Aretha Franklin Documentary 'Amazing Grace' Bought by Neon

Neon has acquired the North American rights to the Aretha Franklin documentary “Amazing Grace,” a month after the movie premiered at DOC NYC.

Neon said it’s planning an early 2019 theatrical release.

The film, shot in 1972 by Sydney Pollack at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles, was originally planned by Warner Bros. Pictures as a companion documentary to the double live album “Amazing Grace,” which became Franklin’s best-selling album, but technical issues prevented the release of the pic.

Producer Alan Elliott acquired the movie rights in 2007 and worked with a team of producers, including Joe Boyd, Robert Johnson, Chiemi Karasawa, Sabrina Owens, Jerry Wexler, Tirrell D. Whittley, and Joseph Woolf. Franklin, who died in August, went to court repeatedly to stop its release. “Amazing Grace” is being launched with the support of Franklin’s estate.

The movie includes an 11-minute version of “Amazing Grace,” “Mary Don’t You Weep,” “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” “Precious Memories,” Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend,” and Marvin Gaye’s “Wholy Holy.”

Variety’s chief film critic Owen Gleiberman praised the movie in his review: “She sounds like the holiest of trumpets, with every note piercingly bright yet as soft as velvet. Listening to Franklin, you feel like you could ride that voice into the heavens. She’s not just a singer, she’s a human chariot.”

Sabrina Owens, Franklin’s niece and personal representative of the Aretha Franklin estate, said, “’Amazing Grace’ is the heart and soul of Aretha Franklin. This film is authentic and is my aunt to her core. Our family couldn’t be more excited for audiences to experience the genius of her work and spirit through this film.”

“Amazing Grace” also screened on Nov. 15 at the AFI Fest. The deal was negotiated by Neon and Endeavor Content on behalf of filmmakers.

Neon released Tim Wardle’s documentary “Three Identical Strangers,” which grossed almost $13 million at the North American box office. It’s also launching Brady Corbet’s “Vox Lux,” starring Natalie Portman, this weekend.