January 22nd, 2013
02:45 PM ET

CNN Films and Magnolia Pictures Acquire Documentary 'Blackfish' at Sundance

Park City, UT, Tuesday, January 22 - CNN Films, a production and acquisition unit of CNN Worldwide, and the Wagner/Cuban Company’s Magnolia Pictures have partnered to acquire the U.S. rights to director Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s buzzed about documentary Blackfish at the Sundance film festival.

Thrilling, thought provoking and thoroughly entertaining, Blackfish traces a 39 year history of killer whales in captivity leading up to a 2010 incident where an experienced Sea World trainer was killed by the 12,000 lb. Orca whale Tilikum, a whale previously associated with the death of two other people. Blackfish chillingly shows that this incident of violence is hardly an isolated one, along the way exploring the extraordinary nature of Orcas, thought to be one of the most intelligent species in the animal kingdom. Ultimately, it is a story about the life and death consequences of a spectacle that has thrilled millions.

Blackfish is one of the most exciting, compulsively watchable documentaries that we’ve seen in a long time,” said Magnolia President Eamonn Bowles. “Gabriela Cowperthwaite has made a beautiful, eye-opening film that sticks with audiences for a long time.”

“At CNN Films we want to showcase compelling documentary storytelling that also sheds new light on important social and cultural issues. Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s beautiful and moving film ‘Blackfish’ is at once an investigation into the people and practices of the marine park industry and a thought-provoking meditation on the limits of man's ability to manipulate nature. We look forward to presenting this fascinating film to our audience,” said CNN Worldwide Managing Editor, Mark Whitaker.

Magnolia plans a summer theatrical release for the documentary, followed by a domestic broadcast premiere on CNN later in 2013. Magnolia has had much success with summer doc releases, including The Queen of Versailles, acquired at last year’s Sundance festival, which went on to be one of the top grossing documentaries of 2012.

“I was deeply honored to be accepted into Sundance and am overwhelmed to find partners of this magnitude,” says Cowperthwaite. “To partner on the theatrical release with Eamonn Bowles of Magnolia and Mark Whitaker of CNN, two people who understand and embrace this film, and to receive the support of a powerhouse global brand like CNN, I couldn’t be happier.”

The film is produced by Cowperthaite, and Manuel Oteyza. Executive produced by Judy Bart, Erica Kahn, and Rick Brookwell. The acquisition deal was negotiated by Magnolia SVP Dori Begley and CNN SVP Vinnie Malhotra, with Josh Braun, David Koh and Dan Braun of Submarine.

About CNN Films:
CNN Films brings documentaries beyond the small screen by developing strategic partnerships to leverage distribution opportunities at film festivals and in theaters.Amy Entelis, senior vice president of talent and content development for CNN Worldwide, and Vinnie Malhotra, senior vice president of development and acquisitions for CNN Worldwide, oversee the acquisition strategy of documentaries for CNN Films. Malhotra manages the day-to-day operation of CNN Films, and works directly with filmmakers to develop original projects.

CNN Worldwide, a division of Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., a Time Warner Company, is the most trusted source for news and information. Its reach extends to nine cable and satellite television networks; one private place-based network; two radio networks; wireless devices around the world; CNN Digital Network, the No. 1 network of news Web sites in the United States; CNN Newsource, the world’s most extensively-syndicated news service; and strategic international partnerships within both television and the digital media.

About Magnolia Pictures:
Magnolia Pictures (www.magpictures.com) is the theatrical and home entertainment distribution arm of the Wagner/Cuban Companies, a vertically-integrated group of media properties co-owned by Todd Wagner and Mark Cuban that also includes the Landmark Theatres chain and AXS TV. Recent releases include Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia, Kevin Macdonald’s biopicMarley, David Gelb’s Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Craig Zobel’s Compliance, Lauren Greenfield’s The Queen of Versailles, the exciting noir-thrillerDeadfall, and Academy Award nominee A Royal Affair. Magnolia's upcoming releases include Terrence Malick’s To The Wonder, Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt, Ry Russo-Young’sNobody Walks, the moving documentaries A Place at the Table and No Place on Earth, The Brass Teapot, Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me,Évocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie, and many more.

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