Uni's $42.5 mil wins 'Bruno' auction

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Universal Pictures has won the intense bidding war for "Bruno," Sacha Baron Cohen's follow-up movie to "Borat."

Sources said that Universal is paying $42.5 million, beating out such other contenders as DreamWorks, Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. Pictures for the worldwide rights to the film (HR 10/27). The price includes the production budget of the film, rumored to be in the $20 million-$25 million range. Also included is a significant backend component, believed to be the 15% range.

The price has raised eyebrows in Hollywood because Baron Cohen's much-hyped "Borat" has yet to open. Despite much advance praise for "Borat," distributor Fox scaled back its Friday opening to about 800 theaters because it is concerned that the movie wasn't registering high enough in audience-awareness tracking.

With "Bruno," Baron Cohen is calling upon another of his comic alter egos, Bruno, a gay fashionista from Austria who fancies himself as "the voice of Austrian youth TV" and who sashayed from New York Fashion Week to Miami nightclubs in his previous appearance on HBO's "Da Ali G Show,"on which Baron Cohen also first introduced Borat to American audiences.

As in the case of "Borat," Jay Roach would produce with Baron Cohen. No director is on board, though it has been reported that Baron Cohen wants to shoot the movie during the summer.

Endeavor, which reps Baron Cohen, declined comment, as did Universal.
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