It just didn't make sense that Icon would release The Tree of Life ahead of all the other distributors before Cannes. There had to be a back story. Summit had told me that there was no way that Icon would release the film before Cannes. What I heard from London sources today is that Icon nabbed the title by paying a typically high minimum guarantee, and after seeing the film, was trying to get out of releasing it. (My queries to Icon have been ignored.) Hence the release date stand-off. The question is, how does Summit protect what is surely a delicate art-house flower that needs serious critical acclaim from starting to look like tainted goods? By bad-mouthing Icon.
Jeff Wells has posted a statement from a senior-vp of international publicity at Summit International as follows:
"The information regarding the May 4th UK release [of The Tree of Life] is incorrect. Icon Film Distribution Ltd. does not have the right to distribute The Tree of Life in the UK, as it is in default of its agreement. The matter is pending before an arbitration tribunal in Los Angeles."
What this points out is how tricky it is for a producer/financeer like River Road's Bill Pohlad to stay in control of a movie that has multiple distributors all over the world. Summit International raised advance presales, country by country. No one distributor is coordinating the film's global release. But Summit is a major foreign sales company that has been in the game a long time. It is in Summit's interest to have the best possible launch--so that all its regular customers do well with the film.