Focus draws int’l rights to Jarmusch pic

Distrib inks over 225 deals at fest market

Focus Features capped off a strong Cannes for the company with a preemptive buy of worldwide rights to Jim Jarmusch’s untitled next feature, which will star Bill Murray.

Under the deal, which closed late last week on the Croisette, Focus’ domestic division will release the film in North America, while the international sales arm will handle world distribution.

Produced by Jarmusch, John Kilik and Stacey Smith, project reteams the actor and writer-director after their collaboration on United Artists’ “Coffee and Cigarettes” and reunites Murray with his distributor on Sofia Coppola’s “Lost in Translation,” which has reignited the Oscar-nominated thesp’s career.

“We’ve been tracking Jim Jarmusch for a while now and have always wanted to be in business with him, so when this came up, we jumped,” Focus co-president David Linde told Daily Variety. “Jim would prefer that we not tell the story, so all I can say is that this is a unique, brilliantly witty and warmly romantic movie.”

Jarmusch is scheduled to shoot his original screenplay in September.

Focus prexy of production John Lyons will supervise the project. Deal was negotiated by Linde, Lyons and Avy Eschenasy for Focus with Jarmusch’s rep Bart Walker, who also was instrumental in packaging both “Coffee” and “Translation.”

Linde and Focus co-prexy James Schamus previously collaborated with Jarmusch at Good Machine, which handled international sales on the director’s Neil Young concert film, “Year of the Horse.”

“I think this is by far the most successful Cannes James Schamus and I have ever been involved with,” said Linde. “We did over 225 deals in the market and literally sold out of everything.”

Focus was represented in Cannes by Pedro Almodovar’s opening-night film “Bad Education,” on which the company handled worldwide sales. Company scored back-to-back standing ovations mid-fest with Walter Salles’ “The Motorcycle Diaries” and Zhang Yimou’s “House of Flying Daggers,” on which Focus has domestic and international rights, respectively.

In addition, the distrib signed on during the run-up to Cannes to handle international sales on Jacob Aaron Estes’ “Mean Creek” in the Directors Fortnight and Sebastian Cordero’s “Cronicas” in Un Certain Regard.

“The deals we’ve closed here continue relationships with international distribution partners that have supported us for many, many years, since the early days of Good Machine,” said Focus exec VP of international sales and distribution Glen Basner.

Key deals closed by Focus during the fest include sales to Entertainment in the U.K. on Ang Lee’s “Brokeback Mountain” and the “Assault on Precinct 13” remake; and to Sandrews Metronome in Scandinavia on Fernando Meirelles’ “The Constant Gardener” and “Brokeback.”