MSNBC is getting ready to raise the curtain on its MSNBC Films unit with plans set for its first theatrical release, while another original doc is set to bow on the cabler next month.
MSNBC has set an Oct. 29 premiere screening at Tribeca Screening Room in Gotham for its acquisition “Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father.” Distribbed by MSNBC Films and Oscilloscope Laboratories, pic will open Oct. 31 in New York at Cinema Village, and will add theaters in Los Angeles, Chicago and Santa Fe, N.M.in November, MSNBC confirmed.
On Nov. 9, MSNBC will air the original doc “Witness to Jonestown,” tying in with the 30th anniversary of the 1978 mass killing of more than 900 people in Guyana orchestrated by self-styled prophet Jim Jones.
MSNBC launched the MSNBC Films wing in June with the goal of handling a mix of acquired and original docu fare through the imprint (Daily Variety, June 25). Some projects will get limited theatrical release and a push on the festival circuit; some will preem on the network and then make the fest and awards season rounds.
“Dear Zachary,” helmed and produced by Kurt Kuenne, tells the story of the murder of a Pennsylvania man, Dr. Andrew Bagby, and the custody fight for the child he fathered with the girlfriend who murdered him, who wound up killing herself and the son two years after Bagby’s death. Doc has screened this year at SXSW and AFI’s SilverDocs, among other fests.
“Jonestown” is a co-production of MSNBC and NBC Universal’s Peacock Prods. Docu, written and produced by Stephen Stept, mines the NBC News archives to retell the saga of Jones and his People’s Temple, including footage shot at the compound the day Jones ordered his followers to commit suicide by drinking fruit punch laced with cyanide and a sedative.
Two NBC News staffers, cameraman Bob Brown and correspondent Don Harris, were killed and another was injured in an ambush of journalists and politicians who flew to Guyana to investigate reports of abuse in Jones’ complex.