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Lions Gate makes date with ‘Mr. Death’

Docu sparks press interests, draws six-figure sum

Lions Gate Entertainment has picked up North American rights to Errol Morris’ documentary “Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter Jr.” for a mid-six figures.

The company plans to release “Mr. Death” later this year.

The pic tells the story of Leuchter, an engineer who designs and repairs gas chambers, electric chairs and lethal injection systems. The mild-mannered eccentric conducted forensic investigation into the use of poison gas in WWII Nazi concentration camps. Leuchter’s controversial findings, which have become required reading for Holocaust deniers, eventually led to his ruin.

“Death,” which debuted as a work-in-progress at the Sundance Film Festival in January, has already received national press attention including a lengthy New Yorker feature earlier this year. The copious press coverage was unusual for an independent film that did not yet have a domestic distributor.

” ‘Mr. Death’ expresses a number of important political and social issues,” Morris said. “I think it’s a film — even more than ‘The Thin Blue Line’ or any other film I’ve made — that will prompt discussion and interest, and I wanted it to reach the widest possible audience. Lions Gate has made a commitment to do just that. They see it, as I do, not as a specialized film, but rather a film that could attract a much broader audience than anything I’ve done before.”

Morris is one of just a handful of documentarians whose films have consistently received theatrical releases. His most recent feature, “Fast, Cheap & Out of Control,” grossed $879,000 in its 1997 Sony Pictures Classics release. Triton released his “A Brief History of Time,” which grossed $2.3 million in 1992.

Morris began his career with the 1978 docu “Gates of Heaven.” His other credits include “The Thin Blue Line” (1988) and “Vernon, Florida” (1981).