SPC steps up to plate for 'Sugar'

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Sony Pictures Classics is on the verge of acquiring theatrical rights for the Spanish-language film "Sugar," Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden's tale of immigration and baseball.

The company would acquire theatrical rights in North America and a number of Latin American territories. Television rights would remain with HBO, whose HBO Films produced the picture. The status of home video rights was unclear at press time.

Some parties close to the deal, however, emphasized that it hadn't closed yet.

The movie centers on Miguel "Sugar" Santos, a pitching prospect from the Dominican Republic who is brought to the U.S. to play for a major league team. Once here, however, he struggles to adapt and ends up taking a different path than he had first hoped.

"Sugar" also is produced by Paul Mezey's Journeyman Pictures and Jamie Patricof's Hunting Lane Films, which were behind Fleck and Boden's 2006 Sundance hit "Half Nelson."

William Morris Independent repped the filmmakers.

ThinkFilm and a number of other distributors were said to be circling "Sugar."

The film caused a splash at Sundance with buyers and consumers, but given the foreign language, lack of stars and unavailability of television rights, buyers said they were less willing to pay as much as they might otherwise have paid for a buzzed-about and critically acclaimed film.

Negotiations also were said to be complicated by the uncertainty surrounding the changing relationship between HBO Films and Picturehouse, which in the past would have been the distributor of choice for the film.

SPC was among the most aggressive buyers in Park City, picking up such films as the coming-of-age dramedy "The Wackness," Courtney Hunt's immigration tale "Frozen River" and the Duplass brothers' genre hybrid "Baghead."

Fleck and Boden are currently working on an adaptation of the quirky novel "Special Topics in Calamity Physics" for Scott Rudin and Miramax.
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