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FRIDAY, Dec. 18

Lionsgate Gives New Responsibilities to Executives

Lionsgate Motion Picture Group Chairman Joe Drake is restructuring the group with Jen Hollingsworth continuing as chief operating officer with expanding oversight to lead the strategy and innovation team.

Ron Schwartz will expand his role to lead worldwide distribution for all Motion Picture Group content; and Damon Wolf will expand his global marketing and communications oversight to include all platforms and digital content releases as well as oversight of all theatrical and digital releases through the home entertainment window.

Drake, who oversees the motion picture group, will continue to lead the content vertical, with Nathan Kahane, Jason Constantine and Jenefer Brown heading up production, global acquisitions, and live, interactive, and location based entertainment, respectively.

Lorraine Bracco’s ‘Jacir’ Rounds Out Cast

Leila Almas Rose (“Blue Bloods”), Jonathan Stoddard (“Black Monday”) and veteran actor Mark Jeffrey Miller (“The Devil All the Time”) have joined Lorraine Bracco in the Amy Williams-produced drama “Jacir,” set in Memphis, Tennessee, Variety has learned exclusively.

Written by Waheed AlQawasmi in his directorial debut, the English-Arabic language film follows Jacir (Malek Rahbani), a Syrian refugee who has resettled into a rough neighborhood in Memphis. He finds himself living next door to an opioid addict and racist woman, portrayed by Bracco, who wants nothing to do with him. An unlikely friendship develops once the two realize they have more in common that they thought.

Grammy-award winning record producer Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell is handling the soundtrack. Collaborating on the film’s soundtrack with Mitchell are Al Kapone and Kurt “KC” Clayton.

Gary Oldman Thriller ‘Crisis’ Bought by Quiver

Quiver Distribution has acquired the U.S. rights to writer and director Nicholas Jarecki’s dramatic thriller “Crisis,”  starring Gary Oldman, Armie Hammer and Evangeline Lilly.

Quiver will release the film in theatres nationwide on Feb. 26, 2021 followed by a digital and on-demand release on March 5. The story centers on a multi-cartel Fentanyl smuggling operation as an architect recovering from an Oxycodone addiction tracks down the truth behind her son’s disappearance. A university professor battles unexpected revelations about his employer, a pharmaceutical company bringing a new “non-addictive” painkiller to market.

“Nick brought his brilliant script to life in this topical and highly entertaining film,” said Quiver Co-Presidents Berry Meyerowitz and Jeff Sackman.  “His look at the international drug war through the prism of profiteers, law enforcement, and all those caught in between is a powerful, thrilling story that we’re proud to bring to audiences.”

The news was first reported by Deadline Hollywood.

THURSDAY, Dec. 17

Animation Studio Signs Joel Crawford 

DreamWorks Animation has signed a first-look development and directing deal with Joel Crawford, director of “The Croods: A New Age.”

The animated sequel has earned $77 million worldwide in theaters and will be premiering on PVOD on Friday. Crawford directed the “Trolls Holiday Special,” which aired in 2017. He joined DreamWorks Animation in 2006 and became an integral Story Artist on “Trolls,” “Shrek Ever After,” “Rise of The Guardians,” the three “Kung Fu Panda” movies and “Bee Movie.”

“DreamWorks has been my home for many years and every day I am inspired by all the amazing artists that I have the great fortune to call my colleagues,” said Crawford. “I am sincerely looking forward to jumping into my next film in such a creative and collaborative environment!”

The news was first reported by Deadline Hollywood.

WETA Digital Names Three Board Members

Peter Jackson’s visual effects specialist Weta Digital has named industry leaders Tom Staggs, Jeff Huber and Ken Kamins to its board of directors.

Prem Akkaraju, Global CEO of Weta Digital, said the appointments positions Weta Digital for exponential growth including opening offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Staggs was most recently Disney’s chief operating officer, having previously served for five years as chairman of Disney Parks and Resorts Worldwide and for nearly 12 years as Disney’s chief financial officer.

