NEW YORK — Sony Pictures Classics beat out Fox Searchlight and Orion to capture North American rights Friday to Neil LaBute’s ”In the Company of Men,” a tale of sexual politics in the age of corporate downsiz-ing.

Worldwide rights except North America to ”Company” were acquired by Alliance Independents during Sundance, where playwright LaBute was awarded the Filmmakers Trophy for his first feature (Daily Variety, Jan. 24).

SPC co-prez Tom Bernard said, ”When we first saw ‘In the Company of Men’ at Sundance, we were as disturbed as everyone else was … But like many others at the festival, we found that we could not stop talking about it.”

”Company” follows two middle managers during a temporary assignment at a branch office, where they prey on a vulnerable secretary as a form of retribution for the wrongs they feel women have committed against them. ”Among the distributors who bid for the film, Sony … understood the controversial nature of this film only serves to increase its commercial appeal,” said Stephen Pevner, a New York literary agent who produced ”Company” with Mark Archer.

Gotham attorney Donna Bascom repped the producers in their negotiations with SPC.

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