Rodman Flender's comic documentary Conan O'Brien Can't Stop, which had its world premiere on Sunday afternoon at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival in Austin, will be released across the U.S. in the coming months in a unique mutli-platform acquisition and distribution deal. In the deal, AT&T will come onboard as a P&A and multi-platform distribution and marketing partner, and will sneak the film to their AT&T U-verse TV subscribers on the eve of the film's theatrical release. Abramorama has come onboard to handle theatrical distribution of the film. Magnolia Home Entertainment has acquired the remaining Video-on-Demand (VOD) and home entertainment rights.
In 2010, after a much-publicized departure from hosting NBC's Tonight Show - and the severing of a 22-year relationship with the network - Conan O'Brien hit the road with a 32-city music-and-comedy show to exercise his performing chops and exorcise a few demons. The "Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television Tour" was O'Brien's answer to a contractual stipulation that banned his appearance on television, radio and the Internet for six months following his last show. Flender's resulting documentary, Conan O'Brien Can't Stop, is an intimate portrait of an artist trained in improvisation, captured at the most improvisational time of his career. It offers a window into the private writers room and rehearsal halls as O'Brien's "half-assed show" (his words) is almost instantly assembled and mounted to an adoring fan base. At times angry, mostly hilarious, O'Brien works out his feelings about the very-public separation with comedy and rockabilly music, engaging in bits with on-stage guests such as Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart and Jim Carrey, duetting with Jack White and sweating out manic Elvis Presley covers with his band and back-up singers. We see a comic who does not stop-performing, singing, pushing his staff and himself.
"Last year, with no traditional advertising in place and just one Tweet, Conan nearly sold out his entire 42 show tour in a matter of hours, with about 130,000 people in attendance throughout the national tour. This was a remarkable sign of the power of social media, and a clear message that it is not just business as usual," said the film's two producers Gavin Polone and Rachel Griffin. "For a film like ours, and with Conan at its center, it was imperative that we not follow typical business models in the release of this film. This distribution deal has been structured in a way that satisfies our audience in every possible manner, and allows people to see the film on whichever platform they most prefer-be it on a big screen in a dark theater which lots of other fans or the small screen of their choice. As part of this deal, AT&T will provide exclusive content related to the film to their customers - both on U-verse TV and also on AT&T mobile devices."
Abramorama, headed by Richard Abramowitz (who steered theatrical campaigns for films that include Anvil! the Story of Anvil and the Oscar-nominated Exit Through the Gift Shop), will shepherd the film theatrically nationwide with special theatrical "event" screenings. In a last minute piece of the deal, Magnolia Home Entertainment has come on board and will begin to show the film on VOD following the exclusive window on U-verse TV, and then Magnolia will release the film onto DVD and other digital platforms.
"Conan has a very large and passionate fan base and we're excited to give them an exclusive, first-look at this documentary on the AT&T U-verse platform of their choice," said Dan York, president of content, AT&T. "This deal is another example of how we continue to deliver unique content to our customers across all screens and platforms."
The deal was negotiated by Liesl Copland at WME Global on behalf of the filmmakers, with Brent Imai and Richard Wellerstein at AT&T, Richard Abramowitz for Abramorama, and Tom Quinn at Magnolia Home Entertainment