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Summit Takes Icon UK to a Los Angeles Arbitration Tribunal Over Tree of Life

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood March 31, 2011 at 12:21PM

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.
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Thompson on Hollywood

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.

This article is related to: Festivals, Headliners, Independents, News, Cannes, Brad Pitt, Summit


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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.