John Travolta squashed his own film with hopes that it would get better play somewhere else.
The star’s upcoming flick “Gotti” was set to debut on Dec. 15 under Lionsgates’ Premiere division, which had planned a small scale release of the mobster movie — a choice that didn’t please Travolta.
“Lionsgate was planning on a minimal release and I did an investigation into people who might have the interest and financial wherewithal to better release it. Ed (Walson) is a fan of mine and of the Gotti story, and really wanted to see the movie. I invited his group, they saw it and bought it. That is the simple explanation for this,” Travolta explained to Deadline after it was reported that Lionsgate were the ones who planned to not release the movie so close to the date.
“It wasn’t dropped. It wasn’t easy to get Lionsgate to give it up. They said no, twice, and I literally begged them to reconsider and they finally and generously let it go,” Travolta continued to Deadline.
“We signed this deal about three weeks ago, to purchase back the film from Lionsgate. Our mistake was we should have said something right then, and discussed our plan for the film. We didn’t anticipate this speculation that is so grossly wrong.”
A source familiar with the deal told Daily News that the Kevin Connolly-directed movie was sold back to producers a few weeks ago and that the discussions were going on for quite a while.
The source added that Lionsgate was happy to sell the film back in order to give Travolta and producers the opportunity to roll out the movie as they wanted.
Travolta explained that he was able to find Walson, who has produced five Broadway plays and eight films, including Woody Allen-directed flicks “Café Society” and the upcoming “Wonder Wheel.”
A rep for Travolta confirmed the Deadline report to the Daily News and stated that they are closing in on a deal with a distributor, but couldn’t reveal details at this time.
He also told the The News he could not comment on whether Lionsgate was compensated for its investment to the movie.
Industry experts say these types of situations don’t happen very often.
“It is not a common thing,” film producer and consultant Kathryn Arnold told the Daily News of the purchase.
“He’s a movie star probably proud of his work and wants to get as wide a release as possible,” she continued.
Arnold said it is likely Travolta and his backers had to pay Lionsgate for whatever they put forward on the film — and maybe then some — in order to free them of any debt.
“It’s a bold move,” she continued.
“It’s very expensive not to release a film.”
Walson told Deadline that the plan is to get the movie shown at Cannes and then do a wide release shortly after and noted it deserved the “glitter” of the film festival
“It’s a supreme piece of work I thought deserves proper recognition … I’ve seen the frustration that sometimes happens when distributors don’t think of out-of-the-box ways to promote a movie, let alone spend any P&A money,” he told Deadline. “I thought, ‘Here is an opportunity to take a magnificent movie, and get it seen.’”
Lionsgate did not immediately respond to a Daily News request for comment.