’30 Days’ & ’21 Grams’ ignite bidding battles

Both pix draw seven-figure offers

Studio execs interrupted the dog days of summer to engage in vigorous bidding battles for two talent-driven film projects.

Both auctions — on projects that could hardly be more different — drew multiple seven-figure offers.

DreamWorks, MGM and Senator Intl. all bid in the $1 million range to acquire the arcane comicbook series “30 Days of Night” by Steve Niles. “Spider-Man” helmer Sam Raimi has expressed strong interest in the vampire thriller.

Separately, Miramax, Focus and New Regency have emerged as the finalists for “21 Grams,” a drama expected to star Benicio Del Toro, Sean Penn and Naomi Watts with an expected budget of $20 million.

The “21 Grams” package reteams the “Amores Perros” team of director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga. Ted Hope will produce with Inarritu.

Endeavor began the auction Thursday, injecting a bit of intrigue by sending the script out on red paper to make it more difficult to copy. The drama’s title is a reference to the amount of weight a body loses at death.

Each of the three studios in the final running for “21 Grams” are ready to carry the film’s full freight. A decision is expected today, and talent deals begin right after, so production could begin in the U.S. by year’s end on Inarritu’s first English-language film. UTA reps Arriaga.

Senator Intl. Appears to have the inside track on the comic book project “30 Days of Night.” In May, Raimi forged a production pact with the overseas sales division of German indie giant Senator Entertainment. Under the terms of that deal, Raimi and longtime producing partner Rob Tapert’s new genre label would producing modestly budgeted horror, sci-fi and fantasy films that will be fully financed by Senator Intl., which will retain worldwide distribution rights.

Still, as of Sunday no one was declaring victory. DreamWorks production prexy Mike De Luca is understood to be keenly interested in the project as well — understandable given that he greenlit the successful New Line “Blade” franchise, also based on a comic book, while head of production there.

It remains unclear if Raimi’s interest is limited to producing or would include actually helming “30 Days.” His CAA reps declined to comment.

The comic writer Niles said he came up with the idea after reading a Minnesota newspaper article about Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost city in the state, some 340 miles above the Arctic Circle. The town of 4,500 had banned the sale of alcohol due to the spiraling rates of depression caused by spending over a month each year in total darkness.

“I just thought, God, if I were a vampire, I’d be packing my bags,” Niles said.

Comicbook follows a flock of vampires as they descend on the town for a bloody feeding.

Niles is the writer of the monthly comicbook “Hellspawn” and the new Image Comics series “Fused!”

Niles said Friday that he found the bidding on the property somewhat ironic, as “30 Days of Night” was sent around town as a movie pitch a few years ago and no one would have it.

Niles then set it up at his friend Ted Adams’ publishing company Idea & Design Works, where the first book sold out almost overnight last June. The second edition of the “30 Days” comicbook is set to debut at the upcoming San Diego Comic Con in August. He’s also penning “Spawn 2,” set up at Sony’s Columbia Pictures.

Project and Raimi are both repped by Creative Artists Agency.

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