Sundance is buzzing over the Nina Yang and Forest Whitaker-produced comedy with a breakout performance by Shameik Moore
Open Road Films and Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions are teaming to acquire Rick Famuyiwa’s “Dope.”
The $7 million deal calls for Open Road to handle domestic distribution and SPWA to handle international.
There’s also a minimum $15 million P&A commitment.
WME negotiated the deal.
Writer-director Rick Famuyiwa’s urban comedy “Dope” is shaping up to be the dopest film at Sundance as bidding for the film has soared to $7 million and climbing, with studios such as Fox Searchlight and The Weinstein Company in hot pursuit.
Fox Searchlight is the presumed frontrunner, according to insiders, as the company has a relationship with Famuyiwa, who directed its romantic comedies “Brown Sugar” and “Our Family Wedding.” The Weinstein Company has a long-standing relationship with Whitaker as well, from “The Butler” to the upcoming “Southpaw” to “Fruitvale Station,” on which the veteran was a producer. Open Road and Focus Features are also in the bidding, an individual with knowledge told TheWrap.
“Dope” premiered Saturday at the Library and earned rousing applause over its end credits, though the audience also burst into applause during the movie as well.
The coming-of-age comedy stars Shameik Moore as Malcolm, a smart black teenager growing up in The Bottoms, a tough neighborhood in Inglewood, California. Malcolm and his friends Jib (Tony Revolori) and Diggy (Kersey Clemons) are nerdy outsiders who are obsessed with ‘90s hip-hop and play music together when they’re not avoiding gangs. Malcolm has his heart set on attending Harvard but a drug deal gone wrong jeopardizes his chances to escape life in the hood.
One bidder said they thought the movie could both appeal to young moviegoers as well as people who grew up in the 1990s. “It reminds them of the era they grew up in, it’s got a ‘Boyz In the Hood’ type feel.”
“Dope” was produced by Nina Yang Bongiovi and Forest Whitaker, who also serves as the film’s narrator.
The script features dozens of pop culture and tech references including but not limited to Amazon, Waze, Snapchat, Google, Tor, Bitcoin, drones, hackers, the Dark Web, the “find iPhone” app, Ancestry.com, Donald Glover, “The Breakfast Club” and “Boys Don’t Cry.”
Moore is poised to be the breakout star of Sundance, and while those close to the actor describe him as “very loyal,” it wouldn’t be surprising to see one of the major agencies poach him from the boutique agency where he is currently represented, as his career is poised to take off following the festival.
“Dope” also boasts a strong supporting cast including Zoe Kravitz, Blake Anderson, Keith Stanfield, Kimberly Elise, Roger Guenveur Smith, Allen Maldonado, Chanel Iman, Rick Fox and rapper-turned-actor A$AP Rocky, who also stands out amongst the talented ensemble.