'Night' falls to Col with quick move

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Columbia Pictures has snapped up North American rights to James Gray's drama "We Own the Night" for $11.5 million plus a $25 million P&A commitment. The film quickly emerged as a hot property at this year's Festival de Cannes, even though it will not have its official red carpet unveiling until Friday.

The $25 million film, which Gray also wrote, stars Joaquin Phoenix as a New York nightclub manager in the 1980s who is trying to save his brother (Mark Wahlberg) and father (Robert Duvall) from the Russian mafia.

2929 Entertainment produced and financed the film, which was produced by Marc Butan and Nick Wechsler. Executive producers are Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner. Cinetic Media represented the filmmakers in the sale. Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions Group president Peter Schlessel brokered the deal for the studio. Sony will release the film under its Columbia label in the fall.

Schlessel told Sony execs Amy Pascal, Michael Lynton, Jeff Blake and key marketing executives about the film after viewing it in Cannes Thursday. Pascal and Blake screened it Friday in Los Angeles. "Amy said, 'I want that movie. Make it happen,' " Schlessel said. The deal was made early Saturday morning in Cannes. "It fits in line with our strategy to acquire films that will provide quality projects to Sony's slate."

The deal may also include one or two other territories purchased by Sony for an additional amount from 2929 International. The company has already presold most major international territories, including France and Germany.

"We wanted to go with Columbia because they made a great offer and we've never worked with Sony before," 2929's Wagner said. "It's the right part of Sony. We wanted to work with the same creative team that was behind 'The Da Vinci Code' and 'Casino Royale.' "

The film was originally developed at Warner Bros. Pictures before it moved to 2929. At one time, Universal Pictures held domestic rights, only to surrender them.

The movie, which combines elements of a crime thriller and a family drama, screened for buyers Thursday, quickly setting off something of a stampede. Interested buyers are said to have included Summit Entertainment, Lionsgate, Warner Independent Pictures, Warners, Fox Searchlight and Miramax.

Gray's previous credits include Miramax Films' "The Yards" and another drama involving the Russian mob, Fine Line Features' "Little Odessa."
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