CNN is a Buyer at Sundance

By Chris Ariens 

CNN Films, a production and acquisition unit of CNN Worldwide, has acquired another film at the Sundance Film Festival. Partnering with Magnolia Pictures, CNN has acquired the U.S. rights to the documentary “Blackfish,” about the history of killer whales in captivity leading up to the 2010 incident at Sea World that resulted in the death of a trainer by the whale Tilikum. The film will be released in theaters this Summer and shown on CNN in the Fall.

Established last year, as first reported by TVNewser, CNN Films is the result of a reorganization of two documentary units, combined into one department focusing on acquiring documentaries from outside production companies.

CNN Films isn’t just dipping its toe in the documentary water. It dove in at Sundance, hosting a party Friday in Park City to announce other acquisitions and three new projects from filmmakers.


CNN has acquired the U.S. broadcast rights to a documentary about the life of Roger Ebert, based on his memoir, Life Itself. “Girl Rising,” a documentary about nine girls from around the world struggling to get an education, will make its theatrical debut in March followed by a broadcast premiere on CNN in June. “Girl Rising” is produced by former ABC News executive producer Tom Yellin. A sneak preview was given last night at Sundance.

“CNN is proud to announce these production agreements at this festival which has done so much to support independent storytelling,” says Mark Whitaker, managing editor of CNN. “Our aim at CNN Films is to showcase the work of exceptional documentary filmmakers and to build conversations around the issues they raise across our global platforms.”