Capital idea: Warners nabs 3 pics

Will distribute indie MRC's high-profile features

Warner Bros. has swept up three high-profile Media Rights Capital-produced features for distribution in a mid-eight-figure deal. The three films are 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 Gervais with Jennifer Garner in negotiations to co-star.

Warner Bros. is co-acquiring domestic distribution rights to "Box" with Ted Field's Radar Pictures. The studio is co-acquiring worldwide distribution rights to "Shorts" with the unnamed production outfit it recently formed in partnership with the Abu Dhabi Media Co. and Hunt Lowry. Warners will handle domestic distribution for "Truth."

The acquisitions have been in the works for several months. Two factors in the deal's slow gestation were the complexity of the multipicture deal and, to a lesser degree, timing. The offer 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 kids who stumble upon an object that unleashes mysterious powers. Principal photography is set to begin next year.

"Box" centers on a box given by a stranger (Langella) to an unhappily married couple (Diaz, Marsden). He tells them that if they push a button on the box, they'll receive a cash — and someone they don't know will die.

"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 in the spring.

The 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's "Desperado" in 1995. "I'm hoping this is the first of many films that Troublemaker Prods. is able to bring to Warners and MRC," Rodriguez said.

The three films are part of an eight-feature, $250 million slate funded by indie film, TV 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' "Linha de Passe" and Bennett Miller's "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.

He added that MRC chose to go with Warner Bros. because of the studio's strategic distribution plans for each film and proven track record handling the "Harry Potter" franchise, which has a similar target audience as "Shorts."