Magnolia Pictures Acquires National Enquirer Documentary ‘Scandalous’ From CNN Films and AGC Studios

Film directed by Mark Landsman will open in theaters Nov. 15

Generoso Pope Scandalous National Enquirer
Magnolia Pictures

Enquiring minds will want to know that Magnolia Pictures has acquired the North American rights to “Scandalous,” a documentary about tabloid the National Enquirer and its founder Generoso Pope, Jr, the distributor announced Thursday.

Mark Landsman (“Thunder Soul”) directed the documentary that highlights the Enquirer’s impact on journalism, business, culture and politics throughout the years, dating back to how its founder transformed a racing and sporting magazine into a household name for scandal and gossip.

This Is Just a Test Media produced the film, and CNN Films and AGC Studios executive produced. CNN Films will retain North American broadcast rights, while AGC International, the international sales and distribution arm of AGC Studios, will oversee international distribution rights. Magnolia is planning a Nov. 15 theatrical release.

After purchasing the New York Enquirer in the 1950s with funds supplied by his godfather (and reputed mob boss) Frank Costello, Generoso Pope, Jr. rebranded and renamed the publication the National Enquirer. “Scandalous” explores how Pope, Jr. turned the racing and sporting newspaper into a mass market grocery store tabloid stuffed with scandal, gossip, medical oddities, conspiracy theories, and paparazzi photos. Complete with current-day interviews with former staff and other media observers, the film dissects why the paper has thrived, the impact of its sharp turn into partisan politics, and why a tabloid marketed to “Missy Smith in Kansas City” began catching and killing stories to protect powerful men and publishing propaganda profiles of foreign despots.

“‘Scandalous’ is a blast,” Magnolia president Eamonn Bowles said in a statement. “Mark Landsman has crafted a hugely entertaining origin story that turns the lens on one of America’s most infamous publications.”

Magnolia and CNN Films have previously partnered on the Oscar-nominated documentary “RBG” about the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as well as the Gilda Radner documentary “Love, Gilda.” They’ve also shared distribution on “Blackfish,” “Steven Jobs: The Man in the Machine,” “Évocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie,” “Life Itself,” “Whitey: United Staes of America v. James J. Bulger,” and “Sunshine Superman.”

“Scandalous” also continues the relationship between AGC Studios and CNN Films, who are working together on an untitled documentary about congressman John Lewis and “Lady Boss: The Jackie Collins Story.”

“The National Enquirer has been behind some of the headlines that have shaped our culture for the past few decades, disrupting the norms of traditional journalism in groundbreaking, yet provocative ways,” Courtney Sexton, vice president for CNN Films, said in a statement. “This is a timely and captivating tale, reflecting the zeitgeist of our time. ‘Scandalous’ is a beacon to that.”

“The real story behind the National Enquirer is like a classic monster movie from the 1950s where initially the creature doesn’t intend to harm anyone, but is soon wreaking havoc on the population,” Landsman said in a statement. “I was fascinated by the men and women who made that havoc happen, and thrilled to have the opportunity to tell the inside story.”

“Scandalous” was produced by Aengus James, Colin King Miller, Landsman, Jennifer Ash Rudick, and Kristen Vaurio. Courtney Sexton and Amy Entelis are executive producers for CNNFilms, along with AGC Studios chairman and CEO Stuart Ford, and Rachel Traub.

The deal was negotiated by Magnolia EVP Dori Begley and Magnolia SVP of Acquisitions John Von Thaden with CAA Media Finance on behalf of the filmmakers; by Stacey Wolf, vice president of business affairs, and Kelly MacLanahan, assistant general counsel, for CNN Worldwide on behalf of CNN Films; and by AGC Studios’ VP of legal and business affairs Anant Tamirisa on behalf of AGC.

Variety first reported the news of the film’s acquisition.