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Film Acquisition Rundown: Sony Pictures Classics Adds to Pedro Almodóvar Library, Shudder Buys ‘Sadako vs. Kayako’ and More

Keep up with the wild and wooly world of indie film acquisitions with our weekly Rundown of everything that's been picked up around the globe.


Keep up with the wild and wooly world of indie film acquisitions with our weekly Rundown of everything that’s been picked up around the globe. Check out last week’s Rundown here.

– Sony Pictures Classics have announced they have acquired the rest of Pedro Almodóvar’s full library of films, including “Pepi, Luci, Bom”; “Labyrinth of Passion”; “Dark Habits”; “What Have I Done to Deserve This?”; “High Heels” and “Kika.” SPC will release his latest, “Julieta,” in theaters on December 21.

Based on short stories by Nobel laureate Alice Munro, “Julieta” is “about a mother’s struggle to survive uncertainty. It is also about fate, guilt complexes and that unfathomable mystery that leads us to abandon the people we love, erasing them from our lives as if they had never meant anything, as if they had never existed. The cast includes Adriana Ugarte, Emma Suárez and Rossy de Palma. It debuted at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.

– Premium horror streaming service Shudder has picked up all North American rights to “Sadako vs. Kayako,” the crossover of the massive Japanese horror film franchises “Ring” (remade in the United States as “The Ring”) and “Ju-on” (known as “The Grudge” in the U.S.). The film is billed as “an epic showdown featuring the two iconic demons fighting each other in the ultimate battle of possession.”

It is scheduled to have its North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival as part of the festival’s “Midnight Madness” genre program. The film will hit Shudder in late 2016.

– The Orchard have announced they will release director Alex Lehmann’s narrative feature debut “Blue Jay,” starring Mark Duplass and Sarah Paulson. The Duplass Brothers’ film will premiere next month at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival.

The film is the first feature to be produced under the Duplass Brothers’ four-picture deal with Netflix. “Blue Jay” stars stars Duplass and Paulson “as two former high school sweethearts. They return to their tiny California hometown and meet by chance, reflecting on their shared past through the lens of their differently dissatisfied presents.”

The Orchard, which has all worldwide theatrical and ancillary distribution rights to the film, plans a theatrical awards-qualifying release on October 7, followed by digital on October 11.

– Sony Pictures Classics have acquired rights in North America, Benelux, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe and Asia (excluding Korea) to “Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer” (previously known as “Oppenheimer Strategies”), written and directed by Oscar nominee Joseph Cedar. The film stars Richard Gere, Josh Charles, Michael Sheen, Lior Ashkenazi, Dan Stevens, Steve Buscemi and Hank Azaria.

Per the film’s official synopsis: “Norman Oppenheimer (Gere) only wants to matter. Living a lonely life in the shadow of power and money, he uses any angle or connection to put himself in a position of significance. He is an opportunist, just not a very good one. Until he finally bets on the right horse by buying a pair of expensive shoes for Micha Eshel (Ashkenazi), a lowly Israeli politician. When Micha becomes Prime Minister, Norman finds himself in the center of a geopolitical drama beyond anything he could have imagined. Using his small-time skills, Norman tries to solve a growingly complex puzzle with big-time implications.”

– CBS Films has acquired U.S. distribution rights to “Winchester,” starring Helen Mirren as “an heiress to a gun-making fortune who builds a massive mansion to atone for guilt over the weapons.” The film will be directed by Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig from a script they wrote with Tom Vaughan.

In the film, “Mirren plays firearms heiress Sarah Winchester, who was convinced that she was haunted by the souls killed at the hands of the Winchester repeating rifle. After the sudden deaths of her husband and child, she threw herself into the 24/7 construction of an enormous mansion designed to keep the evil spirits at bay. But when skeptical San Francisco psychiatrist Eric Price is dispatched to the estate to evaluate her state of mind, he discovers that her obsession might not be so insane after all. The film will take audiences inside the labyrinth-like Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, which is believed to be one of the most haunted places in the world.”

Production will begin in March on location in San Jose and in Australia. The news was first reported by Deadline.

– KimStim has picked up Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s “Creepy.”  The movie is based on author Yutaka Maekawa’s mystery novel, which won the 15th Japan Mystery Fiction Newcomer Award in 2011.

