Trio to release Sundance winner

Lionsgate has acquired Sundance Film Festival winner “Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire.” Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry will team to promote the film.

Multimillion-dollar pact for North American distribution rights, struck one week after Sundance ended, marks the biggest deal to come out of the fest.

“Push” is only the third film in Sundance history to win both the grand jury prize and the audience awards in the U.S. dramatic competition, while the film’s star, Mo’Nique, was honored with a special jury prize.

Lionsgate reportedly paid north of $5 million. Studio intends to release the film, based on the 1996 book about a Harlem teenager, this year.

Winfrey’s and Perry’s support sweetened the deal for Lionsgate and the filmmakers. The pair will throw their marketing muscle behind the release of the pic through their respective companies, Harpo Films and 34th Street Films.

Directed by Lee Daniels from an adapted script by Damien Paul, “Push” also stars newcomer Gabourey “Gabby” Sidibe, Paula Patton, Mariah Carey and Lenny Kravitz. Project reteams Lionsgate and Daniels, who has signed with the William Morris Agency, for the first time since “Monster’s Ball.”

“Push” revolves around an overweight, illiterate African-American teen in Harlem who’s about to give birth to her second child when she is accepted into an alternative school.

“I’ve never seen anything like it. The moment I saw ‘Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire,’ I knew I wanted to do whatever I could to encourage other people to see this movie. The film is so raw and powerful — it split me open,” Winfrey said.

For Perry’s 34th Street Films, it’s the first time the shingle has backed an outside title.

“I am honored to join Oprah Winfrey and Lionsgate in releasing Lee Daniels’ exceptional film,” Perry said.

“Push” was produced by Daniels and Sarah Siegel-Magness and Gary Magness’ Smokewood Entertainment Group. Lisa Cortes and Tom Heller exec produced.

John Sloss’ Cinetic Films repped the rights and negotiated the deal on behalf of Daniels and the producers.

Negotiating on the Lionsgate side were prexy of acquisitions and co-productions Jason Constantine, senior VP of acquisitions and co-productions Eda Kowan and exec VP of business and legal affairs Wendy Jaffe.

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