Inside Steven Soderbergh’s Plan to Make Hollywood Studios Obsolete

Director pushed hard to release his “Logan Lucky” directly with theater chains, insider says

Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh’s new movie “Logan Lucky” hits U.S. theaters in two weeks, from the independent distributor Bleecker Street — but that’s not how Soderbergh wanted it.

The filmmaker has been trying to convince American theater chains to release his films without the benefit of a studio distributor for years, an insider told TheWrap.

His most recent attempt was in late 2016, when he approached the National Association of Theater Owners to form a partnership that would have both parties work exclusively to release “Logan Lucky,” the insider said. (The New York Times first reported on that meeting.)

Soderbergh’s open and gleeful disgust with the movie business has nearly eclipsed the promotional tour for “Logan Lucky.”

“I’m going to attempt to show how a certain kind of rodent might be smarter than a studio when it comes to picking projects,” Soderbergh told GQ.

To finance the film, which stars Channing Tatum, Daniel Craig and Adam Driver, Soderbergh raised $29 million by personally selling its international distribution rights, a second insider told TheWrap. 

He also raised a $20 million marketing budget paid at least partly by the sale of the film’s streaming-on-demand rights to Amazon, the insider said.

Representatives for Amazon did not respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for NATO said the group has “always been eager to help Steven find a way to get back to movie theaters.” A spokesperson for Soderbergh’s lone rep, Anonymous Content’s Michael Sugar, would not comment.

Soderbergh has had conversations with chains like AMC, Regal and NATO (the union that represents them) about upending the conventional distribution process since 2013, the first insider said. That was the year he “retired” from filmmaking — for about three months — before heading off to work in television.

Soderbergh is advised by Dan Fellman, a Warner Bros. Pictures veteran of 37 years who now acts as a consultant. Bleecker Street came on board in January after the director could not sway exhibitors to rebel with him.

But Soderbergh did manage to shake up conventions: The arrangement with Bleecker Street is still unconventional.

Soderbergh’s company guaranteed Bleecker roughly $1 million to put the movie in theaters and execute a marketing plan dictated by Soderbergh, the insider said. For a film the size of “Logan Lucky,” marketing can be as costly as making the film itself. Bleecker was also offered a cut of DVD sales and a piece of the box office after certain financial “milestones,” the insider said.

He’ll also introduce another first in the back office of Logan Lucky — the actor/accountant.

“All these people who work for scale to make this film will literally be able to go online with a password and look at this account as the money is delivered from the theaters. So it’s complete transparency,” he told GQ.

“The question is: Can we put a movie out in 3,000 theaters, and spend half of what a studio would spend to do it, and succeed?”

We’ll find out when “Logan Lucky” opens wide Aug. 18.