Searchlight acquires ‘Tree of Life’ for 2011 release

Posted by · 9:54 am · September 9th, 2010

Well, things just took a turn for the worse if you’re a Terrence Malick fan desperate to feast your eyes on his latest film, “The Tree of Life.” But they took a turn for the absolute best if you want the film to be taken care of by a studio with resources and savvy awards planning.

Tuesday it was reported that Bill Pohlad was essentially looking to clean house at Apparition by dumping off the film and drastically cutting the staff.  Word was Pohlad was being shown to distributors, looking for a buyer.

Well, he found one: Fox Searchlight, but the film will be released in 2011.  When you think about it, it’s a smart move to hold it.  They’re just getting into the project and would have only three months to really prime release and awards strategies.  And the studio already has four horses in the race this year as it is.  So, be patient, and maybe next year we’ll have a real stallion on our hands.

Writes Mike Fleming at Deadline:

Searchlight presidents Stephen Gilula and Nancy Utley made the deal for domestic rights. Summit is already selling international territories.

The unanswered question is whether this essentially plants a headstone on Apparition. I’ve been told that’s not necessarily the case, but it seems clear that Pohlad was badly wounded by a Berney exit that caught him by surprise, and he might not have the fire to start again with somebody else, even while he has Tom Ortenberg staying on in a consulting role.

This is the latest in a flurry of fest deals that were closed on the eve of the Toronto International Film Festival, with Sony Pictures Classics acquiring the Paul Giamatti-Dustin Hoffman-starrer Barney’s Version, and Dave Matthews’ ATO acquiring the George Hickenlooper-directed Kevin Spacey-starrer Casino Jack.

I heard that about Hickenlooper’s film but didn’t know it was official. Anyway, there we have it. The drama finally subsides.

UPDATED (11:54am): From the Searchlight press release:

Terrence Malick has crafted a deeply moving, keenly observed and magisterial film,” said [Fox Searchlight co-presidents Nancy] Utley and [Stephen] Gilula.  “Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and the entire cast’s performances are simply amazing.  This is a signature film by a signature filmmaker and we are proud to be releasing it.”…

THE TREE OF LIFE is the impressionistic story of a Midwestern family in the 1950’s chronicling the journey of the eldest son, Jack (played as an adult by Sean Penn), through the innocence of childhood to his disillusioned adult years – trying to reconcile the complicated relationship with his father (Brad Pitt).  Jack finds himself a lost soul in the modern world, seeking answers to the origins and meaning of life while questioning the existence of faith.

[Photo: Fox Searchlight Pictures]

→ 25 Comments Tags: , , , | Filed in: Daily

25 responses so far

  • 1 9-09-2010 at 10:02 am

    James D. said...

    Worst. News. Ever.

  • 2 9-09-2010 at 10:04 am

    Kevin K. said...

    I still have a feeling Fox Searchlight will try to get it out there sooner rather than later. It’s been delayed for what, nearly two years now? I’m guessing a January release akin to The Way Back.

  • 3 9-09-2010 at 10:09 am

    Michael (Gort2) Patterson said...

    Sat with Bill Pohlad and the Apparition folks at the Patron’s Breakfast last Friday morning. He seemed pretty tense, antsy and kind of stand-offish. Now we may know why. You have to think the deal was going down as the Telluride weekend was unfolding.

    As to “Tree” in 2011, you’re right Kris. It seems like a lot smarter play for Fox Searchlight to get it all lined up with a year to plan rather than trying to rush it here at the end of 2010. I just wonder if they will wait to reveal it during this time next year…or maybe a Cannes/Telluride (or Venice or Toronto) double play.

    Wahtever, I’ll be waiting anxiously.

    PS..thanks for the Telluride coverage!

  • 4 9-09-2010 at 10:11 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    I’ve heard the film is three hours long and Malick won’t cut it, so this gives Searchlight time to either a) convince him otherwise (as if) or b) formulate a strategy around what is considered to be an extremely unconventional film.

  • 5 9-09-2010 at 10:15 am

    Beau said...

    God, I hope the film is three hours long. I want to marvel and bathe in as much of his artistry as I can.

    Bummed that it’s next year, I would GLADLY wish for it to take the place of ‘Conviction’ and, to a lesser extent, ‘Never Let Me Go’, but hey, something to look forward to I suppose.

    And they can always pull an Eastwood and move the thing up in case the aforementioned films bomb with critics and at the box office.

  • 6 9-09-2010 at 10:18 am

    Kevin K. said...

    Well as we all know, Malick is very adamant about tinkering with the cut of his films until the absolute last minute. Who knows, maybe it will be revealed in Austin Film Fest or Fantastic Fest, since Malick is a local, and the film was shot locally. But who knows. Until then, I’ll be enjoying my blu-rays of The Thin Red Line, The New World, and Days of Heaven.

