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‘Prayers’ comes true in Witt-Thomas buy

Warner Bros.-based Witt-Thomas Films has acquired the motion picture rights to the historical epic “Simple Prayers,” a first novel by Michael Golding, it was announced Wednesday.

Though terms of the deal were not available, the sale price is believed to be in the low six figures.

Alfonso Arau (“Like Water for Chocolate” and MGM’s upcoming “A Walk in the Clouds”) will direct the fantasy, while vet screenwriter Malia Scotch Marmo (“Once Around,””Hook”) is penning the adaptation. W-T toppers Paul Junger Witt, Tony Thomas and Stuart Oken will produce.

Spring backward

Set on a small Venetian island in the 14th century, the story takes place in the village of Riva di Pignoli, where the denizens must resort to spiritual and ethereal means when spring fails to arrive one year.

“The town creates its own identity and cycle of life in one year that brings them life, death and eventual rebirth,” explained Witt-Thomas prexy Oken. Two men and a woman are caught in this freak of nature and time and have to devise their own way of dealing with it.

“Prayers,” which will print a 30,000-copy first run by Warner Books in April, was originally discovered by Witt-Thomas development director Alex Siskin, who then started packaging it.

Book tour ’94

The book, which has sold in 17 foreign countries, is slated for a extensive press tour with readings in Denver and Seattle.

Michael Siegel & Associates co-reps Golding with Mary Evans at the Virginia Barber Agency in New York. Evans eventually sold “Prayers” to Warner Books, while Siegel sold the film rights to Witt-Thomas. W-T senior VP Corinne Mann is described as key in nabbing Marmo for the adaptation.

Next up on the W-T slate is Nora Ephron’s “The Night Before Xmas,” a comedy starring Steve Martin, which begins shooting Feb. 14 for TriStar Pictures.

Among W-T’s development projects are “William the Magnificent,” a co-production with Amblin Entertainment about an eccentric circus family, and “The Storm Chaser,” a thriller about a tornado expert written by “Patriot Games” scripter Peter Iliff.

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