Media Rights Capital, WB pact

Studio will distribute 'The Box,' 'Shorts'

Media Rights Capital has made a deal with Warner Bros. Pictures to distribute three of the eight films on a $250 million feature production slateto be completed by next summer.

WB will handle worldwide distribution rights on the kidpic “Shorts,” scripted and directed by Robert Rodriguez, and will handle domestic distribution on Richard Kelly’s genre film “The Box,” starring Cameron Diaz, as well as “This Side of the Truth,” the comedy that Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinson co-wrote and are co-directing. Gervais stars with Jennifer Garner.

The studio brought in Ted Field’s Radar Pictures to co-finance “The Box,” and WB included its new venture with the Abu Dhabi Media Co., and Hunt Lowry, as co-financiers of “Shorts.” MRC enlisted the Weinstein Co. to sell overseas rights on “The Box.”

The distrib deal marks MRC’s most significant pact since it sold the Sacha Baron Cohen starrer “Bruno” to Universal just before the release of “Borat.” The trio of films didn’t create the same kind of stampede deal as “Bruno,” for which Universal paid a reported $42 million for distribution rights in English-speaking territories. But the WB deal for the three pics incorporates the same kind of ownership opportunities for the creatives.

After Warner’s long-term rights to the films expire, the copyright and distribution rights will be controlled by the artists involved in the pictures. The deals are treated as negative pickups, and that makes it easier for the studio to work with Rodriguez. He hasn’t been a member of the Directors Guild of America since the DGA refused to allow him to direct “Sin City” with Frank Miller. Rodriguez did it anyway and dropped his membership.

Modi Wiczyk, who runs MRC with Asif Satchu, said that while each film’s deal structure was different, WB proved to be the best match.

MRC won’t shop domestic distribution for the Walter Salles-directed “Linha de Passe” until the picture is completed next spring, and will wait for casting to be set before approaching studios with the Bennett Miller-directed “Foxcatcher”; the next, currently untitled film written and directed by “In the Bedroom” helmer Todd Field; and “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho,” which has “Nip/Tuck” creator Ryan Murphy ready to direct with Anthony Hopkins playing Hitchcock. MRC has the resources to finance the production.

MRC boasts this lineup of pics at a time when studios are struggling to fill out their own 2009 slates, and Wiczyk said there was significant interest in the films.

“We’ve found a substantial demand for everything we had available, but this wasn’t some hysterical auction as much as a reaction to Warner’s thoughtful plan on how to distribute and market each of the films. Alan Horn and Jeff Robinov had a real vision that was exciting to the artists.”