Searchlight bags its ‘Beasts’

Distrib closes on fantastical drama

PARK CITY, Utah — Fox Searchlight has officially closed on fantastical drama “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” the distrib confirmed Tuesday, and plans to release it in 2012.

Variety first reported Sunday that Searchlight was the squarely the front-runner for the unusual little movie that quickly became a darling of Sundance critics and auds after its Friday morning debut here.

“In his feature film debut, Benh Zeitlin has crafted a visually stunning and deeply poetic film that captured our hearts. The amazing performances by newcomer Quvenzhané Wallis and Dwight Henry are a wonder to behold,” said Searchlight prexies Stephen Gilula and Nancy Utley.

As it is every year, Searchlight has been a major player at the Sundance Film Fest, also picking up the critically lauded “The Surrogate,” as Variety first reported Monday night, for $6 million for worldwide rights.

“Beasts,” written by Lucy Alibar and Zeitlin, was produced by Michael Gottwald, Dan Janvey and Josh Penn.

“We were looking for a partner who would unleash our film on the world with the same energy and ferocity with which we made it,” Zeitlin said. “Fox Searchlight came to the table with big hearts and fierce resolve, they’re a perfect match for the project.”

Sale was repped by WME Global, with Fox Searchlight’s acquisitions veep Ray Strache, EVP of worldwide acquisitions Tony Safford and SVP of business affairs Megan O’Brien.