7 Days of Deals

Hal Wilson

Ka-ching! Who's inking on the dotted line this week.

DEAL OF THE WEEK: A Surging Movie Market at Sundance: The snow accumulated faster than the deals during the first half of this year's Sundance Film Festival, but with momentum picking up, the ultimate result could be an avalanche of acquisitions. "Measured" is the word as distributors in Park City show patience with buzz titles and sales agents have been willing to hear all kinds of worthy pitches. "I do think people are being a bit more cautious and are looking at a wider selection of films before deciding what they want to buy," says ICM's Hal Sadoff. But the consensus is that several of the festival's well-received titles will ultimately sell. By press time on Jan. 24, Fox Searchlight had agreed to pay $6 million for worldwide rights to The Surrogate, starring John Hawkes as a man in an iron lung attempting to lose his virginity. Searchlight also had bought the breakout drama Beasts of the Southern Wild for an undisclosed price; CBS Films acquired the Bradley Cooper-Jeremy Irons drama The Words for a combined deal valued at $3.5 million (including a P&A commitment); Focus Features paid $2 million for the raunchy phone-sex comedy For a Good Time, Call …; Sony Pictures Classics took North American rights to the Rashida Jones-Andy Samberg romantic comedy Celeste and Jesse Forever for nearly $2 million; and LD Distribution had picked up the thriller Black Rock for slightly more than $1 million. Competition documentaries Searching for Sugar Man, about a quest to find out what happened to an elusive rock star, and The Queen of Versailles, about the Orlando couple that is building America's largest home, found buyers at Sony Classics and Magnolia Pictures, respectively, both in mid-six-figure deals. Among those nearing deals at press time were the Richard Gere financial thriller Arbitrage, the Peter Jackson-produced West of Memphis and the hip-hop drama Filly Brown. Documentaries Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap, How to Survive a Plague and The Other Dream Team were equally active with negotiations. One certainty: Instant responses from festival audiences on social media is becoming an even larger influence on distributors. "[Buyers] take an extra moment to see how people are responding to movies," says Preferred Content's Kevin Iwashina, who is repping the Midnight genre films Excision and The Pact. "It appears that there is heightened cautiousness, but it has nothing to do with the quality of the films or a lack of need for product." Still, the strong buyer interest in a diverse array of films signals that the final volume of sales will be large, even if individual prices might well be lower than in previous years. Says  Submarine Entertainment's Josh Braun, who is repping 12 Sundance films including the early sellers Black Rock and Sugar Man: "I get the feeling from both our own activity and what I see pending that the cork on the bottle is starting to get loosened." -- Jay A. Fernandez and Daniel Miller

USA'S Unscripted Moment: The Moment

Co-chiefs Jeff Wachtel and Chris McCumber are continuing to push USA in new directions. The network has ordered nine episodes of The Moment, USA's first foray into original reality. The series, which will premiere in the fall, is hosted by former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner, who went from bagging groceries to being named Most Valuable Player of the 2000 Super Bowl during the course of just 18 months. Moment features Warner giving people secretly nominated by loved ones a second chance at reclaiming career dreams they have put on hold. Among the jobs pursued with world-class mentoring: race-car driving, orchestra conducting and deep-sea fishing. Ultimately, these people will have to decide whether they want to accept their dream job as their day job or return to the life they had before. "Everyone has a 'what-if' moment in their life -- a decision or path they could have taken -- but rarely do they get a second chance to explore what could have been," says producer Justin Hochberg. Adds fellow producer Charlie Ebersol, "We created a format that taps into this emotion." -- Lacey Rose

Ryan Murphy's A-List Normal Heart

Glee co-creator Ryan Murphy is putting together an all-star cast for his film adaptation of the Tony-winning The Normal Heart, being produced by Brad Pitt's Plan B shingle. Julia Roberts, Alec Baldwin, White Collar star Matt Bomer and The Big Bang Theory's Jim Parsons join Mark Ruffalo in the autobiographical drama, written by Larry Kramer, that details the rise of HIV/AIDS in New York's gay community in the 1980s. Murphy optioned the rights to the play in August with Ruffalo attached as Ned Weeks, an activist who raises the alarm about what was then known as "gay cancer." Roberts plays a wheelchair-bound doctor, the role that won Ellen Barkin a Tony. Baldwin plays Weeks' brother, Bomer is a journalist who becomes Weeks' boyfriend, and Parsons reprises his Broadway role as a Southern gay activist. -- Borys Kit

FILM

Reese Witherspoon (CAA, Management 360, Hansen Jacobson) and Ryan Reynolds (CAA, Sloane Offer) will star in the biopic Big Eyes as Margaret and Walter Keane, whose pop-eyed paintings became a sensation in the 1960s. Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski will write and direct, with Tim Burton set to produce with Lynette Howell and Jamie Patricof (Blue Valentine). A spring shoot is planned.

Kristen Wiig (UTA, Odenkirk Provissiero, Jackoway Tyerman) is in negotiations to star opposite Ben Stiller in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Fox's fantasy-comedy remake that Stiller is directing as well. The film centers on a timid magazine photo manager who goes in search of a missing negative. Wiig will play his co-worker and the girl of his fantasies.

Warrior star Joel Edgerton (CAA, Australia's Shanahan Management, Hirsch Wallerstein) has branched into screenwriting, selling a spec script titled One Night Stand to New Regency. The drama looks at the aftermath of a romantic fling.

