Vaughn film finds new home

Picturehouse and New Line have scooped up world rights to “Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show: 30 Days & 30 Nights — Hollywood to the Heartland,” nullifying a deal announced by the Weinstein Co. at September’s Toronto Film Festival.

Switch is less than uplifting for TWC, on the heels of its awards season misfires and the meltdown of “Grindhouse.” Company is prepping for a busy Cannes, where it will preem Michael Moore’s “Sicko,” Wong Kar Wai’s “My Blueberry Nights” and “Death Proof,” the half of “Grindhouse” directed by Quentin Tarantino.

Picturehouse was one of the companies bidding in Toronto for the Vaughn pic, which sold to TWC for a shade under $3 million. The new deal is said to involve an acquisition price of about half that, but with a marketing commitment of at least $7-$8 million.

“We aggressively went after it in Toronto, but it didn’t go our way,” Picturehouse topper Bob Berney said. “When we heard via UTA (which reps Vaughn along with Miller Klein) that it was available, we didn’t ask why. We just worked on making a deal happen.”

A source close to TWC characterized the parting as amicable and said it resulted from a difference of opinion as to how broadly the pic could play and how it would roll out. Vaughn’s career was launched by the Miramax release of “Swingers,” which may have helped TWC in the bidding initially, but since the pic is a passion project, he apparently hoped for a more aggressive push.

“It’s funny that it’s even come up as amicable or not,” Vaughn said. “To me, it just wasn’t a fit as far as the marketing of the film. I was really thankful that they were willing to let me go with someone else.”

At a meeting with Harvey Weinstein in L.A. about a month ago, a different source said Vaughn made known his disappointment in the marketing materials and strategy and asked to buy the pic back. Weinstein assented and Vaughn will now repay an advance, estimated in the low seven figures, and proceed to the Picturehouse deal.

Produced by Vaughn, the film shows him selecting four up-and-coming comics and then leading them on a tour of 30 cities in 30 days. Footage from the 30 perfs featuring Bret Ernst, Ahmed Ahmed, Sebastian Maniscalco and John Caparulo is mixed with behind-the-scenes material.

A domestic release is now planned for early 2008, likely in the spring, with New Line following overseas through its network of international partners.

The delay is planned partly to allow time to craft a national rollout targeted at 300-400 screens; for the release of Vaughn’s next pic, “Fred Claus”; and for the doc’s comedians to gain a bit more exposure.

Not everyone who saw the pic in Toronto was as tickled as Berney. Daily Variety‘s review deemed the film “ungainly titled, overlong and intermittently funny.”

According to another source connected to the film, at the heart of the disagreement was TWC’s intent to emphasize the R-rated nature of the pic with marketing elements such as a “red-band” (adults-only) trailer. Berney declined to speculate about TWC’s approach but sees the pic as “more about getting to know Vince than an R-rated thing. Some of the heartland markets like St. Louis or New Orleans will be great places for it.”

Berney said the pic now clocks in at around 90 minutes, 25 minutes shorter than the festival cut. No more tweaks are planned.

“Bob really got that the film has an event aspect that’s about the road trip we take,” Vaughn said. “It’s more genuine and stripped-down than a lot of standup films and you get to meet the characters.”

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