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Market buyers pick up pace, pics

High-profile pacts, castings make for busy weekend

The weekend came to a close at the American Film Market on Sunday with sales and finance houses adding cast to projects to encourage buyers to splash the presale cash, while a flurry of deal memos also landed.

Buyers were greeted by the news that Sharon Stone and Amanda Peet have joined the cast of Nigel Cole's "Five Dollars a Day," sold here by U.S. banner ThinkFilm International and financed by U.K. sister company Capitol Films.

Billed as a riotous father-and-son road-trip movie, Stone and Peet join Christopher Walken and Alessandro Nivola in the film, from a script by Neal and Tippi Dobrofsky. Carol Baum, Jane Goldenring and Kia Jam are producing.

Meanwhile, buzz is building on three titles.

The Weinstein Co. is said to be circling the horror film "Eden Lake," from Pathe International, billed as a cross between "Deliverance" and "Stand By Me."

The sales agent also is repping Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud's sea documentary "Oceans," a follow-up to their "Winged Migration. Disney is among the companies circling the big-budget project, due in mid-2009, and could see the studio reunited with Participant and National Geographic.

One of the most talked-about projects of the festival is the Peter Jackson-produced sci-fi film "District 9," from director Neill Blomkamp and financier/sales rep QED International. Sony is among the strongest candidates to buy the film, set to shoot in the spring, sources said.

High-profile deal memos and pacts were beginning to land thick and fast during the weekend as attendees' thoughts turned to planning their exit from this year's market in the next day or so.

Costantini Films and the Weinstein Co. snapped up all Latin American rights to Guillermo Arriaga's "The Burning Plain," 2929 International president Shebnem Askin said.

The movie, currently in preproduction, stars Charlize Theron and is written and directed by Arriaga ("Babel"). It explores the mysterious connection between several characters "separated by time and space, who help each other find redemption, forgiveness and love," 2929 said.

The movie — produced by Laurie MacDonald and Walter F. Parkes, co-produced by Beth Kono and executive produced by 2929 Prods.' Marc Butan, Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner along with Ray Angelic and Theron — is set to be released in 2009.

"With Guillermo's captivating script and Charlize's universal appeal, the film is sure to engage and fascinate moviegoers worldwide," Costantini Films founder Eduardo Costantini Jr. said.

Askin negotiated the deal with Costantini and Matias Reynal.

U.S.-based sales house Showcase Entertainment reported a raft of deals for Edward Burns' romantic comedy "Purple Violets," pushing the film out across Russia via Vox Film and Teleview for the Middle East. The film also scored a deal with Pasatiempo, taking the title to Bulgaria, Romania, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia.

Showcase also struck deals for the teen comedy "Pigs," with Tiberius taking it for Germany, Vox for Russia and TV2 for Hungary.

Summit Entertainment struck a three-year output deal for Scandinavian territories with distributor Nordisk Film for movies produced, co-produced and/or acquired by Summit. The deal, through 2010, will see "Get Some," "Push" and "Sex Drive" wing their ways into theaters across Norway, Sweden and Denmark via Nordisk.

Summit Entertainment COO Bob Hayward, Summit International president David Garrett, Nordisk Film Distribution managing director Mikkel Berg and Nordisk Film Independent Distribution GM Peter Philipsen announced the pact. The deal excludes pictures on which Summit acts purely as a sales agent.

Said Garrett: "Nordisk is one of the two major exhibitors and distributors in Scandinavia, and this agreement will give Summit a firm foothold in the market in the years to come."

Added Berg: "It fits perfectly with our overall strategy of bringing strong filmed content to the Nordic consumers in all windows. I have great expectations of our future co-operation with Summit."

Meanwhile, Asian companies continued to strike deals among themselves.

Japan's Shochiku sold "Midnight Eagle" to Dong-A Export in South Korea, Celestial in Hong Kong and Scorpio in Singapore and Malaysia. "Ten Promises with My Dog" went to CMC in Taiwan.

Beijing-based Avrio, a marketing and distribution upstart, bought three titles for hopeful distribution in China — pending approval by the Film Bureau's censors board. The titles are "Pride & Glory" from New Line, "Bridge to Tarabithia" from Summit and the animated "Planet 51" from Handmade, Avrio GM Johnny Liu said.

Hong Kong's Media Asia sold "The Sniper" to Australia and New Zealand's Rialto as well as a basket of smaller territories including Turkey (Horizon International), the former Yugoslavia (Blitz) and Israel (United King). Rialto also bought "Assassins."

Gregg Goldstein and Jonathan Landreth contributed to this report.