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Juan Antonio Bayona to Direct the Adapation of ‘A Monster Calls’

SANTA MONICA and LOS ANGELES (March 5, 2014) —River Road Entertainment, Participant Media, Lionsgate International, and Focus Features have teamed to finance and distribute Apache’s production of acclaimed filmmaker Juan Antonio Bayona’s next film, A Monster Calls, based on the award-winning children’s fantasy novel by Patrick Ness (the Chaos Walking trilogy), the companies announced today.  The film will be produced by Belen Atienza (The Impossible, Pan’s Labyrinth, The Orphanage) and is slated for a fall 2016 release.  It will be distributed by Focus Features domestically, Universal Pictures International for its theatrical and home entertainment release in Spain and Lionsgate International throughout the rest of the world.

Bayona won Spain’s equivalent of the Academy Award, The Goya, for his last film, The Impossible, which was distributed by Lionsgate’s Summit label and grossed more than $180 million at the worldwide box office.  The Impossible is the second highest-grossing film of all time in Spain[DM1].

A Monster Calls is a visually spectacular drama about a young boy who attempts to deal with his mother’s illness and the bullying of his classmates by escaping into a fantastical world of monsters and fairy tales that deal with courage, loss and faith.  Ness wrote the novel based on an original idea by the late Siobhan Dowd, and he and illustrator Jim Kay won Britain’s prestigious Carnegie Medal and Greenaway Medal in 2012, presented to the year’s best children’s literature in the UK.  Ness is adapting the screenplay from his novel.  Executive Producers on the film are River Road’s Bill Pohlad and Mitch Horwits, Participant’s Jeff Skoll and Jonathan King, and Lionsgate Motion Picture Group Co-Chairman Patrick Wachsberger.

“It is an incredible privilege to bring Patrick Ness’ exceptional book to the screen and I couldn’t have imagined better partners joining me in this endeavor. After The Orphanage and The Impossible, A Monster Calls is the perfect final chapter in a trilogy centered on the extraordinary strength of the mother-child bond,” said Bayona.
“We’re pleased to join with our friends at Participant, River Road and Focus Features in financing and distributing this cherished and compelling property that has already earned a tremendous following in the world of children’s literature,” said Wachsberger.  “We’re delighted to reunite with the creative forces behind our worldwide hit The Impossible, and there is nobody better suited to creating the fantastical world of A Monster Calls than the visionary filmmaker Juan Antonio Bayona.”

River Road Entertainment’s Founder and CEO Bill Pohlad added, “River Road has collaborated to great success with Participant, Lionsgate International and Focus Features on several films, and we look forward to uniting for this distinguished project, which is in line with our effort to support captivating storytelling and incredibly talented filmmakers, like Juan Antonio Bayona.”

Participant’s EVP of Production Jonathan King said, “All of us at Participant are thrilled to be in such good company for this deeply moving tale about the power of storytelling, which could not be more perfectly aligned with our mission.”

Focus Features CEO Peter Schlessel continued, “Juan Antonio Bayona is a filmmaker whose storytelling skills and stunning visuals are truly distinctive.  He captures emotional truths amidst fantastical and terrifying situations, making him the ideal director to bring this acclaimed novel to a wide audience.  I am pleased to make this our first co-production as CEO of Focus Features.”

The deal was negotiated by Participant Media COO Jeff Ivers, River Road’s Mitch Horwits, Lionsgate’s Patrick Wachsberger, and Focus Features’ Peter Schlessel with CAA.  Bayona is represented by CAA.

Participant (ParticipantMedia.com) is a global entertainment company founded in 2004 by Jeff Skoll to focus on feature film, television, publishing and digital content that inspires social change. Participant’s more than 45 films include GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK, SYRIANA, AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH, FOOD, INC., WAITING FOR ‘SUPERMAN’, THE HELP, CONTAGION and LINCOLN.  Through its films, social action campaigns, digital network TakePart.com and Pivot, its new television network for Millennials, Participant seeks to entertain, encourage and empower every individual to take action.

Lionsgate is a leading global entertainment company with a strong and diversified presence in motion picture production and distribution, television programming and syndication, home entertainment, family entertainment, digital distribution, new channel platforms and international distribution and sales. Lionsgate currently has 34 television shows on 22 networks spanning its primetime production, distribution and syndication businesses, including such critically-acclaimed hits as the multiple Emmy Award-winning Mad Men and Nurse Jackie, the comedy Anger Management, the network series Nashville, the syndication success The Wendy Williams Show and the critically-acclaimed series Orange is the New Black.

