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Focus inks multiple ‘Messenger’ sales

Territories include France, Italy, Spain, Russia

Focus Features has reported brisk sales for Jeremy Renner’s journalism drama “Kill the Messenger,” with Michael Cuesta directing from Peter Landesman’s script.

Focus picked up worldwide rights on Feb. 5, on the eve of the European Film Market in Berlin.

It has sold pic to France (Metropolitan), Italy (Bim), Spain (DeA Planeta), Russia (Top Films), Latin America (Imagen), Australia (Transmission), Bulgaria (A Film), Czech Republic (Blue Sky Media), Poland (Monolith), ex-Yugoslavia (Discovery), Hungary and Romania (Prorom), Iceland (Sena), Israel (Shani), Middle East (Italia). Portugal (Lusomundo), Turkey (D Prods), Malaysia (Golden Screen), Singapore (Shaw) and South Africa (Ster Kinekor).

Universal will release “Messenger” in the U.K., Germany and Scandinavia. Focus has not set a U.S. release date.

Focus Intl. prexy Alison Thompson told Variety last week that the “Messenger” was a departure for the company. “We normally don’t sell at Berlin, but this project has so much heat that we’d be crazy not to,” she said at the time.

Scott Stuber is producing. Renner and Don Handfield are also producing via their Combine banner.

CAA is putting together financing for “Messenger.” Production is planned for summer.

Story is based on investigative journalist Gary Webb’s stories alleging the CIA’s involvement in the spread of crack cocaine in Los Angeles. Webb, a reporter at the San Jose Mercury News, committed suicide in 2004 after being the target of a smear campaign when he linked the CIA to a scheme to arm Contra rebels in Nicaragua and import cocaine into California.

Focus is also on board Mike Leigh’s untitled project, announced Friday, about British painter J.M.W. Turner, produced by Georgina Lowe through Leigh’s Thin Man Films and by Xofa Prods. Focus Features Intl. is co-financing the biopic with the BFI Film Fund and Film4, the production arm of British broadcaster Channel 4. It will begin worldwide sales at Cannes in May.

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