'Earth' lands at Lionsgate


BERLIN -- Lionsgate has acquired U.S., U.K. and Australian distribution rights to ambitious documentary feature "Earth" from BBC Worldwide and Greenlight Media, the companies said Monday.

Five years in the making, "Earth" takes audiences on a journey around the planet, using the sun as a guide to follow the migratory journeys of an elephant, a humpback whale and a polar bear.

Directed by Alastair Fothergill, the theatrical movie is a companion piece to the BBC series "Planet Earth." Created by the team behind the feature film "Deep Blue," the 90-minute epic has been shot in 35mm and high definition.

The acquisition announcement was made jointly by the movie's producers, Alix Tidmarsh on behalf of BBC Worldwide and Sophokles Tasioulis for Greenlight Media; and Peter Block, Lionsgate president of acquisitions and co-productions, and Tom Ortenberg, Lionsgate president of theatrical films.

Block and Ortenberg described the film as "a remarkable cinematic achievement that delivers a picture of life on this planet unlike any we've seen before."

"For us, the decision was based on the enthusiasm of the team for the film, how much effort they would put into it," Tasioulis said. "With Lionsgate, we feel we're in very good hands."

The announcement comes the day after the film's producers invited a select audience to hear the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra record passages of the film's soundtrack in the renowned Jesus-Christus church in Berlin's Dahlem district. The orchestra was conducted by George Fenton, who composed the score for "earth," as he did for "Deep Blue."

The deal for English-speaking territories was negotiated for Lionsgate in the U.S. by the acquisitions and legal team led by Block; and by "earth" producers Tidmarsh and Tasioulis and Martyn Freeman, head of legal, BBC Worldwide, on behalf of the filmmakers.

Lionsgate joins Universum in Germany, GAGA in Japan, Gaumont in France, Wanda in Spain, Frenetic in Switzerland, and Audio Visual/Prooptiki in Greece as distribution partners on the picture.

Only South Korea, South Africa, Scandinavia and Italy remain unsold, with the latter possibly closing during EFM.

The producers are just finishing the sound and music on the picture and are casting for a major international name to provide the 10-15 minutes of narration.

"Earth" will unspool at the San Sebastian International Film Festival in September, according to Wanda's Jose Maria Morales. The main distribution partners have already held a couple of meetings in London to discuss release strategy, with a day-and-date October release currently the preferred option, Tasioulis said.