Just five days after MoviePass declared that it would acquire films through a new subsidiary, MoviePass Ventures, the company has made good on the promise. Partnering with The Orchard, MPV will share the reported $3 million bill for North American rights to “American Animals,” the first narrative feature from BAFTA and Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winning documentarian Bart Layton (“The Imposter”). A U.S. Dramatic Competition contender at Sundance, “American Animals” premiered there January 19, hours after the MoviePass announcement.
“I made this film to be watched in theaters and the fact that this incredibly impressive partnership and this innovative deal put so much emphasis on that is hugely exciting,” said Layton. “Plus, I’ve always loved orchards.”
The movie follows a quartet of young men — Chas Allen (Blake Jenner), Eric Borsuk (Jared Abrahamson), Warren Lipka (Evan Peters), and Spencer Reinhard (Barry Keoghan, of “Dunkirk” and “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”) — who attempted to steal rare copies of “The Birds of America” and “On the Origin of the Species” from Kentucky’s Transylvania University special collection library in 2004. Vanity Fair described the clumsy criminal episode as “One part ‘Ocean’s 11,’ one part ‘Harold & Kumar.'” Both actors and their real-world alter egos are featured in the film.
“I initially thought it sounded like a good yarn, and the more I read about it, the more it seemed like all capers: It was well-planned, but it didn’t quite go according to that plan,” said Layton at the IndieWire Sundance Studio presented by Dropbox. The writer-director was taken with the the idea that there’s “this generation of relatively privileged young men, who had grown up with an expectation that their lives were going to be special in some way, and that that was a right for them.”
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Paul Davidson, The Orchard’s executive VP of film and television, called “American Animals” “a bold, exciting and fresh take on the heist movie that had us from the start.”
Courtesy of Sundance Institute
Ted Farnsworth, CEO of Helios and Matheson Analytics — MoviePass’s primary owner — said, “This film is a perfect example of the type of amazing films that need the spotlight and is precisely the reason we are bringing data intelligence to the marketplace, so that movie lovers will come to theaters and see the great work of independent filmmakers.”
As a service that lets subscribers see as many films in theaters as they want for a flat rate, MoviePass grew exponentially after slashing its monthly price from $50 to $9.95 in August. Its app and marketing-based platform can also nudge customers towards certain titles.
“We’re open for business and look forward to supporting our other distributor partners in acquiring great content, utilizing efficient P&A spends, and ensuring strong performance in the theatrical window and participating in downstream revenues as a result of strong box office performance,” said MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe.
STXinternational purchased the U.K. rights to “American Animals.”
Watch below to learn more about the motivations of the film’s foursome.