Huber is the former founding CEO and vice chairman of GRAIL and previously a senior vice president at Google. Kamins is the Founder and CEO of Key Creatives, a management-production company. He has represented Jackson and Fran Walsh since 1992.

‘Cracka’ Director Dale Resteghini Signs With Buchwald

Dale Resteghini, better known as Rage, has signed with Buchwald as his series, “Cracka” drops on Google Play and iTunes.

The series depicts whites as slaves and blacks as slave owners as part of an effort by Resteghini to “help white people see racism from a new perspective.” The series stats Lorenzo Antonucci, Hakeem Kae-Kazim, Saigon and Kathryn Kates.

Resteghini has directed over 100 music videos for artists including Fall Out Boy, The Game, Keisha Cole, Tyga, RZA, Flo Rida and Souja Boy.  He continues to be repped by Rashidi Hendrix at Metallic Entertainment and attorney David Chidekel at Early Sullivan.

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 16

Recording Star Rounds Out ‘Bullet Train’ Cast

Latin Grammy winner Bad Bunny has boarded Sony’s Brad Pitt action thriller “Bullet Train,” joining Joey King, Aaron Taylor Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Zazie Beetz, Michael Shannon, Logan Lerman, Masi Oka and Andrew Koji.

David Leitch is directing from a script by Zak Olkewicz, based on the Kotaro Isaka novel “Maria Beatle” about criminals battling each other on a train in Tokyo.

Bad Bunny’s most recent album, “El Ultimo Tour del Mundo,” debuted in first place on the Billboard 200 chart, becoming the first all-Spanish album to reach this position. The news was first reported by Deadline Hollywood.

Emile Hirsch, Kate Bosworth Starring in ‘Immaculate Room’

Emile Hirsch, Kate Bosworth, Ashley Greene and M. Emmet Walsh are set to star in writer/director Mukunda Michael Dewil’s psychological thriller “The Immaculate Room.”

Principal photography is currently underway for the project, which will explore a seemingly perfect couple taking part in a psychological experiment that will reward them $5 dollars if they can stay in a perfectly white room for 50 days. But the room is much more than it seems, and a hidden past and private demons will reveal shameful truths that they may not survive.

K5 International’s Daniel Baur, Productivity Media’s Doug Murray and Balcony 9’s Joel David Moore are all attached as producers. K5 International is handling worldwide rights.

NFL Cheerleader Documentary Lands at 1091

1091 Pictures has bought digital world-wide rights to documentary “A Woman’s Work: The NFL Cheerleader Problem,” directed and produced by Yu Gu, written and produced by Elizabeth Ai.

The film follows an Oakland Raiders cheerleader and a former cheerleader for the Buffalo Bills as they fight for fair compensation from the NFL.  The film will be available to purchase on Jan. 26 and rent on Feb. 2.

“This film couldn’t be more timely in 2021 with Vice president-elect Kamala Harris shattering racial and gender barriers for women in the workplace,” said Yu Gu, “However, we have yet to level the playing field. I hope this film can help inspire viewers, especially women, to recognize their value, to challenge harmful systems and to support each other along the way.”

TUESDAY, Dec. 15

Christmas Release set for Russian Oscar Entry

Neon has set a one-week exclusive virtual run at the NY Film Forum starting on Dec. 25 for the U.S. release of Andrei Konchalovsky’s “Dear Comrades!,” Russia’s official submission for the upcoming Academy Awards.

The film is set in 1962 as the Communist government raises food prices, triggering a strike by rebellious workers from the small industrial town of Novocherkassk. The massacre which then ensues is seen through the eyes of a devout party activist.

“Dear Comrades!” premiered at this year’s Venice Film Festival where it won the special jury prize. Written by Konchalovsky and Elena Kiseleva, the film was produced by Alisher Usmanov. It stars Julia Vysotskaya, Vladislav Komarov, Andrei Gusev, Yulia Burova and Sergei Erlish. Neon plans to widen the release in 2021.

‘Balloon Man’ Documentary Goes to Gravitas 

Gravitas Ventures has bought Chantal Potter’s documentary film “Balloon Man” and will premiere it worldwide on Feb. 2, 2021.

