We already knew that Steve James’s extraordinary biography of Roger Ebert was going to be airing on CNN at some point this year. Now Magnolia Pictures has stepped in to take care of all other outlets, including theatrical release and VOD and home entertainment platforms.
The press release, via Kartemquin Films:
New York, NY (February 4, 2014) — The Wagner/Cuban Company’s Magnolia Pictures announced today that they have acquired US theatrical, VOD and home entertainment rights to LIFE ITSELF, a documentary about the life of Roger Ebert directed by Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker Steve James (Hoop Dreams, The Interrupters). A Kartemquin Films and Film Rites production in association with KatLei Productions, LIFE ITSELF premiered to critical acclaim at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Magnolia is eyeing a summer release, followed by an exclusive broadcast on CNN later this year, reprising a successful collaboration with CNN Films on the hit documentary Blackfish.
Roger Ebert was a beloved national figure and arguably our best-known and most influential movie critic, and his passing in 2013 was deeply felt across the country. Based on his memoir of the same name, LIFE ITSELF recounts his fascinating and flawed journey — from politicized school newspaperman, to Chicago Sun-Times movie critic, to Pulitzer Prize winner, to television household name, to the miracle of finding love at 50, and finally his “third act” as a major voice on the Internet when he could no longer physically speak.
“Roger Ebert gets the tribute he deserves with LIFE ITSELF,” said Magnolia President Eamonn Bowles. “Steve James has done a beautiful job capturing Roger’s complexity and energy in a loving but wonderfully clear-eyed portrait.”
“Magnolia is the perfect partner for bringing this film on such a seminal figure in film to the big screen,” said Steve James. “Roger’s story deserves it.”
“We’re delighted to re-team with Magnolia for another thoughtful film that will have a strong, lasting impact on all who see it. Together, we look forward to bringing Steve James’ beautiful portrait of an American icon to audiences across all platforms,” said Vinnie Malhotra, senior vice president of development and acquisitions for CNN Worldwide.
The deal was negotiated for Magnolia by SVP of Acquisitions Dori Begley with Cinetic Media on behalf of Kartemquin, Film Rites, KatLei and CNN Films.
Steve James directed LIFE ITSELF, which was produced by Zak Piper for Kartemquin Films and Garrett Basch for Film Rites, with executive producers Martin Scorsese, Steve Zaillian, Michael W. Ferro Jr., Justine Nagan and Gordon Quinn of Kartemquin Films, Kat White of KatLei Productions, Mark Mitten, and Vinnie Malhotra and Amy Entelis of CNN Films.
www.ebertmovie.com. Twitter: @ebertmovie. Facebook.com/ebertmovie.
Magnolia Pictures (www.magpictures.com) is the theatrical and home entertainment distribution arm of the Wagner/Cuban Companies, a vertically-integrated group of media properties co-owned by Todd Wagner and Mark Cuban that also includes the Landmark Theatres chain and AXS TV. Recent releases include the riveting killer whale doc Blackfish, David Gordon Green’s Prince Avalanche, Terrence Malick’s To The Wonder, Joe Swanberg’s Drinking Buddies,Thomas Vinterberg’s Oscar-Nominated The Hunt, Danish thriller A Hijacking, Kevin Macdonald’s How I Live Now, hit documentaries Muscle Shoals, Jiro Dreams of Sushi and The Queen of Versailles, and the Academy Award nominated A Royal Affair. Magnolia’s upcoming releases include Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac, Richard Ayoade’s dystopian vision The Double, the raucous Alan Partridge starring Steve Coogan, Joe Swanberg’s Happy Christmas, Lukas Moodysson’s We Are the Best!, Norwegian thrillers Pioneer and Ragnarok, and many more.
About Kartemquin Films
Kartemquin Films is a collaborative center for documentary media makers who seek to foster a more engaged and empowered society. With a noted tradition of nurturing emerging talent and acting as a leading voice for independent media, Kartemquin is building on over 48 years of being Chicago’s documentary powerhouse. Kartemquin sparks democracy through documentary. Their films, such as The Interrupters, Hoop Dreams, and The New Americans, are among the most acclaimed documentaries of all time, leaving a lasting impact on millions of viewers. Active releases for 2014 include the IDA award-winning The Trials of Muhammad Ali, directed by Bill Siegel; Usama Alshaibi’s American Arab; Kirsten Kelly and Anne de Mare’s The Homestretch; Joanna Rudnick’s On Beauty; Gordon Quinn’s ’63 Boycott; and Dan Rybicky and Aaron Wickenden’s Almost There. The organization has won many major critical and journalistic prizes, including two Emmys, a Peabody, duPont-Columbia and Robert F. Kennedy journalism awards, Independent Spirit, IDA, PGA and DGA awards, and an Oscar nomination. Kartemquin is a 501©3 not-for-profit organization. www.kartemquin.com
About KatLei Productions
KatLei Productions provides and facilitates funding for commercial entertainment products including Broadway productions, feature films and documentaries, through private equity investments, low interest loans and charitable donations. Present projects include: Film- Life Itself, The Trials of Muhammad Ali; Theater- Kinky Boots, IF/THEN, and Rocky. Past projects include: Film- Grace is Gone, The Promotion, Drunkboat, Ca$h, and The Merry Gentlemen. Theater- Macbeth, starring Alan Cumming, and Somewhere in Time.
About CNN Films
CNN Films brings documentaries beyond the small screen by developing strategic partnerships to leverage distribution opportunities at film festivals and in theaters. Amy Entelis, senior vice president of talent and content development for CNN Worldwide, and Vinnie Malhotra, senior vice president of development and acquisitions for CNN Worldwide, oversee the acquisition strategy of documentaries for CNN Films. Malhotra manages the day-to-day operations of CNN Films, and works directly with filmmakers to develop original projects.
CNN Worldwide is a portfolio of two dozen news and information services across cable, satellite, radio, wireless devices and the Internet in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide. Domestically, CNN reaches more individuals on television, the web and mobile devices than any other cable TV news organization in the United States; internationally, CNN is the most widely distributed news channel reaching more than 271 million households abroad; and CNN Digital is a top network for online news, mobile news and social media. Additionally, CNN Newsource is the world’s most extensively utilized news service partnering with hundreds of local and international news organizations around the world. CNN is division of Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., a Time Warner Company.