Pickups proving easy at Toronto Film Fest

'Tully' to relaunch Skouras Pictures

TORONTO — Even before the 25th annual Toronto Intl. Film Festival officially opened with Thursday night’s gala premiere of Denys Arcand’s “Stardom,” indie veteran Tom Skouras re-entered the domestic distribution business with the fest’s first pickup.

Shirley Barrett’s “Walk the Talk” made itself newly available for U.S. acquisition, and the now-public Magellin Entertainment cut a three-pic foreign distribution deal through Franchise Pictures.

Skouras has relaunched his Skouras Pictures with the acquisition of “The Truth About Tully,” Hilary Birmingham’s feature-directing debut, which already garnered top prizes at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival.

Skouras will evenly split worldwide revenues on “Tully” with Canada’s Blackwatch Intl., which handles the pic’s foreign sales — an arrangement more reminiscent of a studio split-rights deal than of independent filmmaking.

Based in Los Angeles, Skouras plans to release six titles annually, beginning with “Tully” in February. Skouras said that after releasing the film in New York and L.A. day-and-date, he will expand the title to at least the top 30 U.S. markets. Jeff Dowd was the producer’s rep, with John Sloss of Sloss Law brokering the deal.

Skouras was best known for handling such titles as 1985’s “My Life as a Dog” and 1990’s “The Comfort of Strangers” before an attempt to take his company public went south in 1995.

Although he has virtually disappeared from industry radar for the last four years, he kept busy making lucrative investments in dot-coms. The revived Skouras shingle is partially financed by his longtime backer Dick Thieriot, who served as editor and publisher of the San Francisco Chronicle for 20 years.

“Tully” will be released in Canada through Blackwatch Releasing, which also handles product for Sony Pictures Classics, Trimark Pictures and the Shooting Gallery.

Like “Tully,” Barrett’s “Walk the Talk” will likely be acquired swiftly. Pic was financed by DreamWorks after studio principal David Geffen fell for Barrett’s 1996 feature debut, “Love Serenade,” and pledged backing for her next film. The studio kept that promise but found itself at a loss as to how to market and release the low-budget Australian comedy.

Good Machine Intl. was brought in to handle the international sales on the title before Cannes, and CAA is now in Toronto to rep the domestic sale of the film, which premieres Sunday morning.

Finally, Anthony Romano and Michel Shane’s Magellin has cut a three-pic deal with Elie Samaha’s Franchise Pictures to handle international distribution on Magellin’s three titles, starting with “Rennie’s Landing.” A coming-of-age pic starring Peter Facinelli, Scott Foley and Ethan Embry, “Landing” is the feature-directing debut of Marc Fusco. Franchise’s Lisa Wilson repped the company in the deal.

Magellin was recently acquired by North Coast Prods., which is traded on Nasdaq’s Bulletin Board and is in the process of changing its name to Magellin Entertainment. North Coast, headed by Pat Charles, Terry Picken and investment banker Richard Ladd, was the primary backer of “Rennie’s.” It plans to produce or co-produce four to six films per year.

Penned by Fusco and Michael Garrity, “Rennie’s” was produced by Shane and Romano. Garrity and Michael Gabrawy served as co-producers, with Ladd and Charles exec producing.

Magellin is developing the Leonardo DiCaprio starrer “Catch Me If You Can” at DreamWorks, which will not be included in the Franchise deal, as well as “Dog Eat Dog.”

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