First Look mines gold with 'King'

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PARK CITY -- As the Sundance Film Festival winds to a close, First Look Pictures acquired North American rights to "King of California" for slightly less than $3 million Thursday night, sources close to the negotiations said.

A dark comedy from first-time screenwriter-director Mike Cahill, "King" stars Michael Douglas as a father who returns home after being released from a mental institution, much to the chagrin of his beleaguered 16-year-old daughter (Evan Rachel Wood). She reluctantly embarks on one of her father's long string of crazy schemes: a plan to unearth gold buried by Spanish missionaries in California.

A First Look representative confirmed that the studio was in negotiations for rights to the project, produced by Alexander Payne, Michael London, Avi Lerner and Randall Emmett.

According to a source involved in the deal, the Weinstein Co., Lionsgate and ThinkFilm circled the film after its world premiere Wednesday night at the Eccles Theatre. One factor that gave First Look the edge, a source said, was that the studio's CEO Henry Winterstern read the script and was tracking the project because of his previous position as CEO at Capital Entertainment, where he once expressed interest in getting involved in the production.

The film's executive producers are Danny Dimbort, Trevor Short, John Thompson, George Furla, Boaz Davidson, Vance Owen and Elisa Salinas. The co-producers are George Parra and M. Dal Walton III.

The sale would be First Look's biggest acquisition to date, part of a new mandate to ramp up its new slate under the leadership of Winterstern, First Look Pictures president Ruth Vitale and First Look International president Stuart Ford.

"King" is the first solo Sundance purchase for First Look, which partnered with the Weinstein Co. to acquire worldwide rights to Justin Theroux's "Dedication" this week for $4 million. It comes a year after the company's first Sundance acquisition, Dito Montiel's "A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints," which won two awards at last year's fest.

WMI is repping sales of "King."

The "King" sale comes after indie distributors seemed to take a well-deserved midweek breath, but other deals are still brewing.

ThinkFilm was said to be the front-runner late Thursday for North American theatrical distribution of David Wain's Ten Commandments spoof "The Ten," but a source close to negotiations said that might change overnight and that TV and DVD rights also are up for grabs.

Steve Buscemi's "Interview" starring Sienna Miller, "Starting Out in the Evening," "Once," "A Very British Gangster" and "Protagonist" are said to be in discussion, with many buyers' eyes trained on the Thursday evening premiere of "The Good Night."

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