Helmer George Hickenlooper’s “Mayor of the Sunset Strip” has been picked up by First Look Pictures for domestic distribution and by Lakeshore Entertainment for overseas rights. Pic bowed June 19 to warm response at the Los Angeles Film Festival.
Deal, in final negotiations, likely will amount to a $1.3 million acquisition paid for by the two distribs.
Documentary follows the exploits of Rodney Bingenheimer, a pop impresario who for the last 27 years has been a taste-making DJ at L.A.’s KROQ-FM. He’s been instrumental in launching the careers of household names like Van Halen, Blondie, Billy Idol and Coldplay, and he’s been a friend and a confidant to numerous recording stars.
Peter Lawson at First Look is overseeing the acquisition for the company. While Hickenlooper took no salary on the pic, he does own 20% of the movie in lieu of upfront payment.
First Look is understood to be lining up the pic to play in the top 25 markets nationwide next spring.
“Mayor” was produced and financed by former Imax exec Greg Little. Also serving as producers were Christopher Paul Carter (late of rock band Dramarama), Greg S. Little and Tommy Perna; Donald Zuckerman exec produced.
“I saw in Rodney a compelling universal story about how we function as a culture,” Hickenlooper said in an interview with Daily Variety. “I think our culture is obsessed with celebrity, and I wanted to know why. I think the cracks in our culture, in the family and in religion, we’ve filled them with celebrity.”
Hickenlooper, who’s readying “The Handyman” at Warner Bros. Pictures for a fall start, co-directed the Emmy-winning “Hearts of Darkness,” about Francis Ford Coppola’s difficult time shooting “Apocalypse Now,” and, more recently, psychosexual drama “The Man From Elysian Fields” for the Samuel Goldwyn Co.
Hickenlooper said the strange life of Bingenheimer was more compellingly told as fact than fiction, and as such, he spent two of the last five years intermittently working on the Zeliglike DJ’s docu.
“There is something inherently sad about Rodney’s story,” Hickenlooper said. “He’s been looking for mother and father figures, and I saw in him bits of myself and my fascination with celebrity.”
Bingenheimer got his start as a stand-in for Davy Jones on “The Monkees” in 1966, and very quickly his inculcation into the world of musical celebrity became total. “When you walk into his apartment, it’s like walking into a museum,” producer Little said. “The list of bands he’s crossed paths with, it’s incredible.”
Appearing in the doc are icons like Neil Young, Mick Jagger, Beck, David Bowie and even the late Sonny Bono. In all, some 119 songs from his tenure at the KROQ console are included in the pic, which heads next to the Toronto Film Festival in September.
L.A. fest booster
The Endeavor-brokered deal is a calling card for the Los Angeles Film Festival, in its third year of association with the Independent Feature Project, and its ninth overall.
L.A. film fest director Richard Raddon said pics like “Mayor” and last year’s high-profile Fox Searchlight pickup “Kissing Jessica Stein” help increase the event’s appeal to filmmakers. Such helmers may be inclined to debut their pics at the LAFF “not just because we have great venues, but because what makes L.A. L.A. is that the business of film is done in the city.”
“Mayor” had its debut at the Cinerama Dome on June 17 to an overflow crowd.
Hickenlooper is repped by Endeavor and managed by Hopscotch Pictures.