Lionsgate and CNN Films have acquired North American rights to the documentary “Dinosaur 13,” the partners said Friday from the Sundance Film Festival.
The film will be released theatrically before receiving a broadcast premiere on CNN, the same release strategy Magnolia and CNN deployed for “Blackfish,’ one of last year’s top documentaries.
“Dinosaur 13” chronicles a fierce legal battle over the rights to the largest Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton ever unearthed. The Badlands discovery escalated into a fight between paleontologist Peter Larson and the FBI, the U.S. government, leading museums and Native American tribal nations.
The film received strong reviews when it debuted at Sundance this week, with Variety’s Dennis Harvey writing, “Those looking for a classic instance of the little guy being screwed by big government need look no further than ‘Dinosaur 13.'”
Both companies have had success in the documentary genre before — Lionsgate most notably with the box office smash “Fahrenheit 9/11” and CNN with last year’s ratings winner “Blackfish.” Partnerships between two companies on a film’s release are increasingly common, and CNN has aggressively moved into the documentary film arena. It held broadcast rights to three films screening at this year’s Sundance before it even began, and most sellers expected it to add to its slate.
The acquisition deal was negotiated by Lionsgate’s President of Acquisitions and Co-Productions Jason Constantine, along with Lionsgate’s Eda Kowan, Marc Danon and Wendy Jaffe; and CNN’s Vinnie Malhotra and Stacey Wolf, with Josh Braun, David Koh, and Dan Braun of Submarine. Legal counsel for the filmmakers is Evan Krauss of Gray Krauss Stratford Des Rochers LLP.