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HBO Max Makes First Festival Acquisition with Russell Simmons Sexual Misconduct Doc ‘On the Record’

The high-profile acquisition signals HBO Max's ambitions for festival movies.

On the Record

“On the Record”

Courtesy of Jane Doe Films

HBO Max announced Monday that it has acquired US rights “On the Record,” Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering’s documentary centered around the women who have accused hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons of sexual misconduct. This marks the first festival film acquired by the forthcoming streaming service. The film was primed for attention after it was announced as a selection at the Sundance Film Festival, given its frank exploration of alleged sexual misconduct in the #MeToo era.

When the film was announced as part of the lineup late last year, Oprah Winfrey was on board as an executive producer and the film was set to premiere at Sundance with distribution from Apple TV+, as part of Winfrey’s deal with the streaming service. But shortly before its Park City bow, Winfrey pulled her name off the project, taking distribution with it. Media attention around the film intensified as a result as the film suddenly became available for purchase.

“On the Record” focuses largely on Drew Dixon, a former music executive who worked with Simmons at Def Jam Recordings and said she was raped by him. It also features other accusers, including Sil Lai Abrams, Sheri Hines, Jenny Lumet, and Alexia Norton Jones, and explores the ways in which the voices of women of color are silenced or ignored when it comes to sexual misconduct allegations.

“The fierce determination of Drew Dixon and all of the women who bravely chose to share their stories in ‘On the Record’ moved us profoundly,” said Sarah Aubrey, head of original content at HBO Max, in an official statement. “I’ve been impressed with Amy and Kirby’s work over the years covering this complex subject matter, and look forward to this film finding the widest possible audience.”

The acquisition, for which HBO Max did not disclose a price, marks a high-profile buy for the streaming service that’s set to launch in May. It’s an indication of the type of movies the service is in the market for. Here, it’s showing similar ambitions as its competition Apple TV+ for high impact movies with important social messaging.

HBO Max will include the entire lineup of HBO, a slate of new original series exclusive to the service, licensed shows including “The Big Bang Theory,” and library content from CNN, TBS, Cartoon Network, and other WarnerMedia properties.

UTA Independent Film Group brokered the deal “On the Record” deal.

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