By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood August 10, 2009 at 7:45AM
Over the weekend, Apparition closed a U.S. distribution deal for Toronto Film Festival closer The Young Victoria, starring Emily Blunt in what could be her breakout role carrying a movie as the youngest British monarch. As is typical these days, the new distrib run by Bob Berney and backer Bill Pohlad did not put up a minimum guarantee, but rather beat out several competitors (including Miramax, Overture and Roadside Attractions) by committing to $4.5 million in P & A and a 250-screen release. Appariiton will open the movie November 13. Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions Group will handle all domestic ancillary rights. Alliance will release in Canada.
Producer Graham King showed Berney the film a month ago--again, he did not wait to screen it at Toronto. "It feels like an Anne Hathaway breakout role," says Berney, "Emily Blunt could be very awards-friendly."
You have to give Berney credit for his conviction. He's taking three big expensive swings at bat. I've seen Jane Campion's Bright Star and while I know that it's austere, period, and boasts no star names, it has emotional power and should play for critics, upscale audiences (especially women) and the Academy. It's a gorgeously mounted movie. Terrence Malick's Tree of Life is anyone's guess. But it could be fabulous, and Brad Pitt is starring. Check out the trailer below for GK Productions' The Young Victoria.
The trouble with period costumers is that they don't always play on DVD--unless they hit it out of the park. While Sony Pictures Classics releases plenty of period pics, they tend not to pay more than $1 to 2 million to distribute them, and to handle them on a limited basis.
Word from those who've seen the film: it's well done and romantic, if a tad slow. Julian Fellowes ( Gosford Park) wrote The Young Victoria, which is directed by Jean-Marc Vallée (C.R.A.Z.Y.) and produced by King, Martin Scorsese, Tim Headington and Sarah Ferguson. Berney praises Blunt and the ensemble, including Paul Bettany, Rupert Friend and the irrepressible Jim Broadbent. The film grossed $7 million in the UK with an aggressive 400-print release by Momentum, and played better for older women than young ones. Berney is a canny marketer, so we'll see.
Survival in the new indie world is about containing costs. Berney had plenty of money to work with at Picturehouse. We'll see how he manages to find a workable new profit model.