Rank snags ‘North,’ ‘Rita’

Rank Film Distributors has made good on its promise to pay big money for big films by snapping up all U.K. rights to Rob Reiner’s $ 50 million “North” and Frank Darabont’s $ 35 million “Rita Hayworth & the Shawshank Redemption.”

Managing director Fred Turner said RFD is stumping up the highest minimum guarantees it’s ever paid to secure the two Castle Rock productions.

The deal extends the relationship between Rank and Penta Intl., which has European rights to a Castle Rock package.

Penta dealt U.K. rights to seven titles, including “A Bronx Tale,””Snake Eyes ,””Malice” and “The Sparrow,” jointly to Rank and Polygram Video at the Cannes fest.

Penta via First Indie

Previously Penta had channeled its productions and acquisitions in the U.K. via First Independent as part of the since-disbanded Penta Europe network.

Turner said this new “aggressive” approach to acquiring bigger films stems partly from his desire to expand U.K. distribution. In the past RFD often relied on output deals, yielding lower than standard fees, with suppliers like Orion and Sovereign. Rank last tackled a high-profile pic when it outbid other distribs for U.K. rights to “Strictly Ballroom.”

Another factor, said Turner, is the long time involved in securing all foreign rights to a stream of product — Rank’s main business.

No films have yet been greenlit under a 10-pic deal linking Gladden Prods., RFD and Live Entertainment, announced in Cannes; and Rank is nurturing two other foreign rights pacts with U.S. producers.

Two pix upcoming

“North,” the Bruce Willis-Kathy Bates starrer about a boy (Elijah Wood) who sets off in search of new parents, is in post-production and is slated for next summer here. “Rita Hayworth…,” a prison drama toplining Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman, is penciled in for fall 1994.

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