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Par Classics debuts with 1st Toronto buy

Startup puts 'Passion' on film

TORONTO — Paramount’s new classics division kicked off the acquisitions derby at the Toronto Intl. Film Festival by picking up U.S., U.K. and other territorial rights to Tod Williams’ directorial debut “The Adventures of Sebastian Cole.”

The deal marks the first acquisition by Paramount Classics, which was launched by co-presidents David Dinerstein and Ruth Vitale in February. The startup this month will begin lensing on its first production, “Passion of Mind,” starring Demi Moore. “Ma Vie en Rose” helmer Alain Berliner is directing from a script by Ron Bass, who is producing along with Tom Rosenberg.

Before joining Par, Vitale was president of Fine Line Features, New Line Cinema’s arthouse banner, while Dinerstein was senior veep of marketing at Fox Searchlight, the specialized film division of 20th Century Fox.

Vitale and Dinerstein inked the pact to buy “Sebastian Cole” early Monday after a latenight bargaining session with Cassian Elwes and Rena Ronson, who run WMA Independent, the William Morris Agency unit dedicated to packaging and financing indie pics.

Int’l rights

In addition to the U.S. and the U.K., Paramount Classics acquired territorial rights for Australia and New Zealand, South Africa and South America.

“Tod Williams has crafted an extremely funny and poignant film,” Dinerstein said. “He is a unique talent with a distinctive voice, and we are thrilled to have his film as our first acquisition.”

Set in a small upstate New York town in the early 1980s, “Cole” tells the story of a budding writer whose life is turned upside down on the brink of his high school graduation. It stars Adrian Grenier, who has a role in Woody Allen’s “Celebrity,” and Clark Gregg, a founding member and former artistic director of Gotham’s Atlantic Theater Co.

“Paramount Classics’ passion and enthusiasm for our film is overwhelming,” said Karen Barber, who produced the pic along with Jasmine Kosovic. “We are excited that we have found the right home for our picture.”

‘Real’ close

Insiders say Paramount Classics is also mulling an offer for another coming-of-age tale, the U.K. pic “Get Real” directed by Simon Shore and exec produced by Anant Singh. Vitale did not reveal Dinerstein’s and her intentions regarding “Real,” but said that “Cole” would probably not be their last acquisition at the Toronto fest.

Other pics being circled by distributors include Morgan J. Freeman’s “Desert Blue” starring Kate Hudson and Brendan Sexton III (“Pecker”), the Minnie Driver starrer “At Sachem Farm” and “Following,” the black-and-white thriller that was backed by Bravo Networks’ Next Wave Films.

Besides speculating on possible acquisitions, festival attendees have traded horror stories about the circuitous routes they were forced to take to Toronto as a result of the Air Canada strike, which was settled over the weekend. Planes are expected to be flying again by Wednesday, three days before the festival wraps.

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