An update was made to this article on Nov. 13, 2006.
Magnolia is close to acquiring rights to “Maxed Out,” the critically acclaimed docu about Americans and the debt industry, directed by James Scurlock.
Distrib would pick up the movie jointly with Netflix’s Red Envelope acquisition label.
Pic will likely be a theatrical release from Truly Indie, with a late winter date being eyed. Under one scenario, pic would go into homevid as a Red Envelope release for Netflix and a Magnolia Home Entertainment release to retail outlets.
Gotham-based sales agent Submarine Entertainment is handling the sale with Roger Kass. Submarine’s Josh Braun previously repped breakout docu hits “Spellbound” and “Super Size Me” and made one of the biggest sales at the Toronto Film Festival, selling, with CAA, horror-comedy “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” to Dimension.
“Maxed Out” could be positioned as a breakout documentary along the lines of a previous Magnolia release, “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room,” which was a surprise hit in 2005 and earned an Oscar nomination.
The rental arm of Netflix has had success with documentaries, helping to turn “Capturing the Friedmans” into an unlikely hit.
Pic likely will be timed to release with “Maxed Out: Hard Times, Easy Credit and the Era of Predatory Lenders,” a book by Scurlock about the debt industry published by Simon & Schuster imprint Scribner. Title was supposed to come out later in 2007, but release date was moved up after Magnolia and Netflix entered the scene.
According to people who have seen the book proposal, it covers somewhat different characters and territory as the pic but has a similar tone.
“Maxed Out,” which bowed at the South by Southwest Film Festival this year and won a special jury prize, follows ordinary Americans who are hamstrung by debt. Pic takes the point of view of people who are seduced by but then often choke on mortgages, credit cards and other bank loans. It also investigates practices and tactics of the banks and credit card companies.
Scurlock said he was influenced by “Super Size Me,” another doc that used investigative techniques to explore the plight of ordinary Americans. On the movie’s Web site, Scurlock notes the coincidence of his name being similar to the director of that film, Morgan Spurlock, which also could become a news hook for the movie’s publicity campaign.
In another twist, debut helmer Scurlock nearly maxed out his own credit cards to finance the movie.
Variety called the movie “intelligent, informative and unusually entertaining” when it played SXSW. Movie generated strong interest at the fest and has had a number of suitors since its screening there.