Toronto: Sony Pictures Classics Buys ‘Lyrebird’

Sony Pictures Classics has picked up rights to “Lyrebird,” the directorial debut of billionaire businessman Dan Friedkin, Variety has confirmed.

The pact is for North American rights and marks one of the only sales at an acquisitions market that could be charitably described as moribund. That could change if, as rumored, a deep-pocketed buyer ponies up for the Hugh Jackman-led school embezzlement drama “Bad Education.”

If that deal happens, it will be a welcome reprieve. The handful of films looking for distribution that have found a studio home include “Military Wives,” which Bleecker Street bought, and “Dads,” a Bryce Dallas Howard documentary that sold to Apple. It’s unclear if the films on offer have been lackluster or if companies are growing concerned about the financial viability of the indie space in the wake of box office flops such as “Late Night” and “Blinded by the Light.”

“Lyrebird” centers on a former Dutch resistance member (Claes Bang) who investigates the theft of art in the wake of World War II, specifically the sale of a Vermeer to the Nazis by a painter (Guy Pearce). The cast also includes Vicky Krieps and Roland Moller.

Friedkin, whose net worth is estimated by Forbes to be $4 billion, owns franchised distributor Gulf States Toyota, as well as the luxury management firm Auberge Resorts and Imperative Entertainment, the producer of “The Square” and “All the Money in the World.”

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A committed film buff and pilot, he worked with the likes of Christopher Nolan and Clint Eastwood doing aerial coordination and flying planes and helicopters on “Dunkirk” and “The Mule.” Reviews for “Lyrebird,” which premiered at Telluride before screening at Toronto, were solid.

Variety‘s Peter Debruge wrote that “Lyrebird” is “…the kind of handsome, upscale night-out offering that still draws sophisticated older audiences to art houses — catnip for those who made ‘Woman in Gold’ a success, and a solid choice of material for this respectable English-language directorial debut by learned-from-the-pros producer Dan Friedkin.”

30West, the entertainment and sales company Friedkin launched with former CAA agent Micah Green, sold the rights. The distribution deal is for North America, as well as Latin American, Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, Middle East and Asia.

Deadline first reported the sale.

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