This article was updated at 6:53 p.m.
PARK CITY — Warner Independent Pictures took its maiden voyage as an acquisitions force at the Sundance Film Festival Wednesday, nabbing North American and U.K. distribution rights to director John Curran’s drama of two marriages in trouble, “We Don’t Live Here Anymore.”
Pickup reps the first buy of a finished film for the fledgling specialty unit, which until now has acquired films in production or development.
The second feature from American-born helmer Curran — who was long-based in Australia, where he made his acclaimed debut, “Praise” — “We Don’t Live Here Anymore” was the center of strong distributor interest at Sundance, with Miramax and Newmarket also involved in earlier stages of the bidding.
Pricetag was reportedly around $2 million, with backend benefits.
Based on two short stories by Andre Dubus II and scripted by Larry Gross, the film stars Mark Ruffalo, Laura Dern, Naomi Watts and Peter Krause.
Harvey Kahn’s Frontstreet Prods., Watts and Jonas Goodman produced, with Ruth Epstein, Ruffalo and Gross serving as exec producers.
Film examines the conflicts within the marriages of four friends, in a New England college town, whose stability is compromised by intercouple infidelities, provoking a tide of passion, suspicion, humor, anger and stunning revelations.
” ‘We Don¹t Live Here Anymore’ is everything we could have hoped for as our first acquisition at Warner Independent: brilliant direction, extraordinary acting from a phenomenal cast, and a profoundly engaging and resonant story from the talented writer whose work also served as the basis for ‘In the Bedroom,’ ” WIP prexy Mark Gill said.
“We are really pleased to be the first film to be acquired by Warner Independent,” Curran added. “They have been enthusiastic about the film since I first signed on to direct. Their passion was clear after the first screening and is evident in their plans for its release.”
WIP is aiming for a release in the second half of the year.
Deal was negotiated by Cassian Elwes and Rena Ronson for William Morris Independent and by Gill and WIP senior VP of production and acquisitions Paul Federbush.
WIP earlier in Sundance had been one of the bidders for “Napoleon Dynamite” but lost out to Fox Searchlight. Sellers reported that the deal closed at $3 million plus incentives; other companies involved in the bidding insist the overall deal was closer to $5 million.
Also on Wednesday, IFC Films closed the first theatrical deal for a Sundance nonfiction title this year, acquiring writer-director Kevin Willmott’s “CSA: The Confederate States of America” for North America.
Screened in the American Spectrum section, the satirical faux documentary juggles fact and fiction while ruminating on what course U.S. culture and society might have taken if the South had won the Civil War.
Produced by Rick Cowan and exec produced by Spike Lee and Marvin Voth, “CSA” stars Charles Frank, Evamarii Johnson, Rupert Pate and Larry Peterson.
“Kevin Willmott has made a completely original film that is provocative and confrontational,” IFC Films prexy Jonathan Sehring said. “It is exactly the kind of project that IFC embraces; it asks more questions than it answers, it’s extraordinarily brave, and it’s an example of superb and purposeful filmmaking.”
“Making ‘CSA’ has been a long labor of love, and the ultimate payoff is finding a home with IFC,” Willmott said. “Their passion for the film combined with their creative marketing ideas and desire to really spur debate won us over.”
Deal was negotiated by IFC’s director of acquisitions Sarah Lash and Andrew Herwitz of the Film Sales Co.
Other Sundance feature docs expected to close deals include Ondi Timoner’s look at alt-rock musicians Anton Newcombe and Courtney Taylor, “DIG!”; Eric Chalkin and Julian Petrillo’s close-up on Scrabble geeks, “Word Wars”; and Robert Stone’s “Neverland: The Rise and Fall of the Symbionese Liberation Army.”
Also tipped to lock a distribution deal is Morgan Spurlock’s scathing take on the American addiction to fast food, “Super Size Me,” which has had a terrific reception here. Some of the more corporate distributors are believed to be shying away from the film for fear of cancelled advertising and commercial tie-ins from McDonalds.
On the feature front, acquisitions execs are bearing down on three further titles following the weekend blitz.
Provocative dramatic competition entry “The Woodsman,” which stars Kevin Bacon as a convicted pedophile, looks likely to close a deal in the next day or two.
Also poised to lock a worldwide sale is Canadian-British co-production “Touch of Pink,” an Indian-flavored coming-out comedy that bowed here in a Premiere slot.
Finally, distribs are circling American Spectrum entry “Mean Creek,” an Oregon-set coming-of-age revenge drama about a group of kids on a boat trip.