Producer Barry Josephson (Bloom Hergott) is partnering with West Omaha Films to produce The Magician, a biopic of Marlin Briscoe, pro football's first black starting quarterback. Gregory Allen Howard (Remember the Titans) wrote the script.

Terence Stamp (Untitled Entertainment) has joined Kurt Russell, Matt Dillon and Jay Baruchel in heist comedy The Black Marks, to be written and directed by Jonathan Sobol.

W.E. star Andrea Riseborough (CAA, Untitled, the U.K.'s Independent Talent Group) and Olga Kurylenko (CAA, the U.K.'s Tavistock Wood) are the female leads in Universal's untitled Tom Cruise sci-fi project being directed by Joseph Kosinski (Tron: Legacy).

Craig Armstrong and Carter Burwell (both First Artists Management) will compose the respective scores for Warner Bros. films The Great Gatsby, directed by Baz Luhrmann and starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan, and The Gangster Squad, directed by Ruben Fleischer and starring Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone.

Patrick Wilson (CAA, Anonymous, Hansen Jacobson) and Vera Farmiga (CAA, Authentic, Jodi Peikoff) will star in The Conjuring, a New Line thriller about a husband-and-wife team of demonologists and psychic investigators. James Wan (Saw) is directing.

Abigail Spencer (ICM, Untitled Entertainment, Hansen Jacobson), known for her role as Don Draper's mistress on Mad Men, has written Wrong Number, which is set for a spring shoot with James Franco as a producer. Spencer also will star in the movie, the first in a partnership between Victorino Noval Productions, Edward Bass Films and Franco and his Rabbit Bandini Productions.

Fox is co-financing and will handle international distribution duties on DreamWorks' Lincoln, Steven Spielberg's next film. Disney will distribute domestically per its deal with DreamWorks.

Anchor Bay has picked up rights to Nothing to Fear, a horror movie that is the producing debut of former Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash and his new horror label Slasher Films. Creature artist Anthony Leonardi III is directing.

TELEVISION

Melissa McCarthy (CAA, Schiff Co., Baker Winokur) has sold her second project to CBS, with the network adding a script from Larry Dorf and the Mike & Molly star's husband, Ben Falcone.

Canadian company Six Eleven Media is developing animated/live-action comedy Honey Badger U, based on viral sensation Randall and the Honey Badger.

Jennifer Lopez (UTA, Hirsch Wallerstein) and Wilmer Valderrama (UTA, The Collective, Gendler & Kelly) are teaming with Tres: MTV, Musica y Mas for two unscripted series: Amigas Inc. and The Ricardo Laguna Project.

CBS has given pilot orders to five shows: Golden Boy, a cop drama from Greg Berlanti (Friends) and Nicholas Wootton (NYPD Blue); an ensemble comedy loosely based on the life of feature writer Nick Stoller (The Muppets) about a guy who gets his heart broken by his girlfriend and is forced to work with her; Elementary, a modern take on Sherlock Holmes from Robert Doherty; Baby Big Shot, a legal project from Dana Calvo; and Trooper, from Aron Eli Coleite and Jerry Bruckheimer.

Fox has ordered to pilot The Asset, a spy drama from Locke & Key scribe Josh Friedman, and an untitled teen spy drama from Karyn Usher (Bones).

NBC has picked up 10 pilots, including a hospital drama from Jason Katims (Friday Night Lights); a firehouse drama from Dick Wolf (Law & Order); Roseanne Barr's trailer-park comedy Downwardly Mobile; a Jimmy Fallon parenting sitcom; a reboot of British comedy Friday Night Dinner from Greg Daniels (The Office); and a revenge comedy from Hilary Winston (Happy Endings).

Matt Hastings (APA, Gotham Group, Jackoway Tyerman) will executive produce Syfy's Alphas with ex-Eureka partner Bruce Miller.

ABC has picked up to pilot 666 Park Ave. from The Vampire Diaries producer Alloy Entertainment. David Wilcox will adapt the book by Gabriella Pierce.

The CW has ordered three pilots: Arrow, based on the DC Comics hero Green Arrow, from Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg; the Sex and the City prequel The Carrie Diaries, from Josh Schwartz, Stephanie Savage, Len Goldstein and Amy B. Harris; and Beauty and the Beast, a remake of the '80s series with Jennifer Levin and Sherri Cooper producing.

Discovery Channel will examine the Costa Concordia cruise liner disaster in a special to air in the spring.

Victor Garber (Paradigm, Industry) will guest star on the April 8 season-three premiere of The Big C.

News Corp. is launching a Spanish-language network with Colombia's RCN Television. MundoFox will be part of News Corp.'s Fox International Channels unit.

Germany's ProSiebenSat.1 has signed a multiyear output deal with Warner Bros. International Television Distribution, securing free-TV rights for Warners' upcoming film slate that includes The Dark Knight Rises, Man of Steel and Pacific Rim.

ADVERTISING

Priceline is retiring William Shatner as a spokesman after 14 years. In a final commercial spot, the actor goes over a cliff in a spectacular explosion.

PUBLISHING

NBC News has unveiled NBC Publishing to create tablet and e-reader content from brands such as Today, Universal Pictures movies and Telemundo series, based on current events, documentaries, biographies, profiles and trends.

 
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