Lionsgate (NYSE: LGF), the leading independent filmed entertainment studio, announced today that it has acquired distribution rights to an untitled documentary about world religion, directed by Larry Charles (Borat: Cultural Learnings Of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan
, Curb Your Enthusiasm
) and starring political humorist and author Bill Maher
(Real Time With Bill Maher
, Politically Incorrect
). Jonah Smith and Palmer West of Thousand Words (A Scanner Darkly
, Requiem For A Dream
) are producing. CAA arranged financing for the film in 2006. Stuart Ford of IM Global is handling international sales. The announcement was made by Lionsgate President of Theatrical Films Tom Ortenberg.
The documentary follows Maher as he travels around the globe interviewing people about God and religion. Known for his astute analytical skills, irreverent wit and commitment to never pulling a punch, Maher brings his characteristic honesty to an unusual spiritual journey. The film will mark Charles' first feature project since the critically acclaimed, wildly successful Borat
"It's an honor and a privilege to be working with Larry Charles and Bill Maher, two of the sharpest, funniest minds in show business," said Ortenberg. "I can't imagine a better team to tackle the subject of religion in a smart, inventive and unpretentious way. We feel this film can play as broadly as a Michael Moore
film, and it's sure to be as provocative, informative and entertaining as any documentary in recent memory. Certainly, the promo reel that the sales team screened at Cannes generated enormous enthusiasm among acquisition executives across the board. Of course, a movie that deals topically with religion is bound to generate controversy, and that makes it a risky proposition. At Lionsgate, we've dealt with that kind of challenge before, so we are very, very happy to partner with Larry, Bill and Thousand Words to give this film the release it deserves."
Said Maher, "Comedically, the topic of religion is hitting the side of a barn - it's literally hard to miss. This movie will make you laugh so hard you'll pray for it to stop."
Observed Charles, "Nietzsche said God is dead, but he didn't see the grosses for Passion Of The Christ
Remarked Smith and West, "We're delighted to be in business with Lionsgate, a cutting-edge company that is the ideal home for this provocative film."
The project reunites Charles and Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer, who previously worked together when Feltheimer headed the Columbia TriStar Television group and Charles served as writer, producer, supervising producer and executive producer on the company's Emmy Award-winning hit series "Mad About You."
The deal was negotiated for Lionsgate by Ortenberg, Eda Kowan, Vice President of Acquisitions and Wendy Jaffe, Executive Vice President, Business & Legal Affairs, Acquisitions & Co-Productions; and by CAA and Alan Grodin, Esq. of Weissmann, Wolff, Bergman, Coleman, Grodin & Evall, on behalf of Thousand Words and the filmmakers.