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DEAL OF THE WEEK: Sundance 2012 — Who Bought What: Lots of deals, a wide variety of distributors and reasonable prices. That was the consensus among buyers and sellers returning from the Sundance Film Festival. Star-studded films like the Bruce Willis comedy Lay the Favorite and the Richard Gere thriller Arbitrage that would have cost tens of millions for studios to make were picked up for about $2 million each. “If anything, the state of independent film is getting healthier,” says WME Global’s Graham Taylor, who sold Beasts of the Southern Wild, Arbitrage and V/H/S during the fest. “As evidenced by the Arbitrage and Lay the Favorite deals, [independent film] is creating a more economically viable way for midrange pictures to be distributed.” With dozens of additional deals likely to be closed in the next month or so, here’s a look at the films that sold during the festival. — Jay A. Fernandez and Daniel Miller
The Surrogate | Fox Searchlight: Nearly $6 million, worldwide rights (CAA)
Red Lights | Millennium Entertainment: Nearly $4 million, U.S. rights (UTA)
For a Good Time, Call … | Focus Features: $3 million, worldwide rights (Cinetic)
Arbitrage | Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions: About $3 million, North American rights (WME)
Robot & Frank | Sony and Samuel Goldwyn Films: $2 million-plus, North American rights and select territories (ICM, CAA)
Lay the Favorite | The Weinstein Co.: $2 million-plus, U.S. rights (CAA)
Celeste and Jesse Forever | Sony Pictures Classics: About $2 million, North America, Latin America, Eastern Europe (UTA)
The Words | CBS Films: $2 million, U.S. rights (CAA, Cassian Elwes, Laura Rister)
Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap | The Indomina Group: $1 million-plus, worldwide rights (UTA)
V/H/S | Magnolia Pictures (Magnet): $1 million-plus, North American rights (WME)
Black Rock | LD Distribution: $1 million-plus, N. American rights (Submarine) Liberal Arts | IFC Films$1 million-plus, North American rights (Gersh)
Safety Not Guaranteed | FilmDistrict: $1 million-plus, U.S. rights (ICM)
Shadow Dancer | ATO Pictures: $1 million, N. American rights (CAA)
Beasts of the Southern Wild | Fox Searchlight: Nearly $1 million, U.S. rights (WME)
How to Survive a Plague | Sundance Selects: High-six figures, North American rights (Submarine)
The Pact | IFC Midnight: High-six figures, North American rights (Preferred Content)
Nobody Walks | Magnolia Pictures: Mid- to high-six figures, North American rights (Submarine)
Middle of Nowhere | Participant Media and the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement: Mid-six figures, U.S. rights (Paradigm)
The Queen of Versailles | Magnolia Pictures: Mid-six figures, North American rights (Submarine)
Searching for Sugar Man | Sony Pictures Classics: Mid-six figures, N. American rights (Submarine)
Compliance | Magnolia Pictures: N/A, U.S. rights (Cinetic)
2 Days in New York | Magnolia Pictures: N/A, North American rights (CAA)
Wish You Were Here | Entertainment One: N/A, North American rights (LevelK)
Simon Killer | IFC Films: N/A, North American rights (UTA, CAA)
Watchmen Prequel Comics In Works
In a controversial move, Warner Bros.’ DC Entertainment is unveiling prequels to the best-selling graphic novel of all time. Watchmen, the acclaimed 1986 work by writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons, is getting a series of seven comic books that will publish this summer and detail the characters’ adventures leading up to the original story. Before Watchmen, featuring Nite Owl, Rorschach, Comedian, Dr. Manhattan, Ozymandias, Silk Spectre and the 1940s superteam The Minutemen, will feature stories from Darwyn Cooke, J. Michael Straczynski and Andy and Joe Kubert. A leader in the wave of 1980s comics that redefined the genre and led to the reign of superhero movies, Watchmen was never integrated into the DC Comics universe, partially because of Moore’s insistence that it is a singular vision. (He also spoke out against the 2009 Warner Bros. movie adaptation, which grossed $185 million worldwide, considered a big disappointment.) “It’s our responsibility as publishers to find new ways to keep all of our characters relevant,” said DC co-publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee in a statement. “After 25 years, the Watchmen are classic characters whose time has come for new stories to be told.” — Borys Kit
Hunger Games star Liam Hemsworth (WME, ROAR) will star in Relativity’s romantic drama Timeless, directed by Phillip Noyce (Salt), about a man’s attempt to turn back time after his wife dies.
Kate Hudson (Hudson, Jackoway Tyerman), Book of Mormon star Josh Gad (ICM, Brillstein, Ziffren Brittenham) and Bill Hader (UTA, Odenkirk Provissiero, Felker Toczek) will voice DreamWorks Animation’s Me & My Shadow.
F. Javier Gutierrez (Paradigm, Farah Films, Lichter Grossman), who directed the Spanish-language horror movie Before the Fall, will helm Relativity’s remake of The Crow. Jesse Wigutow is writing the script.
Ron Livingston (UTA, Thruline, Hansen Jacobson) and Lili Taylor (ICM, D/F Management) are in talks to join Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga in New Line’s supernatural thriller formerly known as The Conjuring. James Wan (Saw) is directing.
Eugene Levy (ICM, Anonymous, Morris Yorn), Romeo Miller (Buchwald/Fortitude) and Denise Richards (ICM, Adam Griffin, Del Shaw) will star in Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection, with Doris Roberts, Devan Leos, Tom Arnold and Danielle Campbell. Perry returns as Madea in the Lionsgate release.
