A Salem, Massachusetts-set offering from Sundance’s Midnight section — “Assassination Nation” — surprised everyone by becoming the festival’s biggest buy thus far. Deadline reports that multiple distributors jockeyed overnight for the worldwide distribution rights to “The Wizard of Lies” co-screenwriter Sam Levinson’s second feature as a writer-director, with the top bid, from NEON and the Russo Bros.’ AGBO, coming in “north of $10 million.”
“I couldn’t be more thrilled to be working with this incredible team,” said Levinson. “Their sheer ingenuity, creativity, and passion is what every filmmaker dreams of. I’m so proud of our cast and crew, and this somewhat wild and totally crazy film. I am forever indebted to Sundance for their continued support and belief in me. I feel very grateful to be a part of this wonderful community.”
“Assassination Nation” is a modern tale of four high school girls seeking payback — with guns, knives, and baseball bats — from a mysterious hacker circulating their compromising selfies and texts. Bidders hoped to capitalize on the current international dialogue towards female empowerment while tapping into the persistent threat of online predators.
Audiences cheered during the film’s trigger warning at the January 20 premiere. Odessa Young, Suki Waterhouse, Hari Nef, Bella Thorne, and Joel McHale star. In 2011, Levinson collected Sundance’s Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award for “Another Happy Day.”
NEON CEO and founder Tom Quinn complimented Levinson on “deliver[ing] a stunningly beautiful and haunting film that’s sure to stay with you. We couldn’t be more excited to bring this singular piece of cinema to audiences.”
On the acquisitions front, Sundance 2018 has been relatively quiet, with fewer splashy deals than previous years. Most of the major festival headlines have been related to Neon: days after its “I, Tonya” partner, 30WEST announced that it bought a majority stake in the company, 30WEST then nabbed U.S. rights to the Keira Knightley vehicle “Colette” with Bleecker Street for somewhere in the “mid-seven figure” range. “Monsters and Men,” a U.S. dramatic competition entry on police brutality, also went to NEON for an undisclosed sum.
Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions also announced January 23 that it picked up the kidnapping feature “Search” — another film revolving digital technology and privacy — for $5 million.
Neon’s “Assassination Nation” partner, AGBO, is the production company founded in May 2017 by brothers Joe and Anthony Russo, who directed the second and third films in the “Captain America” franchise, as well as the forthcoming “Avengers: Infinity War.” Gozie Agbo is the actor alias Joe Russo used when he portrayed Doctor Fine in his “Captain America” pictures.
“Sam Levinson has made a devastatingly powerful and topical film that we feel privileged to support,” they said in a joint statement. “Giving agency to exceptional and unique voices is paramount in a time when those voices need to be heard. This is a film that everyone needs to see and discuss.
The transaction was negotiated by 30WEST and Endeavor Content.
Watch the Sundance teaser for “Assassination Nation” below.