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FRIDAY, Dec. 12

Strand Releasing Buys ‘The Evening Hour

Strand Releasing has acquired all North American rights to Braden King’s crime drama “The Evening Hour,” starring Philip Ettinger, Cosmo Jarvis, Lili Taylor, Stacy Martin, and Kerry Bishé, Variety has learned exclusively.

Ettinger portrays a young health aide at a nursing home living in rural Appalachia, makes ends meet by redistributing excess medication from townies to local buyers. The screenplay, adapted from Carter Sickels’ celebrated novel, was written by Elizabeth Palmore. The film was produced by Lucas Joaquin for Secret Engine, Derrick Tseng, and King for Truckstop Media.

“The Evening Hour” screened at the Athens International Film and Video Festival, the Mill Valley Film Festival and the 38th Torino Film Festival, where it was the only American film selected to screen in competition. Strand Releasing plans for a spring 2021 release.

Gravitas Acquires ‘Magic Max’ 

Gravitas Ventures has bought North American rights on the Silver Lining Pictures’ family drama “Magic Max” and set a Jan. 26, 2021, release date,  Variety has learned exclusively.

The film follows an 11-year-old, played by Parker Bates, who after the tragic loss of both parents, is forced to live with his immensely immature uncle (played by Ivan Sergei), who is a second-rate magician. The film is directed by James D. Fields and produced by Gabrielle Evans Fields and Sean Fernald for Silver Lining Pictures Co.

“This is not a movie about magic,” said Fields, “This film is about how an underachiever changes his heart from stone to flesh, with the help of his 11-year-old nephew Tim, who teaches him how to love. It is a reminder that in even the darkest times, compassion for each other is the best magic of all.”

HBO Max Buys ‘Infamous Future’ Doc

HBO Max has acquired North American rights to the documentary “The Infamous Future,” which will be available for streaming on the platform on Jan. 1, 2021, Variety has learned exclusively.

Directed by Richard Butterworth, the film is written and produced by John Campbell and features students and teachers at the Eagle Academy, which encompasses six schools in New York City. David C. Banks founded The Eagle Academy for Young Men in 2004 as an institution stressing excellence in character and scholarship.

“I wanted to tell a success story on education, particularly focusing on black and brown boys. Eagle Academy is that story. The students and educators’ success not only impacts their lives, but the lives of the entire community, inspiring all generations. I’m very excited this story has a great home at H​BO Max,” ​said producer John Campbell.

THURDSAY, Dec. 11

Super Ltd. Buys Rights to Documentary

Neon’s Super Ltd division has acquired North American rights to Gianfranco Rosi’s documentary “Notturno,” which was recently announced as Italy’s official submission for the upcoming Academy Awards.

“Notturno,” produced by Stemal Entertainment and 21uno Film with Rai Cinema, was shot over three years along the rattled borders of Iraq, Kurdistan, Syria, and Lebanon, where people who have long been contending with the ravages of war and terror. The film won winning the Cinema for UNICEF award at the Venice Film Festival and has been nominated for a Critics’ Choice Documentary Award.

Mason Speta negotiated the deal for Super Ltd with Submarine Entertainment on behalf of the filmmakers. The Match Factory is handling international rights.

David Koepp Writing ‘Green Hornet’

“Jurassic Park” screenwriter David Koepp has been tapped to write the script for Universal Pictures and Amasia Entertainment’s “The Green Hornet and Kato.”

Universal optioned the rights to “The Green Hornet” in April from Amasia, after co-founders Michael Helfant and Bradley Gallo acquired control of the motion picture franchise rights from the family of the original creator George W. Trendle in January.

Helfant, the former President of Marvel Studios, and Gallo will produce the film for Amasia. “The Green Hornet” was one of early radio’s most popular adventure shows before being turned into 1940s movie serials (from Universal Pictures) and the 1966 TV series, which introduced Bruce Lee as Kato to the United States.

‘Boogie’ Slated for March Release 

Focus Features has set a March 5 release date for Eddie Huang’s feature directorial debut, “Boogie,” a coming-of-age story of Alfred “Boogie” Chin, a basketball phenom living in Queens, New York.

Huang, who wrote “Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir,” both directed and wrote the screenplay. The film stars Taylor Takahashi, Taylour Paige, Pamelyn Chee, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Alexa Mareka, Mike Moh, Perry Yung, and Pop Smoke.

Producers are Josh Bratman of Immersive Pictures, Josh McLaughlin of Wink Productions, and Michael Tadross.  Rafael Martinez is an executive producer.

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 10

Lionsgate Sets ‘Lush’ With ‘John Wick’ Director

Lionsgate has optioned the spy thriller  “Lush” by Duane Swierczynski for Chad Stahelski’s 87Eleven Entertainment through its deal with the studio.

Stahelski and Jason Spitz will produce. Chris Goldberg will executive produce through his Winterlight Pictures. Duane Swierczynski is set to adapt his story as a feature.

“Lush” appeared in “Best American Mystery Stories 2019.” Stahelski has directed all three “John Wick” movies for Lionsgate. Aaron Janus is overseeing development of “Lush” for Lionsgate. Stahelski is represented by WME and attorney Tara Kole.

DreamWorks Animation Developing ‘Dog Man’

DreamWorks Animation has optioned the rights to “Dog Man” by author and illustrator Dav Pilkey (“Captain Underpants”), and is developing a feature film based on the series.

