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‘Tree’ snagged in distrib wrangle

U.K.'s Icon disputes deal with Summit

Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life” has become caught up in a legal dispute over its U.K. distribution, just before the film’s long-awaited premiere in Cannes.

Distrib Icon originally scheduled a May 4 bow. But it has canceled that plan in a dispute over distribution. Producers River Road Entertainment and Icon U.K. confirmed they are in arbitration, but neither would comment further on the case.

A London screening last summer of an early cut met with a negative reaction from Icon. Sales company Summit and River Road subsequently decided to launch “Tree” at Cannes in 2011.

Sources say under the original contract, Icon was only obliged to distribute the film if it was ready for U.K. release by May 4. But with Summit holding the film back for a world premiere in Cannes, Icon is arguing that its deal no longer holds.

If Icon ends its “Tree” deal, the most likely candidates to take over U.K. distribution are eOne, which has an output deal for Summit’s own productions, and Optimum Releasing, which is distributing Malick’s next untitled film.

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