Sarah Jessica Parker (CAA, Schreck Rose) and Chloe Sevigny (WME, Brillstein) have joined Lovelace, the biopic of adult-film actress Linda Lovelace. Parker replaces Demi Moore as feminist Gloria Steinem, and Sevigny will play a journalist trying to find out who the real Lovelace (Amanda Seyfried) is.
The Mentalist writer-producer Ken Woodruff (WME) has sold Killshot, an action comedy pitch, to Warner Bros.
Elizabeth Banks (UTA, Untitled, Ziffren Brittenham) and Paul Reubens (WME, Vie, Bloom Hergott) have joined Frank or Francis, Charlie Kaufman’s (Adaptation) musical satire of Hollywood. Banks will play an actress having an affair with a director (Steve Carell), and Reubens will play an old-school film critic.
Vera Farmiga (CAA, Authentic, Jodi Peikoff) will play Fleetwood Mac member Christine McVie opposite Aaron Eckhart in The Drummer, a biopic of former Beach Boy Dennis Wilson.
Susan Sarandon (ICM) has booked a multi-episode arc on Showtime’s The Big C.
Greg Berlanti (WME, Felker Toczek) and Laurence Marks (Jackoway Tyerman) have sold the six-episode drama series Political Animals to USA Network to debut in the summer.
HBO has renewed Luck for a second season.
Grammy winner Trisha Yearwood (WME, Vector Management) will launcha six-episode daytime cooking show in April on Food Network.
Kim Kardashian (WME, Kris Jenner, Endeavor Group) has booked a multi-episode arc on the fourth season of Lifetime’s Drop Dead Diva.
Bethenny Frankel‘s (WME) syndicated talk show from Telepictures, Warner Bros. Television and producer Ellen DeGeneres will get a six-week trial run on Fox stations in the summer.
Shirley MacLaine (ICM) has joined the third season of U.K./PBS drama Downton Abbey.
Chris Grismer (Paradigm) has boarded The CW’s The Vampire Diaries as a producer-director.
Tyler Blackburn (Gersh, Society, Lichter Grossman) has been upped to series regular on the upcoming third season of ABC Family’s Pretty Little Liars.
CBS has handed out several new pilot orders:
• Partners, a semiautobiographical look at the lives of Will & Grace creators David Kohan and Max Mutchnick
• Friend Me, a comedy about best friends who move from Indiana to L.A., from Alan Kirschenbaum (Raising Hope)
• Fun Night, from Conan O’Brien, with Bridesmaids actress Rebel Wilson attached to write, star and co-exec produce
• An untitled ensemble comedy from Louis C.K. and Spike Feresten
• An untitled romantic comedy from Berlanti and Greg Malins (Friends)
• A period drama based on Ralph Lamb, the Las Vegas cowboy-turned-sheriff, from Nicholas Pileggi (Goodfellas)
• A female-fronted legal procedural based on the Mommy Track Mysteries, with Chris Columbus attached to exec produce and direct
• Quean, a drama about a hacker girl from Ilene Chaiken (The L Word)
• Cop drama Widow Detective, from Carol Mendelsohn (CSI).
ABC has handed out several pilot commitments:
• Comedy White Van Man, with Bobby Bowman (Raising Hope) adapting the British format
• How to Live With Your Parents for the Rest of Your Life, partially based on the life of Accidentally on Purpose creator Claudia Lonow
• An untitled look at twentysomethings in relationships from Adam Sztykiel (Due Date)
• A family comedy from Happy Endings producers Steven Cragg and Brian Bradley
• Americana, a soap from Michael Seitzman (North Country) revolving around a fashion designer
• Nashville, another soap set against the Music City scene from Callie Khouri (Thelma & Louise)
• A reimagining of Beauty and the Beast from writer-producer Jonathan E. Steinberg (Human Target)
• Scruples, a soap based on the dishy 1978 best-selling Judith Krantz novel, from writers Bob Brush (The Wonder Years) and Mel Harris.
NBC is moving forward with The New Normal, a half-hour comedy abouta gay family and itssurrogate, from Glee duo Ryan Murphy and Ali Adler. Andrew Rannells (The Book of Mormon) is attached to star.
The CW‘s pilots include the drama First Cut, about a doctor who finds out that her first hospital job is much like high school. Gilmore Girls‘ Jennie Snyder Urman will write.
Lifetime is developingIce Moms, a docuseries about competitivefigure skaters, from the producers of its successfulDance Moms.
TLC is developing a series revolving around married business partners Lisa and Jim Dolan in the plus-size fashion world.
Independent publisher Spirit Music Group has purchased Pete Townshend’s song catalog, including five decades of musicwritten for The Who,as well as his future work. Spirit also manages and owns songs by such artists as Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra.
Jean Dujardin, a best-actor nominee for his role in The Artist, has signed with WME. … Ali Larter, who has starred in the past two Resident Evil films, also has signed with WME. … Comedian Ron White, who has been nominated for two Grammy Awards and has sold more than 10 million CDs and DVDs, has signed with UTA. … Omar Miller, who appears on CSI: Miami, has signed with APA. … Philipp Kadelbach, a commercials director who helmed the recent hit German TV movie Hindenburg, has signed with ICM. … Gene Kelly, co-executive producer of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, has signed with CAA. … Arlo White, who will serve as the play-by-play voice for NBC Sports Group’s Major League Soccer coverage, has signed with CAA. — Daniel Miller
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