In his first major move as CEO of Focus Features, Peter Schlessel and his team at the newly consolidated Universal label acquired domestic rights to Zach Braff’s Kickstarter-funded dramedy “Wish I Was Here.”
The film premiered Saturday night at the Sundance Film Festival, where it garnered mixed responses.
The acquisition is a significant deal for Focus, which last year absorbed FilmDistrict and ousted former CEO James Schamus. Plenty of eyes at Sundance were focused on the company and what sort of deal it would make — if at all.
As part of its newly mandated direction by Comcast-owned Uni, Focus is taking a more commercial approach, in general, though sales agents prior to Sundance said the company would be looking at both commercial and specialty fare.
“Wish I Was Here” certainly falls within the former camp as one of the more commercially targeted films at Sundance this year. Several other companies with a similar marketable mandate including Lionsgate and Fox Searchlight also were vying for the film.
The Focus deal was made for $2.7 million, with an initial theatrical commitment of 500 locations or more.
“Wish I Was Here” marks the first pic toplining a major star to be funded by Kickstarter.
The film, which is Braff’s follow-up to “Garden State,” centers on a thirty-something man (played by Braff) struggling to reconcile his failed life aspirations. Pic co-stars Kate Hudson, Josh Gad, Ashley Greene, Mandy Patinkin and Joey King.