Focus wins 'Kids' custody, Hannover takes 'Twelve'
After nearly 72 hours of negotiations, Focus Features closed the biggest deal of the Sundance Film Festival late Thursday, paying $4.8 million to distribute Lisa Cholodenko’s “The Kids Are All Right” in the U.S., U.K., Germany and South Africa.Starring Annette Bening and Julianne Moore, film tells the comedic and touching tale of a lesbian couple whose children find the sperm donor who is their biological father, played by Mark Ruffalo, and bring him into their lives. While Focus was hammering out the terms of its pact, two other distribution deals closed early Thursday, all contributing to the busiest festival in recent memory in terms of acquistions, whether Sundance, Toronto or Cannes. Publisher Hannover House’s film and homevid arm picked up domestic distribution rights to Joel Schumacher’s dark teen chiller “Twelve” for around $2 million. Film hadn’t even made its public debut when the pact was inked. “Twelve” is Sundance’s official closing-night film, and unspools tomorrow night at the Eccles theater. Spencer Susser’s “Hesher” also found a home, with Newmarket plunking down around $1 million for U.S. distrib rights. A Canadian deal for the pic is currently closing. “Hesher” premiered here last week to mixed industry reaction, but has been a crowdpleaser. Film stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a mayhem-prone loner who takes up with a family still reeling from a death. Pic also features Devin Brochu, Natalie Portman and Rainn Wilson. Earlier in the week, Lionsgate swooped in and paid $3.2 million to distribute Ryan Reynolds thriller “Buried” in the U.S. Repped by UTA’s Independent Film Group, pricetag for “Buried” was comparable to “Kids” in terms of domestic rights, insiders say. Indie execs say they are heartened by the number of distribution deals coming out of Sundance, considering how quiet the fest circuit has been. Focus Features CEO James Schamus told Variety that there are always shakeout periods. “We went through an insane market glut where there was too much product. Films failed and got lost in shuffle,” Schamus said. “But there are very smart dealmakers out there, and new filmmakers coming up all the time. I’m optimistic.” Focus did not say in which quarter of 2010 it would release “Kids.” It is Focus’ first festival acquisition since “Hamlet 2,” which the company picked up for $10 million two years ago at Sundance. Negotiations for “Kids” were complicated by the fact that there was both a domestic sales agent, Cinetic Media, and a foreign sales agent, Inferno. Insiders say Inferno was fielding other offers in the U.K., Germany, Italy Scandinavia and Benelux. “Kids” was produced by Gilbert Films’ Gary Gilbert and Jordan Horowitz, Antidote Films’ Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, Mandalay Vision’s Celine Rattray, Daniela Taplin Lundberg, and UGC PH’s Philippe Hellmann. It’s the first sale from Mandalay Vision since its launch earlier this month. Rattray brought the project to Vision’s slate from Plum Pictures. Cholodenko (“Laurel Canyon,” “High Art”) received her MFA from Columbia U., where Schamus was one of her professors in the mid-1990s. “Lisa has made an extraordinary gem of a film that combines comedic surprise with poignant emotional truth. Not only is ‘The Kids Are All Right’ infectiously funny and touching, but it’s also entirely accessible. We’re confident that audiences everywhere will fall in love with this family, as brilliantly brought to life by a remarkable cast of actors,” Schamus said. Bart Walker and John Sloss of Cinetic negotiated the deal on behalf of the filmmakers with regard to the North American rights, and collaborated with Inferno on the international side. Hannover House said it plans a major theatrical rollout of “Twelve” this year. Acquisition marks one of the biggest acquisitions yet for Hannover, which previously released controversial Sundance title “Hounddog” through it Empire Film Group arm. A private equity fund is backing title acquisitions for Hannover. “It’s a very significant investment for us,” said Hannover CEO Eric Parkinson. “In order for us to really thrive, we have to step up.” “Twelve” was produced by France’s Gaumont, Radar and Original Media, with CAA packaging the financing. Gaumont sparked to the script by Jordan Melamed and wanted to make a Schumacher film. “As a low-budget indie-style film, we could go into production without pre-sales,” Gaumont chairman Sidonie Dumas told Daily Variety. “Twelve,” based on the best-selling tome by Nick McDonell, chronicles the violent and drug-fueled exploits of privileged Manhattan teens. Chace Crawford, Emma Roberts and Rory Culkin star along with 50 Cent, Ellen Barkin and Kiefer Sutherland. Former Lionsgate and Weinstein Co. distribution chief Tom Ortenberg will consult with Hannover on the pic’s North American rollout through his One Way Out Media consulting shingle.