  • 7 9-09-2010 at 10:18 am

    Fitz said...

    If Conviction bombs (and I think it will) maybe Tree of Life will get to come out early, but as for the aforementioned runtime Searchlight will probably try to talk Malick out of it.

  • 8 9-09-2010 at 10:21 am

    Silencio said...

    no worries; i’d stopped expecting a 2010 appearance a few weeks ago. and i’m pleased that it’ll get the support it deserves.

    that said, with all this drama, it’d better be damned good.

  • 9 9-09-2010 at 10:22 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Kevin: From what I hear, he’s finished with it. He just won’t cut it further.

    And really guys, give up on 2010. It’s not happening.

  • 10 9-09-2010 at 10:23 am

    Kevin K. said...

    I honestly don’t even care about it’s awards prospects, I just wanna see the damn movie lol. At least it will actually be released before I’m 50!

  • 11 9-09-2010 at 10:29 am

    aspect ratio said...

    I’m glad someone’s taking it off of the hapless Apparition’s hands, but god fucking dammit.

  • 12 9-09-2010 at 10:31 am

    McAllister said...

    I love Searchlight. They are good to their audiences… good promotion, good screenings, good campaigns.

  • 13 9-09-2010 at 10:36 am

    Matthew Starr said...

    Fox Searchlight is beasting right now. Well they have been for the last four or so years.

    Hopefully this comes out in the spring or something and they won’t make us wait another 12 months or longer.

  • 14 9-09-2010 at 10:44 am

    Jeorge. said...

    well, the release date is very disappointing, but i suppose it’s better late than never. my hopes for an out of the ballpark masterpiece now turn to True Grit. has anyone heard *anything* about that?

  • 15 9-09-2010 at 10:47 am

    Drew said...

    Great news and certainly a wise decision on Fox Searchlight’s part. Anne mentioned in one of the last podcasts that Sundance was a possibility since there’s too much riding on the film for them to wait till Canne.

  • 16 9-09-2010 at 10:55 am

    Mike_M said...

    Well I am glad when know who is releasing it, bummed I have to wait another year until 2011…

    Interesting ATO picked up Casino Jack, their highest profile release so far.

  • 17 9-09-2010 at 11:13 am

    Rashad said...

    My interest in the film is at an all time low now.

  • 18 9-09-2010 at 11:14 am

    Mr. F said...

    I can see it coming out in March or sometime in the summer. I just can’t see the investors waiting another year.

  • 19 9-09-2010 at 11:15 am

    Ken said...

    I believe part of this film was shot in IMAX (seriously), so perhaps the logistics didn’t work out.

    Either way this is just terrible news to read. My heart sunk reading this.

    If Fox Searchlight knew how many people – and Academy members, for that matter – were PASSIONATE about seeing this film (far more than any other Oscar contender this year), I think they might reconsider.

  • 20 9-09-2010 at 1:01 pm

    Ben M. said...

    while there are some people who are very excited about the film, they are a fairly small group who are not big enough to make the film a success on it’s own. There are probably more people in the general filmgoing audience passionate about “Resident Evil” this weekend. Plus while I could see the academy going for the film, I don’t see any signs this is the most anticipated upcoming movie among academy members.

    I think a release from a indie with tons of resources and time to carefully market the film, perhaps starting with a boost from Cannes and/or the fall festivals, is the best route to success for the picture.

  • 21 9-09-2010 at 1:36 pm

    Lance McCallion said...

    I’m sure we’ll see Fox sit on this until next fall now, which is a travesty if the film is done. Also another fantastic reasons to despise the awards season and the sort of bullshit fallout the fuss around the Oscars causes. God forbid we could just see films when they’re finished and ready to be put on screens.

  • 22 9-09-2010 at 5:46 pm

    ChrisG said...

    I wanted to see this thing in 2009 already and now it’s gonna be 2011! Holy cow! I’m über curious, but I also like to see a film be part of the whole awards shenanigans. If it deserves them I like a film to be at least in contention.

    I’m expecting a Cannes premiere and then a start in late November. And in my personal worst case scenario I have to wait till February 2012 (! what the…?) since we’re traditionally late here with films I’d like to see. :/

  • 23 9-09-2010 at 8:42 pm

    Chris138 said...

    God dammit.

  • 24 9-10-2010 at 4:46 am

    Michael W. said...

    Too bad. But hey, a Terrence Malick film is worth the wait. No matter how long that wait is!

    I’m certainly expecting it to be at Cannes next year. At this years festival Thierry Fremaux said he had seen an early version of the film a few months earlier, so if it isn’t rushed into release this year I would be very, very surprised if it isn’t at Cannes in 2011.

  • 25 9-11-2010 at 9:52 pm

    Michael said...

    Breaking my balls man… Breaking. My. Balls.