After Dark to release pic on Feb. 23

BERLIN — Barcelona mini-major Filmax has sold U.S. rights to Eastern Europe backwoods chiller “The Abandoned” to Lionsgate unit After Dark Films.

Lionsgate has committed to open “Abandoned” on 1,250 screens in the U.S. Release has been set for Feb. 23, Filmax said.

Shot in Bulgaria but set in Russia, the bleak but polished ghoul thriller follows a Hollywood producer to the deep forest of Russia where she takes ownership of her crumbling family homestead. There she encounters her brother and, more unsettlingly, her own ghost.

Made in English, pic is the feature debut of Nacho Cerda, a Spanish cult short film director, working from a screenplay by Cerda with Karim Hussain and Richard Stanley, both fantasy horror cult helmers.

Lionsgate is a regular distributor of Filmax pics, having taken U.S. rights to a dozen or more titles.

Filmax boasted a sleeper hit in the U.S. when Dimension distributed the Filmax-produced Jaume Balaguero’s “Darkness” for a $22 million total B.O. haul in 2004.

Filmax, Spain’s biggest chiller-thriller specialist, has moved upscale as the straight-to-DVD market collapsed in major markets, most notably Japan.

At Berlin, it is showing shoot footage from the latest pic in this production line: Brad Anderson’s “Trans-Siberian,” starring Woody Harrelson, Emily Mortimer and Ben Kingsley.

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