In keeping with the borderline-apocalyptic mood of the economy, even the most buzzed-about movies at Sundance have struggled to find distributors. The lucky few that have been sold during the worst financial crisis since the big bang have gone for peanuts, like the 2 million dollar pick up for the hilarious blaxploitation spoof/homage Black Dynamite and the low to mid six-figure deal for Humpday.
Though the terms have been announced the festival's big winner, Push: Based On A Novel By Sapphire (not to be confused with the similarly titled upcoming genre effort Push: A Shitty-Looking Science Fiction Film Based On A Script By The Director of Frankenthumb) has been snapped up by Lionsgate. An almost perversely gloomy drama about a morbidly obese, semi-literate pregnant black teenager with a mentally challenged baby via her own father is a tough sell under the best of circumstances but Push will benefit from the clout of big-time machers Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey, both of whom will be “supporting” the film through their respective production companies. What exactly does that mean? We dunno, but it can only help this curious little movie, which features a powerhouse, award-winning dramatic performance by corpulent cut-up Mo’Nique.
The film, it should be noted, is based on a novel by Sapphire. Here’s a press release with the 411.
LIONSGATE® PULLS IN LEE DANIELS’ SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL TRIPLE AWARD WINNER PUSH: BASED ON THE NOVEL BY SAPPHIRE
OPRAH WINFREY AND TYLER PERRY ALIGN WITH LIONSGATE® IN AN UNPRECEDENTED PARTNERSHIP
Studio Acquires North American Distribution Rights From Smokewood Entertainment Group And Reunites With Academy Award® Winning Monster’s Ball Producer Daniels
SANTA MONICA, CA (February 2, 2009) – LIONSGATE® (NYSE: LGF), a leading next generation studio, announced today that it has acquired North American distribution rights to 2009 Sundance Film Festival sensation PUSH: BASED ON THE NOVEL BY SAPPHIRE. Directed by Lee Daniels (SHADOWBOXER), PUSH: BASED ON THE NOVEL BY SAPPHIRE won both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award in the U.S. Dramatic Competition, only the third film in Festival history to do so. Star Mo’Nique was honored with a Special Jury Prize for acting. PUSH: BASED ON THE NOVEL BY SAPPHIRE was produced by Daniels, and Sarah Siegel-Magness and Gary Magness under their Smokewood Entertainment Group (S.E.G.) banner; Lisa Cortés and Tom Heller were executive producers. The screenplay was written by Damien Paul, based on Sapphire’s 1996 book. PUSH: BASED ON THE NOVEL BY SAPPHIRE stars newcomer Gabourey “Gabby” Sidibe, Paula Patton (DEJA VU), Mo’Nique (SHADOWBOXER), Grammy® Award-winning artist Mariah Carey, Sherri Shepherd (“30 Rock”) and Grammy® Award-winning artist Lenny Kravitz. The deal marks the second collaboration between Lionsgate and Daniels, who produced the studio’s Academy Award®-winning MONSTER’S BALL. The announcement was made by Jason Constantine, Lionsgate President of Acquisitions and Co-Productions.
In an unprecedented partnership, Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry will support Lionsgate's distribution of PUSH: BASED ON THE NOVEL BY SAPPHIRE, through their respective motion picture companies, Harpo Films and 34th Street Films. It will be the first film affiliated with Perry’s 34th Street banner.
“PUSH: BASED ON THE NOVEL BY SAPPHIRE is an extraordinary film about taking hold of life; to watch it is to be galvanized and uplifted,” said Constantine. “MONSTER’S BALL introduced Lee as a gifted producer; we believe PUSH: BASED ON THE NOVEL BY SAPPHIRE firmly establishes him as one of America’s finest directors.”
Said Daniels, “I know from my MONSTER’S BALL experience that PUSH: BASED ON THE NOVEL BY SAPPHIRE has found the best home possible. I’m really looking forward to working again with smart, innovative friends at Lionsgate.”
Commented Winfrey, “I’ve never seen anything like it. The moment I saw PUSH: BASED ON THE NOVEL BY SAPPHIRE, I knew I wanted to do whatever I could to encourage other people to see this movie. The film is so raw and powerful - it split me open.”
Added Perry, “I am honored to join Oprah Winfrey and Lionsgate in releasing Lee Daniels’ exceptional film. I was immensely moved by PUSH: BASED ON THE NOVEL BY SAPPHIRE, and wanted to do whatever I could to help others share in its redemptive experience. Lionsgate is the ideal studio to shepherd this artistically courageous film to market.”
