Biz buzzing at Sundance

Miramax in $6 mil 'Wonderland'

PARK CITY, Utah — After getting off to a chilly start, the Sundance Film Festival began to heat up Sunday as the sun came out over Park City and news of a number of high-profile acquisitions began to flow.

Even jaded regulars at the preeminent U.S. indie festival were abuzz about the $6 million Miramax reportedly shelled out for Brad Anderson’s “Next Stop Wonderland.” In addition to worldwide distribution rights, the agreement gives Miramax a first-look and last matching rights to an undisclosed number of future projects by Anderson (“The Darien Gap”) and producer Mitchell B. Robbins. Still, the move was widely seen as a show of strength on the part of the minimajor.

Also closing Saturday night was October Films’ under-$1 million acquisition of Lisa Cholodenko’s “High Art.” October had been circling the quirky lesbian-themed drama for several weeks, but according to October partner John Schmidt, it was seeing the film in the context of the festival that clinched the deal.

Money talks

Miramax also picked up Saul Rubinek’s feature debut, “Jerry and Tom,” late Sunday afternoon, according to sources. The film stars Joe Mantegna, Sam Rockwell, Maury Chaikin, Charles Durning and William H. Macy. Pic’s producer, Lion’s Gate (formerly CFP), has its own domestic distribution arm, but had let it be known the film was available for the right price.

Arrow Entertainment announced Sunday its previous acquisition of U.S. theatrical, TV and video rights to British helmer Carine Adler’s feature debut “Under the Skin.” The film, about two sisters who compete for their mother’s love, won the Intl. Critics Award at the 1997 Toronto Film Festival. It’s screening at the World Cinema section here.

Michael Steinberg’s suburban horror tale “Wicked” reportedly has been acquired by a new distribution company formed by industry vet Tom Skouras.

Other films sources said are close to wrapping distribution deals include “Montana” and “Slam.” Much-anticipated films that had yet to screen as of Sunday afternoon included “The Misadventures of Margaret” and “Gods and Monsters.”

Rating trouble

“South Park” creator Trey Parker announced Friday at a sold-out midnight screening of his “Orgazmo” that the film had garnered an NC-17 rating. Among the offending scenes were one of simulated sex with an obese woman and graphic sexual dialogue.The filmmaker is bound by his deal with distributor October Films to edit the film until it gets an R rating.

But the hottest ticket in town was Sunday’s midnight distributor screening of Nick Broomfield’s documentary “Kurt and Courtney,” which was pulled from the festival after several highly publicized legal challenges.

On Friday, the BBC sent a letter to Sundance claiming ownership of the film, and refusing to grant the festival permission to show it, according to Sundance Institute spokesman Stephen Rivers.

At a Saturday press conference, Broomfield said the BBC only owned U.K. broadcast rights, and that the copyright was owned by the production company, Strength Ltd. But the missive was just the last in a series of legal maneuvers to keep the film from screening, including ones by Kurt Cobain’s estate and music publisher EMI concerning the film’s usage of uncleared songs.

“Our lawyers told us we couldn’t show the film without putting ourselves into legal and financial jeopardy,” Rivers said. “The BBC letter was the final nail in the coffin.”

(Monica Roman contributed to this report.)

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