Its feature film business has been fueled by such recent successes as the blockbuster first two installments of The Hunger Games franchise, The Hunger Games and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, A Madea Christmas, Now You See Me, Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain, Warm Bodies, The Expendables 2, The Possession, Sinister, Roadside Attractions’ Mud and Pantelion Films’ breakout hit Instructions Not Included, the highest-grossing Spanish-language film ever released in the U.S.

Lionsgate’s home entertainment business is an industry leader in box office-to-DVD and box office-to-VOD revenue conversion rate. Lionsgate handles a prestigious and prolific library of approximately 15,000 motion picture and television titles that is an important source of recurring revenue and serves as the foundation for the growth of the Company’s core businesses. The Lionsgate and Summit brands remain synonymous with original, daring, quality entertainment in markets around the world.www.lionsgate.com

Focus Features (www.focusfeatures.com) makes, acquires, and releases movies from rising and established talent and filmmakers. The company is moving forward with a diverse slate of 9-11 films a year, with most being wide releases appealing to a range of moviegoers.  Staying true to the company’s roots, the slate will also include several specialty films each year. Internationally, Focus Features has consistently produced and distributed award-winning motion pictures worldwide, guiding them to box office success.

Currently in release from Focus Features are DALLAS BUYERS CLUB, which was Oscar® nominated for Best Pictures and won 3 Academy Awards® including Best Actor (Matthew McConaughey), and Best Supporting Actor (Jared Leto).  Upcoming Focus Features films include the subversive comedy BAD WORDS, directed by and starring Jason Bateman; THE BOXTROLLS, the new family event movie from LAIKA, directed by Anthony Stacchi and Graham Annable with a voice cast that includes Ben Kingsley, Toni Collette, Elle Fanning, Isaac Hempstead-Wright, and Tracy Morgan; WISH I WAS HERE, a comedy directed by Zach Braff which also stars Braff along with Kate Hudson and Mandy Patinkin; and the true-life dramatic thriller KILL THE MESSENGER directed by Michael Cuesta and starring Jeremy Renner.

Focus Features is part of NBCUniversal, one of the world’s leading media and entertainment companies in the development, production, and marketing of entertainment, news, and information to a global audience. NBCUniversal owns and operates a valuable portfolio of news and entertainment television networks, a premier motion picture company, significant television production operations, a leading television stations group, world-renowned theme parks, and a suite of leading Internet-based businesses. NBCUniversal is a subsidiary of Comcast Corporation.

River Road Entertainment is one of the leading independent production companies known for developing, producing and financing distinguished feature films and documentaries that astonish, inspire, reveal and provoke.

River Road most recently produced and financed the Academy Award winning Best Picture 12 Years a Slave, directed by Steve McQueen and starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Paul Dano, Lupita Nyong’o and Brad Pitt. The film, released by Fox Searchlight, also won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Drama, two BAFTA Awards including Best Film, five Film Independent Spirit Awards including Best Feature and earned a total of three Academy Awards. Currently, the company is in post-production on Love & Mercy, a film centered on Brian Wilson, the mercurial singer, songwriter and leader of The Beach Boys. River Road founder and CEO Bill Pohlad returns to directing with Love & Mercy, which stars John Cusack, Paul Dano, Elizabeth Banks and Paul Giamatti.

River Road has optioned the film rights to Greg Grandin’s novel Fordlandia The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. River Road’s Bill Pohlad will be producing with Ben Coccio to pen the screen adaptation. The company also optioned the film rights to Karen Thompson Walker’s debut novel, The Age of Miracles, which will be adapted by Seth Lochhead and directed by Catherine Hardwick.

Originally formed by Bill Pohlad in 1987, River Road’s previous pictures include Doug Liman’s Fair Game starring Sean Penn and Naomi Watts, Robert Kenner’s documentary Food, Inc., Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain and Lust/Caution, Sean Penn’s Into the Wild, and Robert Altman’s A Prairie Home Companion. The company also produced Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and Jessica Chastain. The film was nominated for three Academy Awards® including Best Picture, won the Palme d’Or at the 2011 Cannes International Film Festival, and shared the prize for Best Feature at the 2011 Gotham Independent Film Awards.