ThinkFilm wrestles ‘Half Nelson’ rights

Duo pact on 'Stay' while 'Junkie' gets o'seas fix

As the Sundance film fest wound down here over the weekend, a number of smaller deals came to a head, including ThinkFilm’s North American pickup of the Ryan Gosling and Anthony Mackie starrer “Half Nelson” and Roadside Attractions and Samuel Goldwyn’s pact to grab North American rights to funnyman Bob Goldthwait’s comedy “Stay.”

Sundance has not been known in the past as a spot for international banners to be very active, compared with fests with formal markets attached, such as Berlin and Cannes. But this year, Sundance saw about as many foreign pickups as domestic: Over the weekend, overseas rights to the docu “TV Junkie” were acquired by Thomas Mai and producer Joni Sighvatsson’s foreign sales banner Katapult. Pic was being repped by ICM, Submarine and Ring the Jing Entertainment.

“Nelson,” which follows a unique relationship between a white schoolteacher, his African-American student and a local drug dealer, is a feature-length version of writer-helmer Ryan Fleck’s Sundance-winning short film “Gowanus, Brooklyn.” Anna Boden co-penned the feature version and also was one of its producers.

Pic — which brought immediate attention after its Jan. 22 preem from circling distribs, including Miramax and Warner Independent Pictures — was being repped at Sundance by WMA. Pic was additionally produced by Jamie Patricof, Alex Orlovsky, Lynette Howell and Rosanne Korenberg. Paul Mezey, Doug Dey, Charlie Corwin and Clara Markowicz were exec producers.

Last year, Think picked up raunchy comedy docu “The Aristocrats” in Park City. The company this year preemed its Beastie Boys concert docu “Awesome: I Fuckin’ Shot That!”

Busy WMA over the weekend also sold off North American rights to laffer “Stay” to Roadside and Goldwyn just a day after sealing a deal to send the pic overseas through Gallic label Gaumont. Pic follows a young, engaged teacher (Melinda Page Hamilton) who is haunted by an impulsive sexual encounter from her past. When she reveals her secret, all hell breaks loose.

Roadside and Goldwyn are partners in the IDP Distribution label and have the ability to go in together to pick up product. The banners together previously bought the docu “Super Size Me” at Sundance. Last year, Goldwyn reeled in rights at the fest to “The Squid and the Whale.”

“Stay” was one film that popped during the fest, getting attention from distribs after its screening, as opposed to being one of the high priorities for acquisitions execs coming in. Pic was written and helmed by Goldthwait and produced by Martin Pasetta Jr.

“I’ve never encountered a film that so intelligently combines raunchy humor with warmth and emotional truth,” said Eric d’Arbeloff, who heads Roadside with Howard Cohen. “Bob Goldthwait’s film is going to draw people for its outrageous premise, but they will leave the theater surprised how much it touches them.”

Acquisitions exec Peter Goldwyn brought the film into Goldwyn Films.

In other wheeling and dealing over the closing weekend, helmer Ramin Bahrani’s “Man Push Cart” was picked up by indie distrib Films Philos for a domestic rollout. Pic already has foreign pacts for distribution in France, Greece and Benelux through Paris-based sales rep Wide Entertainment.

“Cart” follows a Gotham street vendor and his struggling life in the city.

“La Tragedia de Macario,” by 23-year-old first-time helmer Pablo Veliz, was also acquired. Indie distrib Arrival Pictures picked up the film for a domestic release.

Frontloaded with more of the fest’s available commercial titles unspooling in its opening days, Sundance kicked off with the blockbuster sale of “Little Miss Sunshine” to Fox Searchlight in a world rights deal valued at about $10 million. Warner Independent next shelled out $6 million for the latest pic by Michel Gondry (“The Science of Sleep”) in a multiterritory pact, and Miramax coughed up about $3 million for North American rights to “The Night Listener,” starring Robin Williams.

But as the fest wore on, pics’ pricetags dropped: Lionsgate paid about $2 million to purchase world rights to Chris Gorak’s dirty bomb thriller “Right at Your Door,” and IFC Films made the fest’s only domestic docu buy so far, paying about $1 million for rights to “Wordplay.” Think paid about $1 million to wrestle “Nelson” away from other buyers, and the IDP team paid somewhere in the low- to mid-six figures to get “Stay.”

Burgeoning Bauer Martinez also picked up “The Darwin Awards,” the last of the Sundance buzz titles to preem last week, which stars Joseph Fiennes, Winona Ryder, David Arquette and Juliette Lewis.

Pacts are still expected to close on a string of promising pics — including “The Illusionist,” “Foot Fist Way,” “Special,” “The Hawk Is Dying,” “Solo Dios sabe,” “Small Gay Bar” and “Destricted” — after the fest’s finish in the coming weeks.

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