Magnolia Pictures has acquired U.S. theatrical, VOD and home entertainment rights to the Roger Ebert documentary “Life Itself,” an individual familiar with the negotiations has told TheWrap.
Oscar-nominated filmmaker Steve James (“Hoop Dreams”) directed the movie, which premiered at Sundance on Jan. 19 at the MARC.
Magnolia is eyeing a summer release, followed by an exclusive broadcast on CNN later this year, reprising a successful collaboration with CNN Films on the hit documentary “Blackfish.”
A beloved national figure, Ebert was arguably the best-known and most influential movie critic, and his passing in 2013 was deeply felt across the country. Based on his memoir of the same name, “Life Itself” recounts his fascinating and flawed journey –from politicized school newspaperman, to Chicago Sun-Times movie critic, to Pulitzer Prize winner, to television household name, to the miracle of finding love at 50, and finally his “third act” as a major voice on the Internet when he could no longer physically speak.
The film is comprised of footage from the last five months of Ebert’s life, as well as archival footage. Several suitors circled “Life Itself,” which was one of the highest-profile movies at Sundance last month.
Martin Scorsese and Steve Zaillian were among the executive producers of “Life Itself,” which was produced by Zak Piper for Kartemquin Films and Garrett Basch for Film Rites. Additional executive producers were Michael W. Ferro Jr., Justine Nagan and Gordon Quinn of Kartemquin Films, Kat White of KatLei Productions, Mark Mitten, and Vinnie Malhotra and Amy Entelis of CNN Films.
“Roger Ebert gets the tribute he deserves with ‘Life Itself,'” said Magnolia president Eamonn Bowles. “Steve James has done a beautiful job capturing Roger’s complexity and energy in a loving but wonderfully clear-eyed portrait.”
“Magnolia is the perfect partner for bringing this film on such a seminal figure in film to the big screen,” said James. “Roger’s story deserves it.”
The deal was negotiated for Magnolia by SVP of acquisitions Dori Begley with Cinetic Media on behalf of Kartemquin, Film Rites, KatLei and CNN Films.