Gotti – a mob biopic starring John Travolta – was abruptly dropped by distributor Lionsgate yesterday, and that sudden move has now been explained. In the current social climate – with accusations of sexual misconduct being made against powerful Hollywood figures on a seemingly constant basis – some had assumed that the decision to drop Gotti might be tied to coming accusations against someone involved with the film, possibly even Travolta himself. However, it turns out that the truth is actually much more mundane.
To recap, Gotti was set to hit theaters on December 15, which is why yesterday’s report that distributor Lionsgate had opted to sell the film back to its producers caught so many off guard. After all, movies leaving or changing distributors isn’t exactly a rare occurrence in Hollywood, but those types of deals tend to be worked out far in advance of a film’s scheduled release date. While it’s a bit unclear why this move was made so late in the game, it’s at least now known what the goal was.
According to Deadline, it was not Lionsgate’s idea to jettison Gotti from its ranks. By contrast, Gotti’s producers actually asked the distributor to sell them back the rights to the film, in order to try and pursue a wide theatrical release. Gotti was not set to receive a wide release under Lionsgate, which was intending to put the film out via its Lionsgate Premiere label, which handles limited theatrical and day and date with VOD releases. There was a buy-back clause in the distribution agreement, which producers Emmett/Furla/Oasis chose to exercise, and Lionsgate didn’t push back on.
One remaining unanswered question here – as mentioned above – is why Emmett/Furla/Oasis decided to buy back Gotti so close to its release date. There may be a simple explanation for that, as an outside investor reportedly financially backed the film for a wide release, and it’s unclear exactly when they did that. If it was a recent deal, producers may have had no choice but to do things at the last minute.
Gotti’s target for a wide release is now May 2018, but the film has to acquire a new distributor first, so it remains to be seen if that timetable will hold. While Travolta remains a big name, one wonders if trying to release a dramatic biopic about the infamous former head of the Gambino crime family during a month where both Avengers: Infinity War and Solo: A Star Wars Story hit theaters would end up being a smart move.