SPC adds to its Sundance haul

4:00 AM PST 01/27/2008 by Gregg Goldstein, Steven Zeitchik

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PARK CITY -- Sony Pictures Classics snagged North American rights to a pair of Sundance entries as the fest wound down during the weekend.

SPC paid low- to mid-six figures for Mark and Jay Duplass' genre-bending comedy "Baghead" and low-seven figures for "The Wackness," just before the coming-of-age film won the dramatic audience award.

The deals capped an acquisition spree of sorts for a company not known for quick fest buys. SPC picked up a total of three films at the Sundance. Earlier, it bought "Frozen River," Courtney Hunt's grand jury dramatic winner about immigration and single motherhood, for low- to mid-six figures.

"Baghead," is the Duplass brothers' follow-up to their 2005 Sundance hit "The Puffy Chair." The film follows a group of four friends on a weekend getaway who may or may not be tormented by a stranger wearing a bag over his head. Submarine Entertainment repped the sale.

"Wackness" centers on a young pot dealer (Josh Peck) in mid-'90s Manhattan who finds a mentor in his shrink (Ben Kingsley). The comedy-drama resonated with audiences and was expected to sell early, but it ended up as one of the fest's many slow-burn sales. CAA repped the project.

The SPC buys were further evidence of an unusual Sundance in which there were few heated bidding wars, and no company other than SPC bought more than one film by the close of the fest.

Deals in the coming days were expected for movies such as "Fields of Fuel," which won the documentary audience award, and "Man on Wire," the twin winner in the World Cinema Documentary Audience and Jury categories. The Ryan Fleck-Anna Boden collaboration "Sugar" also was expected to close a theatrical deal shortly; though the inspirational baseball movie failed to pick up any prizes, favorable audience and critical reactions made it was one of the breakouts of the fest.



Another weekend deal was indie distributor Liberation Entertainment and Netflix's Red Envelope Entertainment paying low- to mid-six figures for the soccer docu "Kicking It." Liberation will release the film theatrically, and several months later Netflix will stream the film to its subscribers simultaneously with the television airing on ESPN. Liberation will handle North American and Central American theatrical, DVD and ancillary rights to the film, while Red Envelope will have domestic home video rights for Netflix.

CAA and Josh Braun of Submarine Entertainment repped the Liberation and Red Envelope deal on behalf of the filmmakers. Producer Ted Leonsis and exec producer Rick Allen repped the earlier ESPN deal.

This Sundance saw few megadeals, with the notable exceptions being a $10 million sale of Andy Fleming's "Hamlet 2" to Focus and a $5 million sale of Clark Gregg's "Choke" to Fox Searchlight. Some claimed that mixed reaction to films with big stars led to relatively few big sales compared with previous years, but Cinetic Media founder John Sloss said some of it boiled down to another, somewhat familiar, factor: the Weinstein Co.

"Harvey wasn't really in everything this year, and he drives urgency," Sloss said. He added that "all the prefestival press said everyone overpaid last year, which made buyers more cautious."
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