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THIS JUST IN: Magnolia Pictures Acquires Worldwide Rights to TIFF Opening Night Gala Documentary ‘ONCE WERE BROTHERS: ROBBIE ROBERTSON AND THE BAND’ – Bell Media

THIS JUST IN: Magnolia Pictures Acquires Worldwide Rights to TIFF Opening Night Gala Documentary ‘ONCE WERE BROTHERS: ROBBIE ROBERTSON AND THE BAND’

— September 5, 2019

TORONTO (September 5, 2019) – Magnolia Pictures announced today that they have acquired worldwide rights to ONCE WERE BROTHERS: ROBBIE ROBERTSON AND THE BAND, ahead of its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival as its Opening Night Gala Presentation. This marks the first time a Canadian-made documentary will open the festival. Directed by Daniel Roher (SURVIVORS ROWE) and executive produced by Martin ScorseseBrian Grazer and Ron Howard, the documentary tells the story of a group that went from backing up Bob Dylan to becoming one of the most influential groups of its era. Magnolia is planning a theatrical release for early next year.

Inspired by Robertson’s 2017 bestselling memoir Testimony, ONCE WERE BROTHERS: ROBBIE ROBERTSON AND THE BAND is a confessional, cautionary, and sometimes humorous tale of Robertson’s young life and the creation of one of the most enduring groups in the history of popular music. The film blends rare archival footage and interviews with many of Robertson’s friends and collaborators, including Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Scorsese, Taj Mahal, Peter Gabriel, David Geffen and Ronnie Hawkins, among others.

“Being a long time fan of The Band, ONCE WERE BROTHERS: ROBBIE ROBERTSON AND THE BAND still held many surprises and information I didn't know,” said Magnolia President Eamonn Bowles. “Daniel Roher has fashioned a stirring tribute to a great American ensemble.”

Directed by Daniel Roher, ONCE WERE BROTHERS: ROBBIE ROBERTSON AND THE BAND is a co-production between Imagine Documentaries, White Pine Pictures, Bell Media Studios and Universal Music Canada’s Shed Creative. The film is executive produced by Justin Wilkes, Sara Bernstein, and Michael Rosenberg for Imagine Documentaries; White Pines Pictures’ president Peter Raymont, and COO Steve Ord; Bell Media’s Randy Lennox;  Jared Levine; Michael Levine; Universal Music Canada president and CEO Jeffrey Remedios; and Shed Creative’s managing director Dave Harris.

The deal was negotiated by Magnolia EVP Dori Begley and Magnolia SVP of Acquisitions John Von Thaden with Endeavor Content on behalf of the filmmakers. Magnolia Head of International Sales Lorna Lee Torres and International Sales Manager Marie Zeniter will launch international sales at the Toronto International Film Festival. All international rights (excluding Canada) are available.

The film will make its premiere as a Crave Original in Canada.

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The leading independent film distributor for nearly 20 years, Magnolia Pictures is the theatrical and home entertainment distribution arm of the Wagner/Cuban Companies. Recent releases include RAISE HELL: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF MOLLY IVINS, a new documentary about the trailblazing Texas journalist that world-premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and won the Festival Favorites Audience Award at SXSW; Sundance award-winning documentary COLD CASE HAMMARSKJOLD; MIKE WALLACE IS HERE, a timely documentary on the legendary 60 Minutes newsman; TONI MORRISON: THE PIECES I AM, celebrating the life and career of the trailblazing literary icon; 2018 Cannes Palme d’Or winner and Oscar-nominated SHOPLIFTERS, from renowned Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-Eda; SUPPORT THE GIRLS, Andrew Bujalski’s critically lauded film starring New York Film Critics Circle Best Actress award winner Regina Hall; Box office sensation and Oscar-nominated RBG, award-winning filmmakers Betsy West and Julie Cohen’s documentary about the consequential life and legal legacy of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; Ruben Östlund’s 2017 Cannes Palme d’Or winner and Oscar-nominated THE SQUARE; and Raoul Peck and James Baldwin’s Oscar-nominated I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO. Upcoming releases include MISTER AMERICA, a new comedy starring Tim Heidecker and Gregg Turkington; SCANDALOUS, the thrilling origin story of the National Enquirer; Cannes Best Actress prize-winning sci-fi feature LITTLE JOE; CUNNINGHAM, director Alla Kovgan’s immersive documentary on visionary American choreographer Merce Cunningham; Romanian crime thriller THE WHISTLERS, which world-premiered in competition at Cannes; and SLAY THE DRAGON, an urgent and eye-opening documentary about gerrymandering.


Magnolia Pictures International is the sales arm of Magnolia Pictures, overseeing a diverse catalog of more than 100 features from Magnolia Pictures and 2929 Productions. Over the years, Magnolia International has worked on the international distribution of many ground-breaking documentaries including RBG, LO AND BEHOLD: REVERIES OF THE CONNECTED WORLD, THE WOLFPACK, and IRIS; critically-acclaimed narratives such as LUCKY, TANGERINE, GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK, and TWO LOVERS; and genre films XX, THE EYES OF MY MOTHER, TROLLHUNTER, and HONEYMOON. 2019 films include Sundance documentaries HAIL SATAN? and THE BRINK, survival thriller BODY AT BRIGHTON ROCK and Horror/Western THE WIND.

Imagine Documentaries was formed in 2018 by Imagine Entertainment Chairmen Brian Grazer and Ron Howard with a focus on developing and producing premium feature documentaries and non-scripted television. Based out of New York, Imagine Docs is run by Academy Award-nominated and multiple Emmy and Peabody Award-winning producers Justin Wilkes and Sara Bernstein. The division expands on Imagine’s rich history in the documentary space which includes the hit National Geographic hybrid documentary series Mars, and Breakthrough as well as The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years which won the 2017 Grammy for Best Music Film, Jay Z’s Made in AmericaProphet’s Prey, Katy Perry: Part of Me, Inside Deep Throat, and Beyond The Mat in the film space. Imagine Documentaries is currently producing the Ron Howard-directed film Rebuilding Paradise, which follows the Paradise, CA wildfires that most recently ravaged a community; a documentary about legendary musician Louis Armstrong; On Point, a docuseries following students at the prestigious School of Amerian Ballet; Sound & Vision, an anthology docuseries with Rolling Stone Magazine; the docuseries She The People with Tony Award-winner Sarah Jones; the documentary DADS, with Bryce Dallas Howard directing; the Dwyane Wade documentary; This Is Brighton, a feature documentary about 14 year old Brighton Zeuner, the youngest-ever X Games gold medalist, and her journey to the 2020 Olympics; and Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band, a film executive produced by Martin Scorsese chronicling musician Robbie Robertson’s meteoric rise and the story behind The Band. Imagine also produced the Ron Howard directed Pavarotti about opera great Luciano Pavarotti, currently in theaters worldwide.


Press Room

George Nicholis

Magnolia Pictures