TIFF: Focus Features Nabs Worldwide Rights to Alexander Payne’s ‘The Holdovers’ for $30 Million

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The hottest sales title at the Toronto Film Festival is officially off the market, with Focus Features landing worldwide distribution rights to Alexander Payne’s “The Holdovers,” in a deal worth roughly $30 million.

Paul Giamatti stars in the Christmas-themed film that reunites the actor and director for the first time since their Oscar-winning 2004 hit “Sideways.” It will hit theaters in Christmas 2023.

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In “The Holdovers,” Giamatti portrays Paul Hunham, a universally disliked professor at a prep school called Deerfield Academy. With no family and nowhere to go around the holidays in 1970, he stays on campus to supervise students who couldn’t go home. After a few days, only one person is left: a troublemaking 15-year-old named Angus, a good student whose bad behavior always threatens to get him expelled. Along with the school’s head cook Mary (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), whose own son was recently lost in Vietnam, the three form an unlikely bond as they spend Christmas together during two very snowy weeks in New England. The cast also includes Carrie Preston, Gillian Vigman and Tate Donovan. David Hemingson wrote the film’s script; Mark Johnson is the producer.

Bill Block’s Miramax produced and financed the film and CAA Media Finance brokered the deal, which came after the film screened for buyers on Sunday in Toronto with a large crop of interested studios and streamers present, sources tell Variety. The sale was the largest of the festival so far, and even more notable given the project wasn’t part of the official lineup.

Deadline was first to report news of the big-ticket sale.

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