"The Loving Story," first-time director Nancy Buirski's documentary about interracial marriage, has been acquired by Icarus Films, TheWrap has learned.
The movie — which is on the Oscar short list for Documentary Feature — will air Feb. 14 on HBO. Three months later, New York-based documentary-film distributor Icarus Films will distribute "The Loving Story" to a yet-undetermined number of theaters.
"We're very fortunate that a distributor wanted to take it," Buirski told TheWrap at a Tuesday screening of "The Loving Story" at Los Angeles' Museum of Tolerance. "They think it will play well on a big screen and go beyond the HBO audience."
Also read: Buirski Embraces a Very 'Loving Story' From the '50s
"The Loving Story," on which Martin Scorsese and D.A. Pennebaker served as advisers, won't be the first documentary to receive a theatrical release after debuting on HBO. "Man on Wire" and "Project Nim" followed the same path.
Technically, the theatrical release won't be the big-screen debut for "The Loving Story." In order to qualify for the Oscars, the film had an unpublicized one-week run at Laemmle's Fallbrook 7 theater in West Hills. Two other HBO films, "Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory" and "Sing Your Song," got the same treatment.
In addition to theaters, Icarus Films will distribute "The Loving Story" to non-theatrical venues including museums, school libraries and institutional libraries. Livia Bloom, director of exhibition and broadcast for Icarus Films, said she expects it to play at hundreds of locations.
"We will be booking the film to play at venues across the country," she said. "It is of great interest to American communities, film festivals, movie theaters, libraries and schools. For anyone interested in civil rights or American history, it’s required viewing, and with the current debate over gay marriage, perhaps even more resonant, with an extra layer of contemporary relevance."
Bloom said Icarus Films has never before acquired a theatrical film that was already scheduled for a debut on TV.
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"Icarus Films doesn’t usually acquire theatrical films that already have an air date on HBO, but we immediately fell in love with 'The Loving Story,' " Bloom said. "I knew about the case and Loving Day but never knew what the Lovings looked like, how compelling and charismatic they were onscreen, or how much wonderful home movie footage existed of the couple and their family."
In another first for Icarus Films, the distributor also acquired the film without also acquiring the home-video rights. Discussions about home-video distribution are ongoing.
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Beyond "The Loving Story," Buirski is producing a fictional film based on the same material: how Mildred and Richard Loving's marriage was declared illegal in 1958 in Virginia, and how their fight eventually led to the Supreme Court striking down laws banning interracial marriage.
"It's pretty early, so I can't get into it, but it will be the same story," Buirski said about the fictional version.
Buirski — a former foreign picture editor at the New York Times and director of the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival — has also lined up her next directorial effort: a documentary called "Tanaquil Le Clercq: Afternoon of a Faun."
"It's about a very important dancer from the early '50s, who was an inspiration to both George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins," she said. "She was tragically striken with polio and never danced again. This will be another untold story of a very courageous individual."
"Tanaquil Le Clercq" does not yet have a studio, distributor or release date. It has also not been determined whether the film will be released theatrically, on TV — or, like "The Loving Story," a combination of both. Related Articles: Buirski Embraces a Very 'Loving Story' From the '50s Michael Moore: Why the New Oscar Doc Process Shouldn't Scare Anyone (But HBO)