Magnolia slams into 'Weirdsville'

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NEW YORK -- In the latest sale to come out of an active Slamdance Film Festival, Magnolia Pictures has nabbed all U.S. rights to the black comedy "Weirdsville," starring Scott Speedman, Wes Bentley and Taryn Manning, from producer Darius Films.

Director Allan Moyle's surreal feature, selected to open this year's fest, centers on the misadventures of two small-town heroin addicts (Speedman, Bentley). After almost burying their not-quite-dead junkie friend (Manning), they run into even more trouble with Satanists, an angry group of little people and the druglord of their remote Canadian town.

The acquisition was arranged by sales agent Shoreline Entertainment with "Weirdsville" producer Nicholas Tabarrok. Shoreline and William Morris Independent recently sold Magnolia all North American, U.K. and Australian rights to the horror film "The Signal" for $2.3 million following that film's midnight Sundance screening last month.

"Magnolia has become such a major player on the theatrical distribution landscape for independent films. We're excited to be expanding our relationship with them," executive producer and Shoreline CEO Morris Ruskin said.

Said Magnolia president Eamonn Bowles: "What 'Weirdsville' and the amazing achievement of 'The Signal' represent is the injection of real intellect into the genre film. They've got all the necessary thrills and are coming from a real smart place to boot."

The project's history has almost as many strange twists and turns as the plot. U.S. rights were presold to Screen Media Films in late 2005 to help finance the project, with the stipulation that another buyer could pick it up if a higher offer was made (said by a source to be above the mid- to high-six figures). "Magnolia really got the film, and they were very committed to a theatrical release," said Tabarrok, who chose to go with the distributor after discussions with Screen Media execs. The film is tentatively set for release this year.

ThinkFilm execs Jeff Sackman and Michael Baker also served as exec producers of the Canadian production. Their studio held Canadian rights before it was purchased by David Bergstein and Ron Tutor's film financing and production company Capco Group in October. Since only a Canadian-owned distributor is allowed to release a film in the country, above-the-border rights are now up for sale.

"Weirdsville" was written by Willem Wennekers ("Night Class") and executive produced by Ruskin, Sackman, Baker and Perry Zimel. It was produced by Tabarrok with the participation of Telefilm Canada, the Harold Greenberg Fund, the Ontario Media Development Corp., the Movie Network and Movie Central.

Shoreline's productions include "Signal," "The Visit" and "The Man From Elysian Fields." Darius, in postproduction on "Jack and Jill vs. the World," starring Manning and Freddie Prinze Jr., will soon reteam with Shoreline on the surreal comedy "Hank and Mike."

As Sundance created a buying frenzy this year, its sister event also drew more sales activity than usual. Distributors picked up worldwide rights to several features, including the video game docu "The King of Kong" to Picturehouse and New Line Cinema, the nightclub comedy "You Are Here" to ThinkFilm and the drug rehab scam drama "Over the GW" to Seventh Art Releasing.

The "Weirdsville" deal was negotiated by Magnolia's Bowles, head of acquisitions Tom Quinn, manager of acquisitions Ben Stambler and head of business affairs Jason Janego with Shoreline's Ruskin, Sam Eigen and Brian Sweet.
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