Screen Gems buys ‘Attack The Block’ for American distribution

Clint Culpepper, today I salute you.

Last week, we co-hosted that fan screening of “Attack The Block,” along with Ain’t It Cool, Badass Digest, and Collider, and afterwards, I talked to most of the people who attended, even if it was just a quick, “Wow! Thanks!” as they walked by.  But there were some people there who work in the industry who managed to not only depress me but actively upset me, immediately bringing up the same “remake” nonsense, all because of a couple of accents.  I had to tune it out.  I know the reaction most of that theater had, and I know what reaction the SXSW audiences had, and I am as sure of this as I am of anything regarding any movie you will see in a theater this year:  “Attack The Block” is perfect just the way it is.

And now, thanks to Sony Pictures Worldwide and Screen Gems, audiences here in America are going to be treated like adults who can actually decipher an accent or two, and “Attack The Block” will be released.  And I am going to do whatever I have to do between now and the release of the film to convince as many people as possible to check it out opening weekend, to reward Screen Gems for stepping up where so many other people in this business appear to have been too spineless to do so.  I hope this wee little alien invasion movie turns into a monster runaway hit for Screen Gems.  I hope it kickstarts Joe Cornish’s career as a feature director, and that he keeps a list of every single person who hesitated on this one, and that when he is in crazy demand because audiences have fallen in love with “Attack The Block” that he reminds those doubters and refuses to let them reap the rewards on the next one.

I am not one to advocate for arbitrary punitive behavior, but in this case, what I hear when I listen to someone talk about what a “tough sell” the film would be is “I don’t want to work at my job, and I just want a magic hit to fall in my lap.”  It used to be that you would make a great movie, and then you would figure out how to sell it, but the world we live in now, unless the marketing plan just presents itself to people, they give up before they’ve even begun.  Films at studios don’t get greenlit until they’ve got the marketing team completely aboard.  The caboose is driving the train, and the result is that a movie as commercial and entertaining and fun and scary and smart and perfectly cast as “Attack The Block” has suddenly become, according to some, “a tough sell.”

Nonsense.  Tomfoolery.  Balderdash of the highest order.

“Attack The Block” is enormous fun, and I am thrilled by the following press release, which we just got in our inbox:

Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions (SPWA) announced today that it has acquired U.S. rights to ATTACK THE BLOCK written and directed by Joe Cornish.  Screen Gems will distribute the highly regarded film which won the Midnight Feature Audience Award at this year”s South By Southwest Film Festival.  The announcement was made today by SPWA President Steve Bersch and Screen Gems” President Clint Culpepper.

The London-set action-adventure ATTACK THE BLOCK stars Jodie Whittaker, John Boyega, Alex Esmail, Franz Drameh, Leeon Jones, Simon Howard, Luke Treadaway, Jumayn Hunter, and Nick Frost.  The Big Talk Pictures production was produced by Nira Park and James Wilson.  Matthew Justice, Tessa Ross, Jenny Borgars, Will Clarke, Olivier Courson, and Edgar Wright executive produced.

Culpepper said, “Steve Bersch screened this film for me and I fell completely in love with it.  The film is, at once, charming, scary, funny, hip, clever and completely hits its mark. I hope this is the beginning of a long relationship with these incredibly talented filmmakers.”

Bersch stated, “ATTACK THE BLOCK has already proven to captivate the SXSW audience with its unique and suspense filled plot including our executives Scott Shooman and Lia Buman who saw it during the festival and raved about it.  Joe has created a piece of work we know the masses will enjoy and we are thrilled to be bringing it to a larger stage through Screen Gems.”

ATTACK THE BLOCK follows a gang of tough inner-city kids who rob Sam (Whittaker) as she is walking home in a scary South London tower block.  She flees when the gang is attacked by a small alien creature which falls from the sky.  While Sam and the police hunt for the gang, a second wave of creatures falls.  The gang grabs weapons, mount bikes, and set out to defend their turf.  But this time, the creatures are much bigger.  Savage and bestial, nothing will stand in their way. And the bunch of no-hope kids who just attacked Sam are about to become her only hope.

SPWA”s Michael Helfand and Scott Shooman negotiated the acquisition of ATTACK OF THE BLOCK on behalf of Sony with StudioCanal’s Harold van Lier. The film was co-developed and financed by StudioCanal, Film4 and the UK Film Council with StudioCanal handling worldwide sales and releasing in the UK through its company Optimum on May 11th.

Right now, no word on when they’ll release the movie, but if they want to really get the word of mouth started, they’ll organize a midnight screening of the film every single night of Comic-Con for free, because once that crowd sees what it is, they will carry that word out to all of their friends, and I presume that the May release in the UK will be explosively successful, so maybe they can ride all of that energy into a late 2011 release where the film will find the audience it deserves.

Allow it.  Believe.  And Clint Culpepper, once again, I salute you.  Well-done.