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IFC Films Buys ‘BlackBerry’ Movie, About World’s First Smartphone (EXCLUSIVE)

'BlackBerry' details the meteoric rise and catastrophic fall of the world's first smartphone.

BlackBerry movie
IFC Films

IFC Films has acquired the U.S. rights to “Operation Avalanche” director Matt Johnson’s new movie, “BlackBerry,” about the ill-fated smartphone that took the world by storm in the early 2000s.

The highly anticipated film, which was first revealed by Variety last month, tells the story of the meteoric rise and catastrophic demise of the BlackBerry, and stars an ensemble cast including Jay Baruchel (“This Is the End”), Glenn Howerton (“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”) and Cary Elwes (“Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning”).

The pic will detail the operations of BlackBerry’s Canadian parent company Research in Motion, which was one of the country’s most illustrious and well-known tech companies before it floundered in legal disputes and eventually lost its market advantage to competitors such as Apple and Samsung. At the heart of the story is the business relationship between co-founders Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie.

The cast also includes Saul Rubinek, Rich Sommer, Martin Donovan, Michael Ironside and director Johnson.

IFC Films will release the film in 2023.

“BlackBerry” is produced by Niv Fichman, Matthew Miller, Fraser Ash and Kevin Krikst. The pic is a Rhombus Media and Zapruder Films production, with the participation of Telefilm Canada and Ontario Creates, in association with CBC Films, IPR.VC and XYZ Films, who are also executive producing.

Johnson and Miller adapted the screenplay from the bestselling 2015 nonfiction book “Losing the Signal: The Untold Story Behind the Extraordinary Rise and Spectacular Fall of BlackBerry,” written by Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff, reporters for Canada’s national newspaper the Globe and Mail.

Arianna Bocco, president of IFC Films, said: “Years before the iPhone hit the market, there was a piece of technology that was so ubiquitous that even Obama couldn’t live without it. ‘BlackBerry’ will give audiences front row seats to the launch of a new age through the eyes of the rowdy tech pioneers that started it all. We’re thrilled to get on this wild ride with Matt Johnson and give the story of the first smartphone the platform it deserves.”

Johnson added: “The origin of IFC Films is a dead-ringer match for the Wild West beginnings of the first smartphone. Both exploded from ’90s outsider culture with designs on changing the world. It’s a perfect home for ‘BlackBerry’ and I can’t wait for them to present this insane story to the world.”

The deal for domestic rights was brokered by Nate Bolotin and Pip Ngo for XYZ Films on behalf of the filmmakers and by senior VP of acquisitions and productions Scott Shooman on behalf of IFC Films.

XYZ Films co-financed the film and will handle international rights at TIFF. Elevation Pictures will distribute the film in Canada.