Sony Classics nabs ‘Guard’

Studio near deal for domestic rights to Irish laffer

In one of the longest gestating bids at Sundance so far, Sony Pictures Classics has closed a deal for domestic rights to Irish laffer “The Guard,” one the most anticipated titles of the fest.

Pic, which preemed here in Park City on opening night at the Egyptian Theater, had a number of prominent buyers vying for it since the screening, including Magnolia Pictures, Samuel Goldwyn and Summit.

SPC and Magnolia were the final two in the running up until Monday morning when, after more than four days of negotiations, pic’s rep UTA inked the deal.

Sources say that the bidding was a careful and considered one, with SPC and Magnolia battling it out to the bitter end as the bidding came down to a case of “old vs. new.”

According to insiders, reps decided to go with SPC’s more established label, which would offer a wider release platform for the pic but the decision was tough as buyers weighed up the benefit of Magnolia’s various distribution platforms which including VOD and digital streaming.

“The Guard”, which is helmed by John Michael McDonagh and toplines Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle, is skedded for a 2011 stateside release. Story follows the pairing of an unorthodox Irish policeman and an uptight FBI agent who are both sent to investigate an international drug-smuggling ring.

Pic is produced by Chris Clark, Flora Fernandez Marengo, Ed Guiney and Andrew Lowe.

Exec producers are Paul Brett of Prescience Finance, Cheadle, Martin McDonagh and Lenore Zerman.

Metropolis International Sales reps foreign rights for the pic.