Sony, Inferno Distribution pact

Deal will cover at least five to 10 films

Sony’s acquisitions group has inked a co-financing and distribution deal with Inferno Distribution.

Under the deal, which will cover at least five to 10 pics, Sony will get first crack at domestic rights for all media; Inferno will handle foreign sales. The first project covered in the pact is “The Heaven Project,” a thriller starring Paul Walker.

Inferno, which recently secured $265 million financing, has a series of star-driven projects in the works, but some will not be included in this pact. “The Women,” a redo of the George Cukor film, has already been acquired by Picturehouse. “Smother,” a Diane Keaton starrer produced with Jay Roach pre-dates the deal but may be incorporated.

The Catherine Hardwicke adaptation of Edward Abbey’s “The Monkey Wrench Gang” and “A Dog’s Story,” based on a true story about Japanese man and his canine companion, may also fall under the deal.

Pact was forged out of previous deals between Inferno and Sony senior VP of acquisitions and production Lara Thompson. Sony acquired “The Good Night,” a Jake Paltrow project that starred his sister, Gwyneth. And “Donnie Darko” helmer Richard Kelly’s “Southland Tales,” a pic that stars Duane “The Rock” Johnson, Seann William Scott, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Justin Timberlake, is expected to have a theatrical release, although the date has not yet been set.

Inferno co-founder Bill Johnson said studio pacts make much more sense than selling projects individually.

“It just seems like that’s the way movies get made — when you have a close relationship with someone,” Johnson said.

“It’s always nice to have a friendly face,” said Thompson, who has done deals with Inferno at previous companies. “We’re aggressive in acquisition of product — we need to fill the pipeline to meet the growing demand.”

Inferno, a Los Angeles concern founded by Johnson and Jim Seibel in 2002 as an international sales outfit, branched out into financing and production 2004 with a focus on projects in the $10 million to $30 million budget range. Among its earlier productions: “Just Friends,” the romantic comedy starring Ryan Reynolds, and “The Air I Breathe,” starring Forest Whitaker, Kevin Bacon and Andy Garcia.

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