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A24 has swooped in and picked up U.S. rights to Yorgos Lanthimos‘ The Lobster, just ahead of a March 11 release that had been scheduled by Alchemy, which originally acquired the film in May at the Cannes Film Festival.
But, amid mounting speculation that Alchemy is facing financial pressures, a new deal was struck, which was made easier by the fact that distributors were assembled in Berlin for the European Film Market, where the Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz starrer made a late-market stir.
The Lobster was one of the buzziest titles at Cannes thanks to its unique storyline and rave reviews. It is set in a dystopian near-future in which single people who fail to find a proper mate are transformed into the animal of their choice.
But its move to A24 is a troubling sign for Alchemy, formerly known as Millennium Entertainment, which relaunched as Alchemy in January 2015. Following its rechristening, the company became an aggressive buyer on the festival circuit. But the company’s track record has been dismal. Of the six films it has released since April, only one has crossed the $1 million mark at the domestic box office: Meet the Patels, which earned $1.7 million.
Other films with A-list talent struggled, including the Kristen Wiig starrer Welcome to Me. That film, which was produced by Adam McKay and Will Ferrell, earned just $609,000 in the U.S. Likewise, the Nicole Kidman star vehicle Strangerland, which Alchemy picked up at Sundance 2015, earned a paltry $17,000 during its theatrical run.
The Alchemy troubles come just 13 months after former CEO Bill Lee and a group of investors, including Virgo Investment Group, orchestrated a management buyout from Avi Lerner’s Nu Image/Millennium Films. Lee abruptly exited in December, and Kelly Summers and Scott Guthrie were then named co-presidents.
It is unclear what will happen to other films on the company’s 2016 slate. Nanni Moretti’s comedy-drama Mia Madre, another Cannes pickup, is set to open on March 25, while Rob Zombie’s horror film 31 was expected to bow later this year.
Alchemy was an active buyer in Cannes last year. In addition to The Lobster and Mia Madre, the company nabbed Gaspar Noe’s steamy threesome drama Love. And in Toronto, it acquired Zeroville, the dramedy James Franco wrote, directed and stars in with Megan Fox, Seth Rogen and Craig Robinson. Alchemy also picked up the French-language horror pic Evolution ahead of Toronto. But last month, the company left Sundance empty-handed.
CAA, which repped The Lobster‘s sale to Alchemy at Cannes, also handled the deal with A24 in Berlin. It is unclear when A24 will release the film.
Alchemy and A24 couldn’t be reached for comment.
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