‘Christmas’ comes early for Sony pix

Bidding war began after pic's Monday screening

Sony Pictures Classics has paid a multi-million dollar sum for all rights for the U.S., U.K., Italy and South America to Christian Carion’s official selection “Merry Christmas.”

Pic had been the subject of a fierce bidding war after its out of competition gala screening Monday night, sales agent Nicolas Brigaud-Robert, CEO of Films Distribution said Wednesday.

“Sony made a very fair and balanced offer,” the exec said.

Culture ministers from 20-odd European countries attended Monday night’s red carpet screening. A $23 million tri-lingual co-production between France, Germany, U.K., Belgium and Romania, “Merry Christmas” avoids the Euro-pudding trap as it tells the true story of a spontaneous front-line truce between enemy soldiers on Christmas Eve 1914, during World War I.

All-Euro ensemble cast includes Diane Kruger, Guillaume Canet, Dany Boon, Gary Lewis and Daniel Bruhl. Pic was produced by Christophe Rossignon of Gallic indie shingle Nord Ouest Prods. It will be released by UGC in France and by other European distribbers on Dec 14.

Pic is Carion’s second helming effort after “The Girl From Paris,” a gentle French comedy with Michel Serrault and Mathilde Seigner that became a sleeper hit in Gaul, notching up more than $1 million admissions.

Success gave Carion the opportunity to make the much more ambitious “Merry Christmas,” a project he had been nurturing for several years.

Among other business done at Cannes Films Distribution’s Brigaud-Robert reported a raft of deals especially with Japan. Nippon deals include “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”, sold to Toshiba, “To Be and To Have” helmer Nicolas Philibert’s new docu “Back to Normandy,” sold to Long Ride, and Louis Garrel’s “Everyday Lovers,” sold to Bitter’s End.