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Fine Line cheering pix at Toronto film festival

NL specialty arm buys rights to Babbit's 'Cheerleader'

TORONTO — Fine Line is turning out to be the big buyer north of the border. The specialty arm of Time Warner’s New Line Cinema has purchased North American rights to Jamie Babbit’s highly stylized gay-themed comedy “… But I’m a Cheerleader.”

Pic, which stars Natasha Lyonne, Clea DuVall and an out-of-drag RuPaul, is the third major purchase for Fine Line’s high-energy prexy Mark Ordesky at this year’s Toronto film fest. The shopping spree makes Ordesky an anomaly at a fest that is increasingly viewed as a launch pad for studio fare rather than an acquisition marketplace.

Also acquired by Fine Line at this year’s fest are Jeremy Podeswa’s Canadian ensemble drama “The Five Senses” and Frederic Fonteyne’s French-lingo mock-docu drama “A Pornographic Affair.”

Insiders said Fine Line paid low-six figures for “Cheerleader” and agreed to an aggressive $500,000 release commitment and gross participation for the filmmakers.

The allure of P&A

While there were reportedly two other offers on the table that would have paid slightly more upfront, the creative team behind “Cheerleader” wanted to do the deal with Fine Line because of the rich P&A commitment. Also, the deal marks a homecoming for both Babbit, who is set to make her second film, “Conjugating Nicky,” with New Line early next year, and pic producer Andrea Sperling, who produced Gregg Araki’s Fine Line release “Nowhere.”

The comedy concerns a perky cheerleader (Lyonne) whose love of tofu and Melissa Etheridge lead her family and friends to assume she is gay and send her to a garishly painted homosexual rehabilitation camp. There she falls in love with a tomboy (DuVall), who must choose between Lyonne’s character and the hefty trust fund she gets if she leaves her homosexual tendencies behind.

Pic was financed by Ignite Entertainment and Kushner-Locke. The William Morris Agency’s Cassian Elwes negotiated the deal on behalf of the filmmakers and financiers.