Building on its 1993 release schedule, Sony Pictures Classics has completed the reported $ 500,000 purchase of all domestic and Canadian distribution rights to director Sally Potter’s “Orlando” from Carole Myer of The Sales Co.

Sony Pictures Classics tentatively plans to release the pic in the first half of 1993, following an international roll-out to Italy in December, Germany in January and London’s West End in March.

“Orlando” stars Tilda Swinton, “Jesus of Montreal” star Lothaire Bluteau, Quentin Crisp, Billy Zane and Charlotte Valandrey.

Based on Virginia Woolf’s 1928 novel, pic is about a character’s journey through time–first as a man and then as a woman–from an experience as a young nobleman in the court of Queen Elizabeth I to the deserts of Asia to turn-of-the-century Victorian England.

Company co-president Marcie Bloom said Sony Pictures Classics was drawn to “Orlando” because of its “humor and warmth and humanity, as well as the issues it raises about gender, sexual identity (and) immortality.”

The deal underscores the sluggish nature in the independent film arena, where the prices for domestic distribution rights have experienced a general downward pressure of roughly 20% to 25% over the last year.

U.S. and Canadian distribution rights to “Orlando” were originally targeted for a seven-figure pricetag, but competitors’ bids came in significantly below that marker.

In keeping with industry standard, the acquisition price includes components that enhance the deal based on distributor’s revenues.

The Sales Co. is owned by Venice Prods., the BBC and British Screen. The Sales Co. has also been involved in handling foreign sales for the Miramax release “The Crying Game”; worldwide rights to Fine Line’s “Edward II,” and director Beeban Kidron’s “Great Moments in Aviation”– a pic just acquired by Miramax Films.

“Orlando” was produced by Adventure Pictures in a co-production with Russia’s Lenfilm, Italy’s Mikado Film, Rio, Sigma Film Production with the participation of British Screen. As part of the arrangement, distribution rights to “Orlando” are spoken for in the territories of the United Kingdom, Russia, France, Italy and Holland.

The international schematic significantly brought down the budget of the film , which could have easily reached the $ 10 million to $ 15 million marker, said producer Christopher Sheppard.

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