Distrib deal, helmer's 'Empire' both hazy

NEW YORK — The sales story on the new David Lynch movie is becoming, well, Lynchian.

“Inland Empire,” a characteristically nonlinear pic about a doomed film project, Polish prostitutes and many long hallways, has yet to find a distributor — at least officially.

Acquisitions execs turned out Friday in Gotham to a press and industry screening at the New York Film Festival, where there were a minimum of mid-screening exits but also a minimum of post-screening applause.

Film flummoxed acquisitions execs when it screened at the Venice film fest, with some saying the movie would be a tricky sell to audiences. In addition to its heavy doses of surrealism, “Inland” is shot entirely in digital and runs three hours.

Blog reports in the last week pegged Magnolia Pictures as having picked up the movie, but the company denied those reports.

Lynch himself further clouded the issue Friday, when at a post-screening press conference he dropped a hint that a distribution deal was close. In response to a question about whether the film had been bought, he offered a small smirk. “Technically,” he said, pausing for effect, “no.”

Over the weekend, there were rumors at the fest that at least one distrib was very interested in the film.

Movie stars Laura Dern, with Jeremy Irons in a supporting role and Mary Steenburgen and William H. Macy in small walk-on parts. Film grew out of a number of disparate scenes Lynch shot with Dern, who starred in his “Blue Velvet” and “Wild at Heart.”

French outfit StudioCanal, which produced Lynch’s “Mullholland Dr.,” is also behind “Inland Empire,” and even it seems to be worried about the film’s running time.

At the Gotham press conference, Lynch reacted with surprise to the notion that auds may find his films confusing. “I really believe in a story, but as I’ve said before, I believe in a story that can hold abstractions,” he said.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more