The Walt Disney Company has acquired the local rights to distribute Australian thriller Killer Elite.
The film, which stars Jason Statham and Robert De Niro, will be released in Australian cinemas (via Disney's Buena Vista International banner, used for non-studio acquisitions, in association with Omnilab Media) on December 1. The film will be released more than two months earlier across North America by Open Road Films on September 23.
Killer Elite was produced by Omnilab and, with a budget of $66 million, is one of the biggest local productions this year to qualify for the 40 per cent Producer Offset rebate.
It is the first local film Disney will distribute since last year's restructure which resulted in the appointment of Sonia Bijelic as head of studio marketing following the departure of former studio boss Alan Finney (who is now heading the Australian Film Institute).
The last Australian films Disney distributed were Two Fists, One Heart and Subdivision, which both posted disappointing box office returns in 2009.
However, while those two films were identifiably Australian, Killer Elite has a significantly larger budget and international flavour. (There was some minor controversy following the shoot when the Australian actors were asked to redub their natural voices using American accents for the international release.)
Prior to the Killer Elite acquisition, a Disney spokesperson said the company remained open to distributing Australian films that align with its strategy.
"At Disney, key to our strategy is creating great stories with memorable characters that will resonate with a broad audience and can be maximised right across Disney’s range of businesses," the spokesperson said.
The film pits two of the world's most elite operatives – Danny, an ex-special ops agent (Jason Statham) and Hunter, his longtime mentor (Robert De Niro) – against the cunning leader of a secret military society, Spike (Clive Owen).
The film has been given an R rating in the US but has yet to be classified in Australia.