Cameron produced underwater 3-D drama

Relativity and Universal are teaming up to release “Sanctum,” the underwater 3-D drama shepherded by James Cameron.

In a split deal, companies put up in the neighborhood of an $11.5 million minimum guarantee to distribute in North America, the U.K., Australia and New Zealand.

“Sanctum” will go out under the Rogue label via its distribution arrangement with Universal. The partners are putting up a P&A commitment to support a 2,000-screen domestic rollout. U will handle distribution and marketing.

Relativity was the first bidder after a screening last Thursday (of the new 3-D technology to be used in the pic) at Cameron’s offices in Santa Monica. Various studios also made bids, except Disney and Sony. Relativity wasn’t the highest bidder.

When U also made a bid, Relativity and the studio decided to join forces on all English-language territories.

Pic was originally developed at Rogue before Relativity bought the genre label from U.

The picture, which has a budget of about $30 million, will lense later this year in Australia and has a late 2010 delivery date. The project gained momentum when it secured financing from Wayfare Entertainment (Daily Variety, Aug. 24).

Pic will be helmed by Alister Grierson (“Kokoda”) from a script by Andrew Wight and John Garvin.

Wight is a longtime associate of Cameron’s who helped develop the 3-D technology seen in documentaries like “Aliens of the Deep” and “Ghosts of the Abyss.”

“Sanctum” was inspired by Wight’s near-death experience of leading a diving expedition miles into a system of underwater caves, then having to find a way out after a freak storm collapsed the entrance.

Cameron is exec producer, along with Relativity CEO Ryan Kavanaugh and Wayfare principals Ben Browning, Michael Maher and Peter Rawlinson. FilmNation’s Aaron Ryder will serve as a co-producer.

CAA brokered the domestic deal, while FilmNation’s Glen Basner has been selling offshore territories. Basner has sold almost the entire world except Japan, and a deal for that territory is expected to be completed shortly.

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