By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist May 15, 2011 at 1:00AM
Jumping in as a new distributor into a circuit where the big dogs -- the Paramounts, the 20th Century Foxs, the Warner Bros.s, the Universals -- have been up and running for the best part of a century, can't be easy. The most recent start-ups, Summit and CBS Films, have had mixed success, the former might have a mega-franchise in the "Twilight" series, but are still finding their feet outside it, while the latter are yet to have a box office hit in their first year of operation. But FilmDistrict, the shiniest, newest company in town, have managed to come out of the blocks in a fairly impressive way.
The company is a branch of GK Films, who backed the likes of "The Young Victoria," "The Town" and "Rango." It was set up last year, and their first two releases, James Wan's haunted house chiller "Insidious" and the inspirational family-friendly biopic "Soul Surfer," have both hugely surprised at the box office, proving far bigger hits than anyone could have expected. The company have an impressive slate for the rest of the year, including Nicolas Winding Refn's "Drive," the Hunter S. Thompson adaptation "The Rum Diary" and the Guillermo del Toro-produced "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark," and they've been on something of a buying spree at Cannes, acquiring distribution rights to both the Gerard Butler-starring sex-and-soccer comedy "Playing the Field" and Chuck Russell's fantasy actioner "Arabian Nights." And this afternoon, one more film was added, and it happens to be one of our most eagerly anticipated films of the year.
Deadline reports that the company is in final stages of negotiations for the U.S. rights to "Looper," the sci-fi action thriller from "Brick" and "The Brothers Bloom" writer-director Rian Johnson. The film is set in a future where hitmen are employed by crime bosses in an even-further-future to kill targets sent back in time, and focuses on one such man, who finds himself faced with the task of killing his older self. The hugely talented Johnson has assembled a top-notch cast including Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Jeff Daniels and Garret Hedlund, and we're huge fans of the script, so we're delighted that the film's landed a distributor so quickly, particularly after having supposedly caused something of a bidding war with at least six companies pursuing the project.
So FilmDistrict have landed it, although it looks like they won't technically release it themselves: the company has a deal with Sony Pictures, who will probably release the film through their TriStar label. FilmDistrict topper Peter Schlessel had an enormous success with a similar plan when he acquired "District 9" when still at Sony, and clearly everyone concerned is hoping that "Looper" will repeat the success of Neill Blomkamp's film.
Johnson's only just wrapped principal photography, so we're unlikely to see this before the end of the year -- if we were betting men, we'd say that the company will slate it for a March/April release in 2012, although it's also possible that they'll try to follow in the footsteps of "District 9" and hold it for a late summer 2012 slot. But if they decided they wanted to put it out sooner -- say, next week, for instance -- we certainly wouldn't complain in the slightest.