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Inside move: Doing hard time for ‘Scala’

Pic's clearances locked up by Sondheim

Offers are coming in from distribs around the world for Francesca Joseph’s debut movie “Tomorrow La Scala!,” which got a seven-minute ovation in the Un Certain Regard sidebar at Cannes.

But this throws up a delicate negotiation for co-financiers BBC Films and the Film Council, and their sales agent, Portman Entertainment.

That’s because the Stephen Sondheim music that runs throughout the movie has not yet been cleared for theatrical release, only for TV broadcast.

The $1 million pic is about an opera troupe staging a production of Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd” in a prison for lifers.

It was the first project in an experimental BBC/Film Council scheme to make first-time features on a shoestring with talent from other fields — such as stand-up comedy, or in the case of Joseph, documentaries.

It was simply too expensive, within such a tight budget, to clear theatrical use in advance. The producers are hoping that the warmth of the Cannes reception will help persuade Sondheim’s reps to cut a viable deal.

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