The two new indie film distribs on the block both made announcements Monday. FilmDistrict has made its first pick-up, Soul Surfer, for wide release April 15, 2011. And Chris Ball’s Wrekin Hill Entertainment has pacted with Lionsgate Home Entertainment for exclusive U.S. distribution rights for DVD, Blu-ray, digital delivery and VOD. Ex-Newmarket Films president Ball is prepping the December 29 release of Peter Weir’s The Way Back, starring Colin Farrell, Ed Harris and Jim Sturgess, via Newmarket. He expects to make several acquisitions announcements shortly.
Graham King and Tim Headington’s FilmDistrict, whose CEO Peter Schlessel is taking advantage of deep relationships at Sony, is partnering with TriStar Pictures on the release of Soul Surfer, starring Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt and AnnaSophia Robb. It’s the first film to go out under the new FilmDistrict deal with Sony Pictures. (FilmDistrict plans to release but has not yet officially dated two long-on-the-shelf GK productions, The Rum Diary, starring Johnny Depp, and London Boulevard, starring Keira Knightley and Colin Farrell.)
As Fox Searchlight preps the release of 127 Hours, about how hiker Aaron Ralston hacked off his arm, and Californians read about a boogie boarder killed by a Great White at Surf Beach, Sean McNamara’s Soul Surfer is a biopic based on the autobiography of teen surfer Bethany Hamilton, who lost her arm in a shark attack and continued competing to become a champion. This looks like the kind of between-the-coasts heart-tugger that FilmDistrict theatrical distribution chief Bob Berney knows how to handle. While he has input, Berney is not making FilmDistrict’s acquisition choices: Schlessel and his new acquisitions team are, headed by his ex-Sony colleague Adrian Alperovich, and his acquisitions coordinator Josie Lang.
“This movie, with its winning story and cast, is a real audience pleaser,” Berney says. “It’s the perfect family film for the spring break season.”
TriStar Pictures is releasing the indie-financed film (Enticing Entertainment and Island Film Group) with a FilmDistrict marketing campaign behind it. Before production began in Hawaii on the film produced by Mandalay Vision, Brookwell McNamara Entertainment and Life’s A Beach Entertainment, the Affirm Films division of Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions acquired North American and rights and many foreign territories.