It's Official: Paramount Buys Chris Rock's 'Top Five' After Frenzied Bidding War

Courtesy of Toronto International Film Festival

The movie features cameos from Adam Sandler, Kevin Hart and Jerry Seinfeld

Paramount has closed its deal for worldwide rights to Chris Rock's new comedy Top Five, capping a frenzied bidding war following the movie's Sept. 6 world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival to rave reviews. The studio paid in the $12.5 million range for the movie.

The deal is also said to include a marketing spend of at least $20 million.

Rock directed, wrote and stars in the movie opposite Rosario Dawson, with Adam Sandler, Jerry Seinfeld and Kevin Hart among those making cameos. Top Five stars Rock as a comedian trying to reinvent himself as a serious actor just as his reality-TV star fiancee talks him into broadcasting their wedding on her show.

Virtually every major distributor chased Top Five, as first reported by THR. Those in the mix included Fox Searchlight, Lionsgate, Open Road Films and Relativity.

But Paramount emerged the victor, thanks to Paramount chief Brad Grey's longtime ties to Rock, as well as the studio's close relationship with producer Scott Rudin, who made Top Five in concert with Barry Diller. Grey and Rock have known each other since Rock's early days as a stand-up comedian.

"Chris and I go back decades, both personally and professionally, and so I am particularly proud to have watched his career grow to its highest heights over many decades," Grey said in a statement.

UTA represented domestic rights to Top Five, while FilmNation has international.

Generally speaking, Hollywood studios aren't big festival players. But Paramount's Megan Colligan, who was recently promoted from domestic president of marketing and distribution to worldwide president, is a veteran acquisitions executive who worked at Fox Searchlight and Paramount Vantage (she was on the ground in Toronto).

Also spearheading the acquisition was Eben Davidson, head of acquisitions for the film studio, and Amy Reinhard, president of worldwide television and home entertainment acquisitions. Davidson and Paramount's executive vp business affairs Rona Cosgrove negotiated the deal with UTA.

Top Five's cast also includes Tracy Morgan, Cedric the Entertainer, J.B. Smoove, Sherri Shepherd, Anders Holm, Romany Malco, Leslie Jones, Michael Che and Jay Pharoah

Rudin shares a producing credit with Eli Bush. He and Diller financed Top Five via their joint film venture, IACF.

Top Five's international theatrical prospects aren't as clear, since American comedies don't travel well in many territories. However, it has a shot at doing good business in some European countries, including the U.K., and should be a strong player in ancillary markets.

Twitter: @PamelaDayM

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