While the wait for Terrence Malick‘s “The Tree Of Life” has literally been years (it was originally planned for a December 2009 release) it looks like our friends in the U.K. may be waiting longer than most to see the film. As you might recall, Icon Film Distribution made major waves last month when they announced — and confirmed to various outlets — that they would be releasing “The Tree Of Life” in the U.K. on May 4th, well in advance of it’s planned Cannes Film Festival premiere. Despite their assertions, many wondered how long their claim would stick and there was a whole new twist to the tale when a couple of days later, sales agent for the film Summit International announced that Icon actually didn’t have the rights to the movie and they were in breach of their agreement. All remained silent since and while it’s been pretty much assumed Icon would back down, they finally officially have.
“Things have changed in the past few hours,” a spokesman for Icon told The Independent. “We now won’t be releasing The Tree of Life on 4 May and currently have no release plans for the film. All inquiries should be referred to Summit.”
So what does this mean for U.K. cineastes dying to see the movie? You’re going to have to wait. This whole matter is going down a legal path as Jill Jones of Summit International told Hollywood Elsewhere earlier this month, “The information regarding the May 4th U.K. release [of “The Tree of Life”] is incorrect. Icon Film Distribution Ltd. does not have the right to distribute “The Tree of Life” in the U.K., as it is in default of its agreement. The matter is pending before an arbitration tribunal in Los Angeles.”
But how did we get to this point? Rumors suggest that Icon initially won the rights by offering a high minimum guarantee (an amount of money that they’d have to pay to the film’s backers, no matter how well the film does), and were now having second thoughts about releasing the film and thus announced an early release as some kind of negotiating tactic. That clearly didn’t work.
So while all this gets sorted out, U.K. cinemas will be notably absent of the film. Either a new deal or some kind of arrangement with Icon will be struck (we think that’s a bit of longshot at this point given how they’ve been acting) or a new distributor will need to be found. Let’s hope this matter gets resolved soon so our friends across the pond are able to see “The Tree Of Life” sooner rather than later. For the rest of it, the film hits on May 27th.