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DEAL OF THE WEEK: Toronto Takeaway: Buyers Pounce As Big Players Sit Out: What began as cautious optimism turned into a low-budget buying spree at the Toronto International Film Festival as U.S. indies scooped up rights to about 30 films, many of them touting heavyweight stars but all considered to be smaller releases versus the commercially driven properties and awards bait of the past few years.
So while Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions and IFC Films wrote several checks for Toronto films, such bigger players as CBS Films, Fox Searchlight, Sony Pictures Classics, Relativity Media and FilmDistrict mostly stayed on the sidelines as the festival ended Sept. 16.
Focus Features and The Weinstein Co. kicked off the fest by fighting for Derek Cianfrance‘s The Place Beyond the Pines, starring Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper and Eva Mendes. Focus ultimately won the crime drama, paying north of $2.5 million for U.S. rights with a plan to release it next year. Pines was soon followed by deals for the Kristen Wiig dark comedy Imogene and the Mark Ruffalo–Gwyneth Paltrow sex-addiction comedy Thanks for Sharing. Both films went to Roadside and Lionsgate, which also partnered in buying Avengers director Joss Whedon‘s black-and-white Much Ado About Nothing. Roadside also nabbed U.S. rights to Sarah Polley‘s doc Stories We Tell, making Howard Cohen and Eric d’Arbeloff‘s company one of the most prolific outfits at the fest.
“We didn’t go to Toronto with the idea of buying five movies. It was an opportunity that presented itself,” Cohen tells THR, noting the company’s recent success with so-called “moderate” releases, landing somewhere between art house and a wide play. Last year at Toronto, Roadside bought Wiig’s Friends With Kids for roughly $2 million with partner Mickey Lidell. The film was released in March on 369 screens and grossed about $7.2 million, a modest success.
IFC Films also had a major presence, paying about $2 million for Neil Jordan‘s mother-daughter vampire pic Byzantium, starring Saoirse Ronan and Gemma Arterton, in addition to Mira Nair‘s The Reluctant Fundamentalist and Noah Baumbach‘s Frances Ha. The company also is pursuing Brian De Palma‘s sexual thriller Passion, starring Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace. Millennium Entertainment grabbed two titles, the Greg Kinnear–Lily Collins starrer Writers and What Maisie Knew, starring Julianne Moore. Sources say most films went for less than $2 million, though the volume of deals kept sales agents happy.
“The festival was a success because distributors reacted positively to traditional art house films, and the prices reflected this enthusiasm,” says Roeg Sutherland, co-head of CAA’s Film Finance and Sales Group, which was in the midst of closing a deal for Terrence Malick‘s To the Wonder at press time. — Pamela McClintock and Tatiana Siegel
Honey Boo Boo Getting a Raise
Seven-year-old pageant regular Alana “Honey Boo Boo” Thompson and her family are in talks to return to TLC for a second season of ratings hit Here Comes Honey Boo Boo (the Sept. 13 episode drew more than 2.1 million viewers). A source says the Shannon-Thompson clan is asking for $10,000 an episode; another insider predicts they most likely will land closer to $8,000, doubling what THR first reported as their season-one salary of $4,000 an episode (plus a possible built-in location fee). A TLC rep declined comment on salaries, and Discovery and TLC Networks Group president Eileen O’Neill tells THR that while a second season of the series is likely, no final decision had been made. — Leslie Bruce
Own Reese’s Ranch for $10 Million
Reese Witherspoon has listed her Spanish Colonial estate in Ojai for sale at $10 million. The equestrian property on Del Norte Road hit the market Sept. 17. The estate was partly designed by famed architect Wallace Neff and was featured on the September cover of Elle Decor. The actress bought the property in early 2008 from prominent interior designer Kathryn Ireland, who had undertaken a renovation of the compound originally built for glassware magnate Edward Libbey in 1923 (the property also has been owned by actor/director Harold Ramis). “What I love about it is that it is so period and has so much character and charm,” says Billy Rose, president of The Agency, who has the listing. “There is century-old hardware and fixtures that were forged on the property — it is just so authentic.” The roughly seven-acre estate, known as Libbey Ranch, includes a four-bedroom main house, which was originally designed by Neff as a barn. There are horse stables, three guest cottages, a carriage house and a swimming pool. During Witherspoon’s tenure, Jay Griffith, a well-known landscape architect, redesigned the grounds. Witherspoon pal Robert Pattinson stayed there recently after his split from Kristen Stewart. Libbey Ranch has another notable Hollywood connection: It doubled as Shangri-La in Frank Capra‘s 1937 classic Lost Horizon, starring Ronald Colman and Jane Wyatt. Rose says the compound is home to a “menagerie of animals,” including horses, pigs, dogs and chickens. “It’s down this country lane and very much secreted away — but very much connected to the heart of Ojai.” — Daniel Miller
Joan Allen (ICM, J. Franklin Stewart) will star in A Good Marriage, an adaptation of a Stephen King novella directed by Peter Askin.
Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein (CAA, Management 360, Sloane Offer) are writing a remake of the 1984 Steve Martin-Lily Tomlin comedy All of Me, with John Davis producing for DreamWorks.
The Scorpio Races author Maggie Stiefvater (WME, Andrea Brown Literary) has sold her latest YA novel The Raven Boys to New Line, with Akiva Goldsman, Joby Harold and Tory Tunnell producing.
Ewan McGregor (UTA, Sloane Offer, United) has joined The Weinstein Co.’s August: Osage County, the adaptation of the Tracy Letts play starring Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts.
