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Sundance Deal: Magnolia and CNN Capture Killer Whale Doc 'Blackfish'

Thompson on Hollywood By Anne Thompson and Jay Fernandez | Thompson on Hollywood January 22, 2013 at 7:46PM

Magnolia Pictures and new company CNN Films have confirmed the acquisition of U.S. rights to Gabriela Cowperthwaite's documentary thriller "Blackfish," about the killer whale Tilikum who killed three people including, in an eery echo of "Rust and Bone," a trainer. The movie screened Saturday night at the Temple Theatre in Park City. Several distribs were circling, including TWC-Radius, Lionsgate, eOne, HBO and Sony Pictures Classics.
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"Blackfish"
Magnolia "Blackfish"


Magnolia Pictures and new company CNN Films have confirmed the acquisition of U.S. rights to Gabriela Cowperthwaite's documentary thriller "Blackfish," about the killer whale Tilikum who killed three people including, in an eery echo of "Rust and Bone," a trainer. The movie screened Saturday night at the Temple Theatre in Park City. Several distribs were circling, including TWC-Radius, Lionsgate, eOne, HBO and Sony Pictures Classics.

"Blackfish" traces a 39 year history of killer whales in captivity leading up to a 2010 incident where an experienced Sea World trainer was killed by the 12,000 lb. Orca whale Tilikum, a whale previously associated with the death of two other people. Blackfish chillingly shows that this incident of violence is hardly an isolated one, along the way exploring the extraordinary nature of Orcas, thought to be one of the most intelligent species in the animal kingdom. Ultimately, it is a story about the life and death consequences of a spectacle that has thrilled millions.

Magnolia plans a summer theatrical release for the documentary, followed by a domestic broadcast premiere on CNN later in 2013. Magnolia has had much success with summer doc releases, including The Queen of Versailles, acquired at last year’s Sundance festival, which went on to be one of the top grossing documentaries of 2012.

The film is produced by Cowperthaite, and Manuel Oteyza. Executive produced by Judy Bart, Erica Kahn, and Rick Brookwell. The acquisition deal was negotiated by Magnolia SVP Dori Begley and CNN SVP Vinnie Malhotra, with Josh Braun, David Koh and Dan Braun of Submarine.

This article is related to: Sundance Film Festival, Blackfish, Magnolia Pictures, Festivals, Festivals


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Thompson on Hollywood

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.