'Agora' picked up for U.S. release

Newmarket Films prepping Rachel Weisz pic

"Agora," Alejandro Amenabar's intellectual epic that had sat without a U.S. buyer for six months, has found a stateside home.

Newmarket Films has picked up U.S. rights to the Rachel Weisz starrer and is prepping a release for the first half of 2010.

The English-language "Agora" tells the story of religious conflict in Roman-governed Alexandria as the Christian and pagans battle, often violently, for religious and intellectual supremacy. The period story centers on he enlightened thinker Hypatia (Weisz) as well as both her philosophical and romantic conflicts. Max Minghella also stars.

Mateo Gil wrote the script with Amenabar; MOD Prods., Himenoptero and Telecinco produced the pic with the participation of Canal + Spain. Cinetic repped the filmmakers in the sale.

The pic rode into the Festival de Cannes with high expectations, fueled by both its star cast and Amenabar, who was behind Oscar winner "The Sea Inside" and high-end genre breakout "The Others."

But with its dense subject matter, the cautious and depleted ranks of U.S. buyers held off on making a deal. The title opened in October in Spain, where it topped the boxoffice with a $8 million opening weekend and since went on to cume about $30 million, outearning many Hollywood blockbusters.

Newmarket was recently acquired by Exclusive Media Group, the parent company to indie banners Hammer Pictures and Spitfire Films. The distribution label, run by co-chairmen Chris Ball and Nigel Sinclair, also picked up Jon Amiel's Charles Darwin biopic "Creation" out of the Toronto International Film Festival.