EXCLUSIVE: On this Christmas Eve, we hear that a deal is coming together for Hulu to acquire Lee Daniels’ The United States vs. Billie Holiday.
The movie, which stars Andra Day as the legendary jazz singer, is currently scheduled for a theatrical release by Paramount on February 26, 2021, in time for this year’s Oscar season eligibility. However, sources say that deal with the Melrose Ave. studio never closed, and it hasn’t been determined yet whether a Paramount theatrical release will be part of the new deal with Hulu. Details of the deal are not final, but it is expected that Hulu will qualify the film for awards season, which is what Daniels wants. Paramount has trailers ready to go and even worked with the production on re-shoots.
CAA Media Finance is brokering the deal for The United States vs. Billie Holiday. I understand that the new deal is more than double what Paramount’s current deal was.
Hulu has historically done day-and-date streaming theatrical deals with Neon, and the streamer picked up U.S. rights to TriStar’s romantic holiday comedy Happiest Season starring Kristen Stewart and Mackenzie Davis, which did not have a day-and-date big-screen release. That movie premiered on Hulu over Thanksgiving weekend, becoming the most-watched original movie ever on the streamer.
Paramount is not involved here in the sale to Hulu, rather the pic’s financier New Slate Ventures. I understand that New Slate needs to make good on the money invested in the film, and that a pure theatrical release would be a rocky proposition given how 60% of the domestic exhibition marketplace continues to be shut down due to Covid-19, including major markets like New York City and Los Angeles.
The United States vs. Billie Holiday follows the jazz singer during her career as she is targeted by the Federal Department of Narcotics with an undercover sting operation led by agent Jimmy Fletcher (Trevante Rhodes), with whom she had a tumultuous affair. The pic, directed by Daniels, is based on Johann Hari’s novel, with a screenplay by Suzan-Lori Parks.
New Slate Ventures, Lee Daniels Entertainment, Roth Kirschenbaum Films are producing with Jordan Fudge, Lee Daniels, Pamela Oas Williams, Tucker Tooley, Joe Roth and Jeff Kirschenbaum. Executive producers include Hilary Shor, Jeremy Allen, Patty Long, Johann Hari, Cassian Elwes, Mark Bomback and Dennis Stratton.