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Emotional Smith vows to self-distribute Red State

The filmmaker delivered an impassioned speech against the studio marketing system that capped a busy night as Fox Searchlight confirmed it had acquired most of the world on Homework and the Weinsteins took territories on My Idiot Brother.

Kevin Smith told a packed Eccles Theatre following the world premiere of his $4m horror film that he will take it on the nationwide Red State USA Tour commencing Mar 5 prior to self releasing in theatres on Oct 19 through SModcast, the name of his weekly podcast.

Seventeen years after Smith’s career took off with the Sundance premiere of Clerks, the director also announced he would retire from directing after one more feature to concentrate on nurturing young filmmakers. The legacy of that breakout film figured prominently as Smith spoke to the crowd for some 20 minutes after the screening. Indeed Oct 19 is significant as it was the release date of Clerks back in 1994.

“It’s indie film 2.0 and in indie film 2.0 we sell our films ourselves,” Smith told the audience at the climax of a sham auction in which he “bought back” his film for the princely sum of twenty dollars. Smith railed against spiralling marketing costs and what he called the “fetishised” opening weekend, singling out what he suggested was Lionsgate’s standard model of investing $20m in p&a for a $4m-$6m pick-up.

It took Smith seven years before Clerks, which cost around $7,000 to make, went into profit. Ironically Miramax released that film, although Smith is not a man to forget his roots and paid tribute to Harvey Weinstein, who stood briefly at the back of the Eccles to listen to his protege. “Harvey Weinstein taught us how to release a film. He was a genius, an artist,” Smith said, adding tellingly: “Harvey told us never give up on a good thing.”

And so Smith and Red State producer Jonathan Gordon will hold on to their “good thing”. The tour commences on Mar 5 in New York’s Radio City Music Hall and will encompass an initial wave of 15 cities including Chicago, Boston, Kansas City and Indianapolis. Smith estimated that 15 sold out shows could net $1.5m-$1.7m, “so we’ll be half-way back to getting our money back.”

After that there could be more tour dates before the Oct 19 release. He appealed to exhibitors to come forward and take part in the experiment and vowed not to spend a single penny on marketing, adding: “All it takes is a little ingenuity.” Smith’s penchant for avid tweeting and podcasting may help him in this regard. WME head Graham Taylor represented North American rights to the film and John Sloss’ Cinetic is handling international.

The development capped a busy evening after it emerged that The Weinstein Company had acquired North American, UK, German, French and Japanese rights to My Idiot Brother and would partner with Ron Burkle, the very man who backed Harvey and Bob Weinstein’s unsuccessful bid to buy back Miramax.

Jesse Peretz’s comedy screened in the Premieres section and stars Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel and Emily Mortimer. UTA represented worldwide rights. Relativity Media also bid on the film. Hyde Park International handles foreign sales.

Searchlight confirmed its Homework deal as revealed exclusively on ScreenDaily earlier in the evening. Gavin Wiesen’s US Dramatic Competition entry stars Freddie Highmore and Emma Roberts and was an instant crowdpleaser following the premiere earlier in the day. Searchlight’s Tony Safford, Ray Strache and Megan O’Brien negotiated the deal with ICM, who represented North American rights. Goldcrest Films handled international sales.

Meanwhile a deal was also believed to be close on Cindy Meehl’s documentary Buck and buyers were circling Lee Tamahori’s The Devil’s Double following that film’s world premiere on Saturday. Corsan is handling international sales and has received multiple bids from UK and Australian buyers as sales chief Pascal Borno attempts to close all English-speaking sales before the international premiere in Berlin’s Panorama section in a few weeks. Paradigm and CAA are jointly representing North American rights.

Early on Sunday morning Paramount secured worldwide rights to Drake Doremus’ romance Like Crazy and Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate took the US on financial crisis thriller Margin Call.

The studio wasted little time swooping on Like Crazy following Saturday’s world premiere. Anton Yelchin, Felicity Jones and Sundance 2010 breakout and awards season contender Jennifer Lawrence star. UTA represented the filmmakers.

Turning to JC Chandor’s Margin Call, busy UTA and Cassian Elwes received multiple offers and are believed to have agreed a low seven-figure deal with Howard Cohen on behalf of Roadside and Steve Beeks on behalf of Lionsgate at around 5am on Sunday following intense interest stemming from Friday’s press and industry screening.

IFC Films and Magnolia Pictures, which as Screendaily revealed last week is on the block “for the right price” according to Mark Cuban, both made bids. The official world premiere takes place on Tuesday and Myriad Pictures handles international sales.

An in-form ensemble of Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Zachary Quinto, Stanley Tucci, Simon Baker, Jeremy Irons and Demi Moore play key personnel at a beleaguered investment bank loosely based on Lehman Brothers who over the course of 24 hours in 2008 scramble to save the finance house from collapse.

Neal Dodson, Quinto, Corey Moosa, Michael Benaroya, Robert Ogden Barnum and Joe Jenckes produced and Elwes served as executive producer alongside Laura Rister and Josh Blum.

Negotiations were ongoing or interest continued to build on an international rights deal for Morgan Spurlock’s The Greatest Movie Ever Sold and a remake of Knuckle. Also in play for domestic deals were The Guard, Page One, Project Nim, Martha Marcy May Marlene and The Future.

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