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Magnolia Acquires “Freakonomics”

Magnolia Acquires "Freakonomics"

Magnolia Pictures has announced that it has acquired all North American rights to “Freakonomics,” the highly anticipated film version of the bestselling book about incentives-based thinking by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner.

Like the book, the film version of “Freakonomics” examines human behavior with provocative and sometimes hilarious case studies. It also brought together an impressive team of renowned documentary filmmakers to collaborate in directing it: Alex Gibney (“Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” and “Casino Jack and the United States of Money,” both distributed through Magnolia as well), Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing (“Jesus Camp”), Morgan Spurlock (“Super Size Me”), Eugene Jarecki (“Why We Fight”) and Seth Gordon (“The King of Kong”).

Magnolia describes each filmmaker’s contribution: “Alex Gibney takes a visually arresting look at the crumbling facade of Sumo wrestling and exposes searing and violent truths about this ancient and revered sport. Morgan Spurlock offers up a buoyant and revealing angle on the repercussions of baby names. Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing balance levity and candor with an eye-opening profile of underachieving kids incentivized to learn with cold hard cash. Finally, Eugene Jarecki investigates an unsettling theory to explain why crime rates dramatically dropped in the early ’90s. Seth Gordon weaves the pieces together with brisk interludes, providing context and commentary from the authors.”

Magnolia said it anticipates a “particularly wide audience for this documentary” as it is “difficult to overstate the impact of the source material.” This is a justifiable suggestion as the book spent years on the New York Times bestseller list, became one of the most blogged about books in the world, inspiring a continuing discussion that has spawned a bestselling sequel (SuperFreakonomics), as well as a regular blog on the Times’ website.

“As huge fans of the book, the film version of ‘Freakonomics’ is something that we’ve been excited about ever since we caught wind of it,” said Magnolia President Eamonn Bowles in a statement. “The fact that this dream project is being realized by the ‘dream team’ of documentary filmmakers makes this a major film event. We couldn’t be more thrilled.”

Produced by Chad Troutwine, with Chris Romano and Dan O’Meara of the Green Film Company, the film is the Closing Night Gala film selection at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. Magnolia is planning a fall theatrical release for the film. The deal was negotiated by Magnolia SVP Tom Quinn with Troutwine, Romano and O’Meara.

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