TWC gets 'Gone' for $4 mil
The Weinstein brothers made a dramatic return to festival form early Sunday morning, outmaneuvering several bidders to buy worldwide rights to widower drama “Grace Is Gone” for $4 million in the first feature buy at Sundance this year.
And late in the day, TWC struck again at Sundance when partnering with Lionsgate to buy worldwide rights to Mitchell Lichtenstein’s feature debut “Teeth,” a dark coming of age story about a girl with teeth in a very strange place. Pic has sparked plenty of conversation at the fest, although most distribs have questioned whether the movie could qualify for an R-rating.
Confirming the deal, Harvey Weinstein told Daily Variety that he doesn’t think the film should be edited in order to secure any particlar rating. He said the more outrageous scenes are the “fun part.”
Details of the deal were still being hammered out. Film was produced by Joyce Pierpoline and stars Jess Weixler.
Fox Searchlight also was busy Sunday night as it began closing a deal to buy George Ratliff’s family thriller “Joshua.”
As for “Grace,” the furious bidding war was quintessential Sundance. Deal was consummated close to 5 a.m. following a seven-hour marathon sesh at a condo leased by Cinetic Media, which repped the film with William Morris Independent.
Fox Searchlight and Sony Pictures Classics were the two other serious bidders. Focus Features and Warner Independent also circled the pic, which stars John Cusack as a stern father of two whose wife is killed in Iraq but who can’t bring himself to tell his daughters. Sale is a coup for first-time writer-director James Strouse and Gotham-based Plum Pictures.
TWC, which has bought ancillary rights, will release the movie in the fall. It is planning both a festival rollout and an awards campaign.
After “Grace” preemed at 5:30 p.m., buyers were invited for drinks at Zoom. From there, Cinetic’s John Sloss and WMI’s Cassian Elwes and Rena Ronson retreated with the producers to the condo.
Harvey showed up as well; Fox Searchlight and Sony Pictures Classics negotiated by phone.
Cusack, who was present for much of the negotiating, was said to be involved in the editing room and also helped Strouse make directing choices.
Deal principals said there were so many conversations going on that every room in the condo was in use — including the bathroom and the sauna. “Honestly, this was one of the most outrageous negotiations I’ve ever seen,” said one person who was at the condo.
Insiders said TWC ultimately beat out Fox Searchlight with promises of backend revenue. Producers also see the film as a potential awards contender and trust Weinstein to be able to handle such a title.
While it has the war in Iraq as its backdrop, pic does not have an overt political agenda. Weinstein said he did not plan to incorporate partisan views into the marketing campaign. “It will work better as an antiwar film if we leave politics out of it,” he said.
Pic was one of the first features at this year’s fest to accumulate serious interest after a barrrage of headlines about docs.
On Sunday, Magnolia made official what Variety.com first reported Friday: that it had bought “Crazy Love,” the Dan Klores docu about Burt Pugach and Linda Riss. In the 1950s, Pugach hired a man to throw acid in Riss’ face after she spurned him. Riss married him after he was released from prison.
Pic preemed Friday night at Sundance, with Pugach and Riss making a rare public appearance.
Magnolia bought all rights excluding television for mid six figures; pic had drawn the interest of a number of indie distribs.
Also Sunday, discussions continued over theatrical rights for astronaut doc “In the Shadow of the Moon” and child-prodigy pic “My Kid Could Paint That,” for which TV rights had previously been sold to Discovery and A&E, respectively.
Opening-night film “Chicago 10” was said to be drawing interest from Picturehouse, Sony Classics and Focus, but with distribs generally saying the film needed tweaking, it’s possible a deal could take longer than expected.
But while a number of docs had generated talk, only four had yielded deals as of Sunday night, with “Crazy Love” the only one selling for theatrical.
Features for which distribs were said to be negotiating as the weekend ended included the dark David Gordon Green drama “Snow Angels.”
Features were generally lower on distrib’s lists, as two movies that had generated buzz before the fest — high-concept laffer “The Ten” and indie drama “The Good Life” — met with mixed reaction from buyers.