Per the film’s official synopsis: “After having narrowly escaped an attempt on his life at the hands of a psychopath, criminal psychologist and former police detective Takakura (Hidetoshi Nishijima) quits active service in the police force and takes up a position as a university lecturer…While Takakura immerses himself in old files, his wife Yasuko (Yuko Takeuchi) introduces herself to their new next door neighbors with little gifts. In the process, she meets the mysterious Mr Nishino (Teruyuki Kagawa) who attempts to shield himself and his family from everyone else. Takakura senses something odd about them. Then he is approached by the Nishinos’ daughter Mio (Ryoko Fujino), whose shocking whispered confession shatters the serenity of his new life: ‘That man in my house is not my father… He’s a total stranger.'”

The film will open in New York City at the Metrograph on October 21, with other key markets to follow.

– Roadside Attractions have acquired the U.S. rights to George Mendeluk’s feature “Bitter Harvest,” billed as “an epic story of two lovers caught in one of the 20th century’s greatest tragedies: Joseph Stalin’s brutal and deliberate starvation of the Ukrainian people in 1932/3, the Holodomor — an act of genocide which to this day remains shrouded in secrecy and misinformation.” Max Irons, Samantha Barks, Barry Pepper, Tamer Hassan and Terence Stamp star in the film. Mendeluk co-wrote the screenplay with Richard Bachynsky-Hoover.

Roadside will release the film in the first quarter of 2017.

– Global indie film distributor Gravitas Ventures has picked up Robert Greenwald’s powerful documentary “Making a Killing: Guns, Greed, and the NRA.” Through the stories of everyday Americans whose lives have been affected by gun violence, Brave New Films’ documentary shows how gun manufacturers and dealers and their marketing and sales arm, the NRA, have perverted and distorted our political process for profit.

Gravitas will handle television, streaming, VOD and DVD rights in the United States and Canada. Initial VOD release is scheduled for November 1.

– Monarch Home Entertainment Inc. has signed a distribution agreement with award-winning indie film, “A Better Place,” directed and edited by Dennis Ho. Monarch has picked up all ancillary rights for North American territories, including VOD, streaming VOD, TV, DVD and Blu-Ray. Streaming and DVD sales are slated to commence mid-October of 2016. Theatrical distribution rights are not yet assigned.

The film “centers around Jeremy Rollins, a shy and introverted young man with a mysterious and frightening power that has required him to live as a virtual shut-in for most of his life. After the death of his over-protective mother forces him into the world, he must confront — in his childlike innocence — the realities of a harsh society and the cruelties of the people it produces.”

– ArtMattan Films, the films distribution arm of ArtMattan Productions, has picked up “Hogtown” by Daniel Nearing. The film “is an experimental, beautifully shot murder mystery set in 1919, against the backdrop of the Chicago race riots of that year.”

The film have its Washington, D.C. premiere as part of the 10th Annual African Diaspora International Film Festival DC from August 19-21, to be followed by its European premiere screening in Paris, France at the 6th Annual African Diaspora Film Festival Paris, September 9-11.

– Roadside Attractions has acquired U.S. distribution rights to the Smallbone brothers’ “Priceless.” The film is the first feature from the brothers. Ben Smallbone directs from the script by Chris Dowling and Tyler Poelle. The film was produced by Steve Barnett. David Smallbone and Luke Smallbone serve as executive producers, and Jacob “Cubbie” Fink is a co-producer.

Inspired by true events, the film “is the powerful drama/thriller about James Stevens who at one time was a good man with a great life — but this has drastically changed. After the tragic death of his wife and losing custody of his little girl, James now finds himself at the darkest crossroad of his life. Angry, desperate, and unable to hold down a steady job, he agrees to drive a box truck on a one-time trip cross country for cash — no questions asked. But when he discovers what he is delivering, he is faced with a life-changing choice. Can love, strength, and faith redefine his past and change the course of his future? This unlikely hero must risk it all, confront the forces that oppose him, and ultimately discover the life he was meant to live.”

Roadside will release the film in theatres nationwide on October 14.

– Film Movement, the New York-based film distributor of first-run, award-winning foreign and independent films, has announced its acquisition of Koji Fukada’s latest feature film, “Harmonium.” The film, which premiered in the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Jury Prize in Un Certain Regard, is slated to make its North American premiere as a Special Presentation at next month’s Toronto International Film Festival.

The film “returns to the domestic sphere as it captures the collapse of a seemingly ordinary Japanese family. Life for Toshio (Kanji Furutachi), his wife Akie (Mariko Tsutsui) and their young daughter Hotaru (Momone Shinokawa) carries on as usual until he hires the mysterious Mr. Yasaka (Tadanobu Asano), an old acquaintance dressed in white who has just been released from prison.”

The film will open theatrically in early 2017, followed by a digital and home video release.

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