The film, Potter’s feature directorial debut, is an intimate portrait of the life, trials, and triumphs of Bill Costen, Potter’s father and a former NFL athlete who learned how to navigate through the clouds as a hot-air balloon pilot. He became the first African American Hot-Air Balloon Master Pilot in the world.

“’Balloon Man’ is an intriguing look at a little-known pioneer, and Gravitas is excited to bring Bill Costen’s story to audiences,” said Brett Rogalsky, Gravitas Ventures Acquisitions Coordinator.

‘Road to Bethlehem’ Movie Slated

Adam Anders, the producer of Netflix’s “The Prom” and the longtime executive music producer of the hit series “Glee,” will make his directorial debut in 2021 on Nativity story “Road to Bethlehem.”

He’s teaming with Monarch Media, Space + Art Entertainment and Story Collective. Christy Hall, the writer and executive producer of Netflix’s series “I Am Not Okay With This,” has written the script. The film’s original music will be written and produced by Adam Anders, Nikki Anders and Peer Astrom.

The film will shoot at the Jerusalem movie set in Utah with production slated to begin in 2021. The news was first reported by Deadline Hollywood.

MONDAY, Dec. 14

Greenwich Acquires North American Rights to ‘Days of the Bagnold Summer’

Greenwich Entertainment has bought North American distribution rights to “Days of the Bagnold Summer,” the directorial debut of Simon Bird (star of “The Inbetweeners”), for a Feb. 19 release in theaters and on demand.

Bird’s comedy, which premiered at the Locarno Film Festival, contains a soundtrack by Belle & Sebastian and is based on the graphic novel by Joff Winterhart with a screenplay written by Lisa Owens. Starring Earl Cave, Monica Dolan and Rob Brydon, the film explores the wobbly relationship between a well-intentioned single librarian and her black-clad teenage son, who’d rather listen to Metallica than his mother.

“Days of the Bagnold Summer” was produced by Matthew James Wilkinson and co-produced by Isabelle Georgeaux with executive producers James Appleton, James Atherton, Reinhard Besser, Will Clarke, Walter Mair, Andy Mayson, Jan Pace, Mike Runagall and Pat Wintersgill. The film has a 90% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The news was first reported by Deadline Hollywood.

Freestyle Buys ‘Buck Run’ for January 

Freestyle Digital Media has acquired North American rights to the drama “Buck Run,” directed by Nick Frangione and written by David Hauslein, Variety has learned exclusively.

The film stars James Le Gros, Kevin J. O’Connor, Amy Hargreaves, Alicia Goranson, Jim Parrack, Angus Macfadyen, and Nolan Lyons. It’s loosely based on Frangione’s childhood memories of growing up as an outsider in rural Pennsylvania. “Buck Run” is the story of heartbroken 15-year-old Shaw (Lyons) who must move in with his estranged, alcoholic father (Le Gros) after the death of his mother.

The film will be available to rent and own on North American digital HD internet, cable and satellite platforms on Jan. 15. It was produced by Nancy Degnan and Julio Lopez Velasquez of Intuition Film Productions and Tomorrowland Production Co.

‘Alaska Is a Drag’ Getting Dec. 31 Release

Array Releasing has bought the North American rights to Shaz Bennett’s dramedy “Alaska Is a Drag” and plans a Dec. 31 release on Netflix.

The film is a fish-out-of-water dramedy centering on Leo (Martin L. Washington Jr.), a glam-obsessed young man with dreams of being a drag superstar while working in a fish cannery in Alaska and defending himself against homophobic attacks. After taking abuse from the town bully one too many times, Leo and his twin sister Tristen (Maya Washington) put his unlikely punching skills to the test with the help of his boss and former amateur boxer (Jason Scott Lee).

Margaret Cho, Matt Dallas, Christopher O’Shea, Kevin Daniels and Nia Peeples co-star. Producers are Melanie Miller, Diane Becker, Bennett and Jean- Pierre Caner.