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Figgis’ ‘Loss’ is Sony’s gain

Studio mulling Sundance preem

Sony Pictures Classics has picked up the North American and U.K. distribution rights to filmmaker Mike Figgis’ latest offering, “The Loss of Sexual Innocence.”

SPC co-presidents Michael Barker and Tom Bernard wouldn’t disclose the exact amount they spent for the rights, allowing only that it’s “less than a million.” The actual amount the specialized banner paid for “Loss” is understood to be closer to $600,000.

Figgis (“Leaving Las Vegas”) wrote and directed the semiautobiographical tale and produced it with Annie Stewart, his partner in the Red Mullet production banner. While Red Mullet in January inked a two-year, exclusive pact with parent Sony Pictures Entertainment, the distribution deal with SPC falls outside of that pact.

“While they (SPC) are not joined at the hip with Sony proper,” Figgis told Daily Variety, “they are connected, and because of my relationship with John Calley, made it an easier decision.”

Figgis finished the $4 million film three months ago, but SPC brass, who had been tracking the project since its script stage, did not see the completed film until three weeks ago, after they had begun negotiations. Although Summit Entertainment, which fully financed the film, had been pre-selling it internationally, Figgis wanted to complete the project before beginning discussions with any domestic distribs.

Figgis was represented on the deal by ICM.

Though Summit fully financed the project, Figgis had complete creative control and owns the negative. He holds the domestic rights, which he is licensing to Sony Classics (and the international rights will revert back to him from Summit in 15 years).

“This is a very particular film,” said Figgis. “And I naturally want to present it in the best possible way, which is harder and harder to do as the indie market shrinks. The motivation was the way they (SPC) market films … they don’t spend a lot of money for films, but they work very hard to get them into theaters and market them.”

SPC would like to stage the U.S. premiere of “Loss” at the 1999 Sundance Film Fest and release it domestically soon after. Last week, the film was named to the upcoming Venice Film Festival’s new “Perspectives” section, a noncompetitive, somewhat experimental forum.

Figgis, who also wrote the music for the film, has described “Loss” as a nonlinear collection of short stories about the phases and complexities of sexual activity. Pic stars Julian Sands (“Leaving Las Vegas”), Saffron Burrows (“Circle of Friends”) and Jonathan Rhys Myers (“Velvet Goldmine”).

“This is really in keeping with the kind of films that we feel we know how to manage the best,” said SPC’s Barker.

“This is the ultimate independent film and the ultimate personal expression of a filmmaker … With this film, Mike is going back to his roots,” Barker said.

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