“We like to work with filmmakers who harness instinct and vision to compelling projects, creating motion pictures that resonate emotionally with an audience. That is why we chose PUSH: BASED ON THE NOVEL BY SAPPHIRE,” said Sarah Siegel-Magness, managing partner of S.E.G.
PUSH: BASED ON THE NOVEL BY SAPPHIRE is the second film directed by Daniels, following 2006’s SHADOWBOXER. Daniels made motion picture history with his first film as a producer, MONSTER’S BALL, becoming the first African-American sole producer of an Academy AwardÒ-winning, substantial critical and box office success. The film garnered Halle Berry the 2002 Academy Award® for Best Actress and also received a nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Daniels subsequently produced the award-winning drama THE WOODSMAN and the recent TENNESSEE, which was funded by S.E.G. in its first collaboration with Lee Daniels Entertainment. S.E.G. fully financed PUSH: BASED ON THE NOVEL BY SAPPHIRE.
The deal was negotiated by Eda Kowan, Senior Vice President of Acquisitions and Co-Productions, Wendy Jaffe, Executive Vice President Business & Legal Affairs, Acquisitions and Co-Productions, and Constantine on behalf of Lionsgate; Cinetic sold the film and negotiated the deal on behalf of S.E.G. and Lee Daniels in close collaboration with attorneys Roger Arar and Craig Emanuel at Loeb & Loeb, Sloss Eckhouse Brennan, and Jonathan Gray of Gray Krauss.
FILM SYNOPSIS (Courtesy Of Sundance Institute)
With sheer audacity and utter authenticity, director Lee Daniels tackles PUSH: BASED ON THE NOVEL BY SAPPHIRE and creates an unforgettable film that sets a new standard for cinema of its kind. Precious Jones (Gabourey “Gabby” Sidibe) is a high-school girl with nothing working in her favor. She is pregnant with her father’s child - for the second time. She can’t read or write, and her schoolmates tease her for being fat. Her home life is a horror, ruled by a mother (Mo’Nique) who keeps her imprisoned both emotionally and physically. Precious’s instincts tell her one thing: if she’s ever going to break from the chains of ignorance, she will have to dig deeply into her own resources. Don’t be misled - PUSH: BASED ON THE NOVEL BY SAPPHIRE is not a film wallowing in the stillness of depression; instead, it vibrates with the kind of energy derived only from anger and hope. The entire cast are amazing; they carry out a firestorm of raw emotion. Daniels has drawn from them inimitable performances that will rivet you to your seat and leave you too shocked to breathe. If you passed Precious on the street, you probably wouldn’t notice her. But when her story is revealed, as Daniels does in this courageous film, you are left with an indelible image of a young woman who - with creativity, humor, and ferocity - finds the strength to turn her life around.
Lionsgate is the leading next generation studio with a major presence in the production and distribution of motion pictures, television programming, home entertainment, family entertainment, video-on-demand and digitally delivered content. The Company is leveraging its content leadership and marketing expertise through a series of partnerships that include the operation of the FEARNet branded VOD and Internet horror channel with Sony and Comcast, the expected fall 2009 launch of a epix, the new premium entertainment channel with partners Viacom, Paramount Pictures and MGM, investment in the leading young men's digital distribution platform Break.com, ownership of the premier independent television syndication company Debmar-Mercury and an alliance with independent filmed entertainment production and distribution company Roadside Attractions. Lionsgate also has forged partnerships with leading content creators, owners and distributors in key territories around the world, including Televisa in the U.S. and Latin America, StudioCanal in the UK, Hoyts and Sony in Australia and Eros International in India.
On January 5, 2009, Lionsgate announced its plan to acquire the TV Guide Network and TVGuide.com. The deal is expected to close on February 28, 2009.
The Company has generated more than $450 million at the North American theatrical box office in the past 12 months and has forged leadership positions in television and home entertainment with the production of such critically-acclaimed television series as “Weeds” and “Mad Men,” the distribution of “Tyler Perry's House of Payne,” “Family Feud,” “South Park,” “Trivial Pursuit” and “The Dead Zone,” and nearly 7% market share and the industry's leading box office-to-DVD conversion rate in home entertainment. Lionsgate handles a prestigious and prolific library of approximately 12,000 motion picture and television titles that is an important source of recurring revenue and serves as the foundation for the growth of the Company's core businesses. The Lionsgate brand is synonymous with entrepreneurial innovation and original, daring, quality entertainment in markets around the globe.