Sony Pictures Animation is developing Manimal, the 1983 NBC series about a man who can morph into animals, as a live-action/CG hybrid film with producer Glen A. Larson.
Zombieland writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (WME, Hansen Jacobson) have sold the sci-fi script Epsilon to Sony for Michael DeLuca (Fifty Shades of Grey) to produce with the duo.
Safe House writer David Guggenheim (Paradigm, Madhouse, Ziffren Brittenham) has sold Black Box to Universal in a bidding war. Scott Stuber produces.
Sony Pictures Classics has acquired Wadjda, the first film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia and the first by a female Saudi director (Haifaa Al-Mansour).
Dexter actress Aimee Garcia (Paradigm, Thruline, Ginsburg Daniels) has joined the cast of Jose Padilha’s Robocop remake.
Lydia Hearst (ICM, Management Production), the daughter of Patty Hearst, has joined Cabin Fever: Patient Zero, the reboot of the horror movie from Indomina.
Entourage co-star Jerry Ferrara (WME, Leverage, Ziffren Brittenham) will join CBS Films’ Michael Douglas comedy Last Vegas.
Maria Maggenti (Paradigm, Madhouse) will adapt One Red Paperclip, about a man who barters from a paper clip to a house, for MGM. Laurence Mark is producing.
Jon Hamm (ICM, Forward) will join Bill Hader, Danny McBride, Philip Baker Hall, Kate Hudson, Michael Keaton, Eva Mendes, Amy Ryan and J.B. Smoove in Larry David’s HBO movie Clear History.
Freddie Highmore (ARG, Kuranda Management) will play Norman Bates in A&E’s Psycho prequel Bates Motel. Max Thieriot (Gersh, Viewpoint, McKuin Frankel) will play his older brother.
Bret Easton Ellis (UTA, Media Talent, Hansen Jacobson) and Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke (CAA, Manage-ment, Sloane Offer) have teamed with Fake Empire for Copeland Prep, a supernatural drama set in high school, for The CW.
Leslye Headland (CAA, Caliber, Myman Abel) will adapt her play, Assistance, for NBC, with Will Ferrell and Adam McKay’s Gary Sanchez Productions exec producing.
Rob Reiner (CAA, Bloom Hergott) and Jamie Lee Curtis (CAA, Jackoway Tyerman) will play Zooey Deschanel’s parents on Fox’s New Girl.
Ellen writer-producer Lauren Pomerantz (UTA, Mosaic) has sold a sitcom to NBC about a woman who fears she’s doomed to a life alone. Ellen DeGeneres will executive produce.
USA Network is adapting an Elmore Leonard story from his anthology When the Women Come Out to Dance with Numbers co-creators Cheryl Heuton and Nicolas Falacci.
Jason Biggs (UTA, Management 360) will star opposite Taylor Schilling in Netflix’s original series Orange Is the New Black, from Weeds‘ Jenji Kohan.
The Finder‘s Maddie Hasson (Coast to Coast, STW, Beddingfield) and Prom‘s Kylie Bunbury (ICM, Principal) will co-star in ABC Family’s Gavin Polone drama pilot Socio.
Die Another Day villain Toby Stephens (Paradigm) will play Captain Flint in producer Michael Bay’s Treasure Island prequel Black Sails at Starz.
Bill Maher (CAA, Brillstein) will play himself in an episode of CBS’ The Good Wife.
Dish Network will carry Glenn Beck’s 24-hour news and information online network TheBlaze.
Showtime has renewed the Matt LeBlanc comedy Episodes for a third season and will launch 60 Minutes of Sports, produced by CBS News. … A&E is bringing back drama The Glades for a fourth season. … Lifetime has ordered seven episodes of My Life Is a Lifetime Movie, a hybrid unscripted series inspired by its scandalous original movies. … MTV has renewed Rob Dyrdek’s Ridiculousness for a third season of 20 episodes. … Oxygen has renewed freshman docuseries I’m Having Their Baby.
Clive Davis (WME) has signed with Simon & Schuster for an autobiography to be co-written with Rolling Stone‘s Anthony DeCurtis.
Carlos Santana (Manus & Associates) has inked a deal with Little, Brown for his autobiography, to be published in Spanish and English in 2014.
Jessica Lange (David Kuhn, Untitled) has signed with Jabberwocky for a children’s book, It’s About a Little Bird.
Kevin Costner (WME, Rob Weisbach Creative), writer Jon Baird and illustrator Rick Ross are teaming for The Explorers Guild, an illustrated adventure series, at Atria Books.
J.J. Abrams has signed with CAA (he remains with law firm Jackoway Tyerman).
NBA star LeBron James has left CAA for his childhood friend’s new agency, Klutch Sports Management.
Kendall Schmidt and Logan Henderson, two stars of Nickelodeon’s Big Time Rush, have signed with ICM.
David Mazouz, the 11-year-old star of Fox’s Touch, has signed with management firm Magnolia.
Juan Carlos Medina, the Spanish writer-director whose debut film Painless premiered at Toronto, has signed with WME.
THE NEXT BIG THING: Aunjanue Ellis
Reps: ICM, TMT, Kraditor & Haber. Why She Matters The veteran character actress, 43, steps into a leading role opposite Prime Suspect‘s Damon Gupton in AMC’s hot legal thriller pilot from Richard LaGravenese (The Fisher King) and Tony Goldwyn (Scandal).
THE BIG NUMBER: $50 Million — Write-down taken by Disney after scrapping production midway on an animated film from Coraline director Henry Selick, according to Disney’s CFO.
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