Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Fox Searchlight Shifts Acquisitions Practices From Festivals

With Fox Searchlight's acquisition of Crazy Heart , a new turn for acquisition executives is defined: acquiring before festivals rather than at the festivals which also leads to more proactive searches for project. They paid a low seven figure sum.

Most specialty distribributors have become accustomed to prebuying, cofinancing or acquiring completed films out of festivals, so this pre-festival-season worldwide acquisition marks a sea change.

Anne Thompson's blog Thompson on Hollywood goes on to elaborate: Searchlight is not alone in seeing more submitted films ahead of fests, now that a North American sale is far from guaranteed. In this case, the main reason for a distrib to pick up a movie like this: an Oscar play for Jeff Bridges. If that were the case the movie would be booked at Telluride or Toronto, which both wanted it. But Searchlight is heading for 2010 release. That's because yes, they do want to put Bridges in play. But they also want to tweak and cut the film--and not show it at festivals until it's polished. The old strategy of throwing a swiftly edited film into a fest and seeing what happens is foolish. People are more wary of taking those chances. "People are more likely to take a bird in had than wait for the bird in the bush," says one studio acquisitions exec. "They may not get one."

The foreign market isn't what it was, and neither is the domestic. Financeers want to make sure they get domestic distribution. That's the only way they'll get their money back.

The good news for Crazy Heart: with engaging stars and an accessible country soundtrack, the movie has commercial potential between the coasts, which makes Searchlight the distrib best-positioned to take that advantage.

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