Peter Hastings (“Animaniacs”) is attached to direct. Hastings, a six-time Emmy Award and Peabody winner, joined DreamWorks Animation in 2011, where he worked on TV programs such as “Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness” and “The Epic Tales of Captain Underpants,” where he worked closely with Pilkey.

Published by Scholastic, the “Dog Man” series follows the adventures of the “Supa Buddies:” Dog Man, a lovable canine superhero, and his friends Li’l Petey, a curious kitten who embodies love, optimism, and hope, and 80-HD, a robot who expresses himself best through his art.

TUESDAY, Dec. 9

Horror-Comedy Coming From Shade Room CEO

Universal Pictures has put into development the horror-comedy “Juju,” based on an original pitch by The Shade Room CEO Angelica Nwandu with Issa Rae and La La Anthony producing.

Nwandu is penning the script. This marks the first major crossover for Nwandu into feature films, after the drama she co-wrote “Night Comes On” won the NEXT Innovator Award at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.

Thembi Banks will direct, making her studio feature directorial debut. In addition to Rae and Anthony, Deniese Davis will also produce and Sara Rastogi will oversee for HooRae. Rae consolidated her entertainment production ventures for feature film, television and digital under the HooRae banner in September.

Austin Pendleton Joins ‘Content is King’ Documentary 

Veteran actor Austin Pendleton has joined Jaime Zevallos’ documentary feature film “Content Is King,” which also stars Taryn Manning, Vanessa Rubio and teen actor-recording artist Alexander James Rodriguez.

Executive produced by Rob Simmons, “Content is King” will be providing a peek into the lives of performers, filmmakers and other artists who have had to learn and adapt to their quickly changing industries, often becoming multi-hyphenate artists along the way. The feature will also look at the alternatives actors and musicians are using to create their own narrative content using social media platforms from Instagram to TikTok.

The film is being shot in Los Angeles and New York. Zevallos is producing along with Freddy Giorlando, Paul Tully and Leila Almas Rose.

Tribeca Festival Adds to Programming Staff

The Tribeca Film Festival has officially brought on new programmers José F. Rodriguez and Karen McMullen, joining festival director and VP of programming Cara Cusumano for the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival.

Rodriguez comes from the documentary space, formerly director of documentary programs at TFI Network. McMullen previously held positions as head of programming at TIDE Festival, the lead curator for the New Voices in Black Cinema Film Festival, and a features programmer for DOC NYC Film Festival.

Tribeca Film Festival 2021 is slated for June 9-20, 2021 and submissions are open until Jan. 13, 2021.

MONDAY, Dec. 8

Ryan Phillippe, Tom Pelphrey to Lead ‘American Murderer’

The Traveling Picture Show Company and GiGi Films have cast Tom Pelphrey as con man Jason Derek Brown in “American Murderer,” alongside Ryan Phillippe playing the FBI agent tasked to hunt him down.

Idina Menzel and Academy Award nominee Jacki Weaver have also been cast. AFI alumnus Matthew Gentile wrote the script and will direct, with principal photography commencing in Salt Lake City. Kevin Matusow and Carissa Buffel will produce for TPSC alongside Gia Walsh and Kara Baker under the GiGi Films banner, in line with Utah state and SAG-AFTRA COVID-19 protocols.

“American Murderer” is based on the true story of Brown – a charismatic conman who bankrolls his luxurious lifestyle through a series of scams. When his funds run low and his past catches up with him, he plots his most elaborate scheme yet and, in the process, becomes the FBI’s most unlikely top ten fugitive. Pelphrey, recently named one of Variety’s 10 Actors to Watch for 2020, can currently be seen in David Fincher’s  “Mank,” playing Joseph Mankiewicz.

Miami Film Festival Scheduled for March

Miami Film Festival, which was canceled in March in the middle of its 37th edition, will return March 5-14, 2021 and employ a hybrid format with both in-theater and online experiences.

The festival said it aims to present international and Ibero-American films and showcase the work of the world’s best emerging and established filmmakers. Films by Pedro Almodóvar, Patricia Clarkson, Abel Ferrara, Andy Garcia, Barry Jenkins, Spike Lee and Lulu Wang have been shown at past festivals.

All competition films will need to play both in-theater and online to qualify but the festival will also have special presentation section where films will play exclusively either in-theater or online. Cash awards totaling more than $100,000 are given in competition categories.

Kevin Tent Elected President of ACE

The American Cinema Editors has elected Kevin Tent as president, succeeding Stephen Rivkin who has served as the organization’s president since 2016. Tent will serve a two-year term.

Lillian Benson was re-elected as secretary, with Anita Brandt Burgoyne, Dorian Harris, Sabrina Plisco, Tatiana Riegel, Andrew Seklir and Rivkin all serving on the board of directors, alongside associate board members Mark Helfrich, Michael Ornstein, Terilyn Shropshire and Troy Takaki. They will all be joining the existing board of Carol Littleton, vice president, and Stephen Lovejoy as treasurer, along with board members Jacqueline Cambas,  Maysie Hoy, Bonnie Koehler, and Mary Jo Markey.

Tent is a longtime collaborator with Alexander Payne with credits on “Citizen Ruth,” “Election,” “About Schmidt,” “Sideways” and “The Descendants.”