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German mini-major Leonine Studios have signed a three-picture deal with Lionsgate, taking all rights in Germany and Austria for Eli Roth’s hotly anticipated video game adaptation Borderlands, the family-friendly drama White Bird: A Wonder Story from Finding Neverland helmer Marc Forster, and The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, a meta action-comedy starring Nicolas Cage as…Nicolas Cage.
The deal, announced Thursday, is a clear sign Leonine sees recovery on the way for the German box office, which has been in stasis since November when the country went into its second national lockdown. Vaccination rates are ticking up, however, and many hope cinemas will be able to reopen by late summer.
Leonine is planning for a theatrical future beyond that. Borderlands is still shooting and both The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent and White Bird are currently in postproduction.
Leonine, which launched in 2019 with a nine-figure war chest from its owners, New York investment firm KKR, kicked off its theatrical business with another Lionsgate title, Rian Johnson’s mystery-comedy Knives Out, which the German group released in early 2020, grossing close to $13 million before the coronavirus pandemic shut down cinemas. Media Rights Capital (MRC) was a financier on Knives Out. The company’s MRC Entertainment division is a co-owner of The Hollywood Reporter through a joint venture with Penske Media titled PMRC.
“We are proud to continue our close relationship with Lionsgate, an esteemed partner for top content, as we firmly believe in a strong box office performance of high-quality event movies,” said Leonine CEO Fred Kogel in a statement. “We have built our theatrical slate as well as our digital and linear distribution based upon this strategy and will continue to do so.”
Despite the COVID-19 downturn, Leonine has continued to bet big on a box office bounce back. Earlier this year, the group signed an output deal with Asbury Park Pictures, the U.S.-based production group from John Wick and Sicario producers Basil Iwanyk and Erica Lee, giving them exclusive German-language rights to Asbury Park’s upcoming slate of mid-budget action titles.
The three new Lionsgate films run the gamut from action blockbuster to personal drama. Borderlands, based on the best-selling video game from Gearbox and 2K, features an all-star cast, including Cate Blanchett, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Ariana Greenblatt and Jamie Lee Curtis, in an apocalyptic sci-fi tale about a group of mercenaries and misfits who team up to save the universe. The film is currently shooting in Budapest.
White Bird: A Wonder Story is based on a novel by R.J. Palacio, whose best-seller Wonder was turned into a 2017 sleeper hit. The film, starring Gillian Anderson and Helen Mirren, is a redemption tale about a bully inspired to change his ways by his grandmother, who tells him her story of surviving the holocaust. The film is currently in postproduction.
And for the Nic Cage fans, Lionsgate’s The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent promises a feast. Tom Gormican directs the meta action-comedy which sees Cage starring as Hollywood actor Nicolas Cage who, facing financial ruin, accepts a $1 million offer to attend a superfan’s birthday party, where events take a wildly dangerous turn.
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