UA buys new Leigh pic

North American rights go for $3 million

MILAN — United Artists has picked up North American rights to Mike Leigh’s next pic, currently known only as “Untitled 02,” for around $3 million.

The $9 million film, now in post-production, is fully financed by Studio Canal under a three-film deal with the British helmer and his producer Simon Channing-Williams.

The sale to UA has sparked a furious row between StudioCanal and its sister studio Universal, which wanted the Leigh pic for its Focus division. U bosses in Los Angeles are understood to be angry that the film was sold before they had a chance to see it.

But UA has looked favorite to be the film’s Stateside home ever since Bingham Ray joined the company a couple of months ago. Ray’s old shingle October Films was Leigh’s regular U.S. distrib, co-financing several of his pics including “Topsy-Turvy.” Ray, Leigh and Channing-Williams are close friends.

As usual with Leigh, little or nothing is known about the subject matter of his latest pic, apart from that it returns to the contemporary urban English setting which typified his movies prior to “Topsy-Turvy.”

Pic is a virtual certainty to have its world premiere at next year’s Cannes film festival.

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