Amazon Studios has acquired Sundance comedy Late Night for a record-breaking $13 million.
The deal, which was brokered overnight after a heated bidding war and announced by Deadline, gives Amazon the US rights to the movie, which is directed by Nisha Ganatra and written by Mindy Kaling. The figure is a record sum for US-only rights at Sundance, even topping the previous record-breaking figure of $12 million, which Amazon splashed on The Big Sick’s US rights in 2017.
The film had its premiere on Friday night at the Eccles Theatre in Utah, with four bidders swiftly descending to acquire it, after a positive audience reception. Amazon Studios chief Jennifer Salke, though, overcame the opposition with her team of Ted Hope, Julie Rapaport, Matt Newman and Bob Berney.
Salke is no stranger to Kaling, after their days together at NBC on The Office. Indeed, the film is inspired by Kaling’s experiences as the only female writer of colour on the US remake of the sitcom. It follows Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson), a legendary host of a late night talk show, who, after being accused of being a woman who hates other women, shakes things up by hiring Molly (Kaling), the one woman in her all-male writing room. Tackling culture, privilege and the modern workplace, the female-led film arrives at a time when Sundance is making a concerted push to encourage diversity and female filmmakers.
It marks Ganatra’s feature directorial debut, after helming episodes of Kaling’s The Mindy Project, as well as Amazon’s Transparent and Mr. Robot.
The movie is produced by FilmNation Entertainment, with Kaling, Howard Klein, Ben Browning and Jillian Apfebaum producing. 30WEST and CAA Media Finance brokered Amazon’s deal with FilmNation, with offshore territories being sold by FilmNation.
Salke said: “Mindy Kaling has crafted the rare film that is both entertaining and powerful. The moment the lights came up after the premiere, we knew Late Night is a film our viewers will love and talk about. It’s an incisive workplace comedy that reinvents all the tropes about women. We too rarely get to see female characters like this — complex, flawed, and unapologetically ambitious. And that’s a credit to Kaling’s writing, Nisha Ganatra’s directing, and Emma Thompson, who delivers a brilliant performance alongside the always incredible Kaling. We can’t wait to share this wonderful movie with our customers, first in theaters and then on Amazon Prime Video.”
“Sundance has been a dream for so long, you read about it, this magical place called the Eccles theater. All you want is for people to see your movie, there was some pressure — a film with two female leads. Will there be an audience for a female-driven movie? And to have a record breaking deal for a female-driven movie is amazing,” Ganatra also told Deadline.
Kaling also has a project in the works at Netflix with William Fisher about an Indian teen.
Photo: Courtesy of Sundance Institute