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Amazon Studios Has Returned Woody Allen’s Movie. Will Any U.S. Distributor Release It? (EXCLUSIVE)

Amazon Studios has returned the domestic rights to indie film “A Rainy Day in New York” back to its director and producer, Woody Allen, Variety has learned.

Allen sparked widespread media confusion last week when he released a trailer for his Elle Fanning and Timothée Chalamet drama on his Facebook page, saying it was “coming soon.” The film had been stuck in the mire of litigation with his former creative partners at Amazon, but Allen is now free to proceed with any domestic release elsewhere as he sees fit, according to an individual close to the project.

“A Rainy Day in New York” already has international distribution commitments from France’s Contracorriente Films (Sept. 18), Italy’s Lucky Red (Oct. 3) and Germany’s Filmwelt/NFP (this fall). Germany was pre-sold in 2017 by FilmNation and Allen’s Gravier Productions secured France and Italy, and will handle sales in the rest of the world and now the U.S.

“Rainy Day” recently screened for at least one American indie distributor as a prospective acquisition, yet another source close to the project said the showing was done as a “professional courtesy” rather than an earnest business proposition. That scenario prompts an obvious question — what American company will possibly step up to release the film?

Allen and Amazon are locked in a legal battle regarding his defunct overall deal, a reported $80 million multi-project agreement, which stalled when misconduct accusations against the director resurfaced in the #MeToo era. The return of the film rights does not impact the current legal battle, another insider said. An Amazon Studios representative declined to comment on the matter. Reps for Allen did not return Variety‘s multiple requests for comment.

“This is death, publicity-wise,” said one top film distribution chief speaking on the condition of anonymity, on potentially acquiring the movie. While Allen has long been public about what he calls “25-year-old, baseless” accusations of sexual abuse from his daughter Dylan Farrow, #MeToo has galvanized Hollywood to hear and support victims.

Further complicating matters is that fact that two of the film’s cast members– Chalamet and Hall — donated their salaries from the production to charities like the Time’s Up legal defense fund. The pair publicly expressed regret over having worked with Allen.

“Talent wants to distance themselves as far as possible from this. None of them are likely to promote it,” the executive continued. Another major problem they foresee is quality. Allen has had a mixed track record for years, delivering hits like “Midnight in Paris” and “Blue Jasmine” in equal measure with starry duds.

The plot of “Rainy Day” revolves around ingenue Fanning being pursued by Chalamet. However, in the film she gravitates toward an older man played by Liev Schreiber, who is 30 years her senior.

The only viable distributors for a project like “A Rainy Day in New York” would presumably be small shops looking to make a splash or load up on content, said numerous show business players who spoke on background with Variety. Few could likely stand the public relations crush, the insiders noted.

Last August, Vertical Entertainment proceeded with a limited theatrical release of “Billionaire Boys Club,” despite the implosion of supporting star Kevin Spacey’s career after his own #MeToo scandal.

“We don’t condone sexual harassment on any level and we fully support victims of it. At the same time, this is neither an easy nor insensitive decision to release this film in theaters, but we believe in giving the cast, as well as hundreds of crew members who worked hard on the film, the chance to see their final product reach audiences,” the company said in a statement at the time. Released on only 10 screens, the film grossed a reported $287 in its first two days of release.

Team Allen might benefit from a domestic release strategy moving forward, if only for the fact that the director has no intention to retire. The 83-year-old is currently in production on an untitled drama in Spain, being financed by international conglomerate MediaPro. The company previously worked with Allen on titles like “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.”

“We have a 10-year relationship with Mr. Allen,” a MediaPro spokesperson told the New York Times in February. “Like all projects we produce, we judge the creator by its work.”

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