from? The biggest company that has made it a business to diss black people every chance they get, Fox and you sell it to them before you sell it to a black man that offered you more money. The sad part is black people have no problem with this and take up for a company that hate black people cause they give us a couple of dollars and convince black people to go with them instead of black man that offer you more money(Willie Lynch Syndrome).


Don’t make your move too soon and hold the knee-jerks. If one hasn’t seen Nate Parker’s film "Birth Of A Nation" why would they suggest that it should be used as a teaching tool? I believe the introduction of any "race" based film into a school system is a very slippery slope. First, as I implied, in the case of Parkers film, if one hasn’t seen the movie, there’s no way of knowing the messages the movie will lay on the table. Additionally, it’s safe to say the school’s audience is comprised of many cultures. Consequently, each may view the film through completely different paradigms. One may ask, so what, why is that a major concern? Well, if the film is being used as a teaching tool, I believe a qualified moderator should be present to help interpret the film and answer any subsequent questions which will surely arise after the viewing. Granted, on the surface a historical film about a slave revolt, can be a good thing. But caution, don’t move too fast, one man’s pleasure can be another’s disdain, if introduced improperly. I mean, think about it, can’t you hear it from both sides of the aisle "Why are you showing THAT to my children?"… "Can’t we just move forward?"


@D…Mr Parker took the bid with a company that has proven its ability to market his film to reach the widest audience. They also are on board to show the film in schools.


@ Mr. or Mrs. Turner, through toil and trouble, Lions, Tigers and Bears (and more than a few fools) I’ve paid the cost to be the boss of my "abundance of time", as you defined it. Some spend their time making it rain, dropping it like it’s hot and finger poppin’ till wee hours in the morning. Others spend their time raising children. While others spend a majority of their time at their slaves… that be the J-O-B. and unfortunately, that job becomes who they are! feelin’ me? Furthermore, some duck hunt, while others find enjoyment by bowling, dancing, jogging or reading a good book. Some, in their abundance of time, flop on the couch, settle back in preparation to watch "Empire", Divas in The Hood and/or "Too Fast and Too Furious I II III and 5. Now, let’s be clear, there’s nothing inherently wrong with any of those activities. However, I question those who worry… or go out of their way to imply someone is not using THEIR time wisely. I believe that type of person is either very young (hasn’t experienced enough of the downs and lows of life) or they’re a fool, or simply a garden variety hater/jealous-ator. So Turner, what’s in your wallet? What do you do with yo’ time? Bowler? Filmmaker? Party animal? Rainmaker? Family man? What? I am, without shame or remorse, I am a die-hard, ride or die film enthusiast who has paid my dues… paid the cost to be the boss of my time. What about you? What’s the motives behind your latest shade toss?


Willie Syndrome is Willie Lynch Syndrome.


Good to see the film sell for that much, but I would love to have seen him go with the black man that offered you more money , that would have said a lot especially with this OscarSoWhite in the news now. This brings up something else, why isn’t it more rick black producers securing rights to more indie black films? Until rich black folks in hollywood really start caring about black films and the black community we will continue to get band-aid solutions. Salute to Byron Allen for outbidding the white man on a black film, too bad black people are so deep in the Willie Syndrome that we don’t understand why you should have won the bid. I just hope his company continue aggressive moves like this to purchase black films. I will still support this film because I respect Nate Parker playing the game to his advantage, using the studio money to finance a passion project that you wanted to tell and then already making a profit off of it before it is ever released.A lot of black stars can learn from this and do the same thing and this is an example of what I was saying about the Andre Seewood about Star Wars tokens, take the money which will be 10’s of millions and then do the projects you want to do. Those actors stand to make at least 50 million from those movies and merchandising sales in the coming years. If they are still complaining about roles, they are da!! fools with money that should be ignored or the reply should be take a page from Nate Parker.

Heru D'auteurs

I celebrate Nate and Nat’s endurance and selflessness in following passionately what they believe to be a righteous ‘course’…Even if we later change our views, if he makes his money thats a step in the right direction. All these other things he will sort out as he directs more films. I look forward to seeing the film myself an


@CC… You seem to have an abundance of time on your hands


Nikki, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Immediately after hearing the "praise" and reading the tweets, my antennaes went up. I was wondering who are these people and what exactly are they cheering about? So, I started my nosey bosey search of Indiewire’s Anne Thompson. Listen, since Parker’s "Birth of A Nation" is a slave themed film, I was curious to see Anne’s take on "12 Years", DJango and "Selma". Okay, I found what I was looking for. Based on what I read (and her tweet), I am not sure if Ms. Thompson was fully engaged in the film and actually loved it. Or if she was merely passing on the vibe of others in attendance. Then I wondered, who benefits from "birth’s" success? Well, my search uncovered a few secrets. Well, it was news to me. Starting with the box office, many Sundance award winners suffer at the box office. The Sundance crowd loves "art house" films while the generally public is hesitant to open their arms to many of them. That said, Sundance has launched the careers of several directors. Of note to this blog the names DuVernay and Coogler come to mind. Hmmmmmm, in reference to the films that launched their careers… ah… lets see, what were their titles? I can’t remember, how did they do at the box office? More importantly, what seeds were planted (for the future of "black film") by their "victory"? Hmmmmmmm, borrowing from Johnnie Cash "I hear the train a coming, it’s coming down the tracks"… and the conductors says "Oscarsstillsowhite". So Nikki, pay no attention to the less critical thinking individuals. Many of them are so hungry, they will break out in praise, stomping their feet and screaming Halilullah at the mere hint of a black film getting a "participation" award. That reminds me, what exactly did the Sundance crowd enjoy about this new slave flick. They loved the Uncle Tom Stephen in DJango. So got a special thrill out of seeing black slave whipped, raped and hung, without seeing any dire consequences of the perpetrators. Yep, that ol’negro was locked up for 12 years and nobody paid for that crime. I’m just saying "good" is subjective. Some folks view slave films from a different seat than POC. So I’m riding with Adrienne and Nikki, [since] "the actual critics reviews have been a bit more mixed"… "I would like to see other reviews."


@ Nita, I say that about ANY movie that gets hyperbole tweets at film I rarely comment on here. I really don’t care about Oscars so not sure what that has to do with anything.


When I first saw these production stills months ago, especially the one with Mr Parker and the blue boy at the top of this page and the wedding shot, I had a feeling he was on to that other other stuff that is cinema magic. Congratulations to him and all who believed it was possible.


A slave-era movie dealing with the theme of rebellion is a welcome change. I’m tired of the "supreme endurance" wave we’ve been subjected to so far.


Lord have mercy! When we get good news. Can we please accept the good news. And stop looking for the negative. Can we just think and write with a positive vibe. The people who have seen the movie. I accept their positive vibes. I have no room for negative vibes. When it comes to black folks I’m always looking and feeling for the positive vibes. Maybe it’s just me. But I have so much confidence in our artful creative community. We are a multi-fascinated creative community. For me it’s an amazing sight to see.


Funny how so many mixed reviews were nominated yet others here need to see other reviews before seeing for themselves. Exactly why Osars stay white

kai arnold

"Top Five" start a bidding war when it premiered, selling for 12.5M…The irony is Chris wanted to make his own Nat movie.


Yeah. I would like to see other reviews. Although the only review that matters to me is my own.


Not to be a Debbie Downer, but the actual critics reviews have been a bit more mixed.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *