Warners takes up three MRC projects

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NEW YORK -- Warner Bros. has swept up three high-profile Media Rights Capital-produced features for distribution in a mid-eight-figure deal: Richard Kelly's horror film "The Box" starring Cameron Diaz, James Marsden and Frank Langella; Robert Rodriguez's family fantasy "Shorts"; and Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinson's comedy "This Side of the Truth," starring the director with Jennifer Garner in negotiations to co-star.

The deal also will infuse cash into each project's budget. Warner Bros. is partnering with Ted Field's Radar Pictures to co-finance "Box," and its unnamed production outfit (formed with the Abu Dhabi Media Co. and Hunt Lowry) will co-finance "Shorts," adding to MRC's initial investment.

The studio will handle worldwide distribution on "Shorts" and domestic distribution on "Box" and "Truth." The acquisitions have been in the works for several months. One factor in the deal's slow gestation was that it came along as Warners president and COO Alan Horn was reorganizing the company's motion picture group and promoting production head Jeff Robinov to president of the newly formed Warner Bros. Picture Group last month.

All three films have strong fantasy elements. "Shorts," produced by Rodriguez and Elizabeth Avellan, follows a group of outcast kids who stumble upon an object that unleashes mysterious powers in their neighborhood, leading them on a series of adventures. Principal photography is set to begin next year.

"Box" also centers on a mysterious object, a box given by a stranger (Langella) to an unhappily married couple (Diaz and Marsden). He tells them that if they push a button on the box, they'll receive a hefty amount of cash -- and someone they don't know will die. The film is now shooting in Massachusetts with Sean McKittrick producing.

"Truth" stars Gervais as an ordinary Joe who lives in a world where there is no such thing as lying. He learns how to lie and uses his skills to win over a beautiful woman (Garner) who is way out of his league. Lynda Obst and Oly Obst are producing, and filming is slated to begin this spring.

Weinstein Co. is repping international sales on "Box." The Warner Bros. deal marks the first Rodriguez feature that hasn't been distributed through a Weinstein-run studio since Columbia Pictures' "Desperado" in 1995. "I'm hoping this is the first of many films that Troublemaker Prods. is able to bring to Warners and MRC," said Rodriguez.

The three films are part of an eight-feature, $250 million slate funded by indie film, television and digital outfit MRC, run by co-CEOs Modi Wiczyk and Asif Satchu. Others on the lineup include the biopic "Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho," Walter Salles' Brazilian drama "Linha de Passe," Bennett Miller's true-crime drama "Foxcatcher."

MRC has given shared copyright on all films to the filmmakers. "These distribution agreements ensure not only that (the filmmakers') unique visions will be fully realized, but also that the success of their work will be rewarded as stakeholders in their own films," Wiczyk said.

P.J. Shapiro & Sam Fischer of Ziffren, Brittenham, Branca, Fischer, Gilbert-Lurie & Stiffelman, negotiated the deal on behalf of MRC.
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