It was bound to happen sooner or later — film distribution rights sold at auction. Coming in March, 20 films will go to the highest bidder at the William Doyle Galleries-led “World’s First Film Auction.”

Pitting studio execs against each other is Films4Auction, the newly created firm that is accepting film submissions until Dec. 10. Pics must be completed, at least 80 minutes long and not yet attached to a distributor to be eligible for consideration by the auction’s panel of anonymous judges.

500 entries expected

Although a nonrefundable $1,500 entry fee is required, Films4Auction CEO and prexy Corky Kessler estimates that he will receive over 500 submissions. “Many indie film sellers don’t have the experience to pitch or they get shut out of film festivals,” he said. “Our business is going to help get their movies sold.”

And after four months scoping out buyer interest, Kessler found that “the major studios thought (a film auction) would be historical … a real party, and they said they would love to bid up films.” Their reaction eased skepticism over whether anyone would want to purchase a film that hasn’t won over any buyers yet.

Online auction house eBay was drawn into the idea. “They contacted us to get involved, and I said let’s wait and see how the first auction goes,” Kessler said.

The 20 film finalists will be announced in January, and screened for potential bidders in Los Angeles in the days leading up to the March 3 auction.

A reserve price will be set for each film. For submission information, call (323) 467-4444.