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Focus Features, Animal Kingdom Enter First-Look Deal (EXCLUSIVE)

Focus Features has entered into a two-year first-look deal with Animal Kingdom, the New York-based production company behind “It Follows” and “Short Term 12,” Variety has learned.

The pact is being unveiled in advance of the Toronto Film Festival this week, where Focus is debuting Tom Hooper’s “The Danish Girl,” an Oscar-contender starring Eddie Redmayne as Lili Elbe, one of the first-known recipients of gender reassignment surgery.

Focus and Animal Kingdom are currently working together on Justin Tipping’s feature debut “Kicks,” which is currently in post-production

Since Peter Schlessel, the former FilmDistrict chief, replaced James Schamus as Focus CEO in 2013, the indie label has added more commercially-minded fare to its slate of arthouse films. That approach has manifested itself in a combination of awards hopefuls like last year’s “The Theory of Everything” and the upcoming “Suffragette,” starring Carey Mulligan and Meryl Streep, as well as horror films like “Insidious: Chapter 3″ and action adventures like “London Has Fallen” through its Gramercy label.

Animal Kingdom is run by producers David Kaplan, Joshua Astrachan and Frederick W. Green. The company scored critical raves with “Short Term 12,” the story of a group home supervisor, and had a box office hit with “It Follows,” a supernatural horror film that made nearly $18 million on a $2 million budget. Upcoming films include “Louder Than Bombs” with Gabriel Byrne and Jesse Eisenberg, and “Trespass Against Us” with Michael Fassbender.

The agreement was negotiated by Focus Features’ EVP of Business Affairs Howard Meyers, along with Bethany Haynes at Sloss Eckhouse on behalf of Animal Kingdom.

Elizabeth Wagmeister contributed to this report.

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