Distributors close in on Toronto Fest films

Rights sold for 'Rabbit Hole,' 'Harvey Weinstein,' 'Skin'

TORONTO -- In a move that injects a new contender into this year's Oscar race, Lionsgate has picked up North American rights to John Cameron Mitchell's "Rabbit Hole," which had its world premiere Monday at the Toronto International Film Festival.

As the festival winds to its Sunday close, other distributors were lining up films that could play next year's festival circuit: IFC Films said it has acquired worldwide rights, except Canada, to Barry Avrich's documentary "Unauthorized: The Harvey Weinstein Project," and Sony Pictures Classics said it picked up North American rights to Pedro Almodovar's latest movie, gothic thriller "The Skin I Inhabit," now filming.

Additionally, Anchor Bay Films has secured rights to "Carjacked," a thriller being directed by John Bonito ("The Marine").

Lionsgate will release "Rabbit" by year's end, and based on positive reactions here, that should make the movie a player during awards season.

Directed in a marked change of pace by Mitchell -- whose previous films include "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" and "Shortbus" -- and adapted by David Lindsay-Abaire from his play, the movie, in the vein of such domestic dramas as "Kramer vs. Kramer" and "Ordinary People," stars Kidman and Aaron Eckhart as parents coming to terms with the grief over the death of their child.

Kidman, Eckhart and Dianne Wiest, who plays Kidman's mother, have been lauded for their awards-worthy performances.

The play, first produced in 2006 in New York, earned a Pulitzer as well as a Tony for Cynthia Nixon, who played Kidman's role.

The film version was produced by Odd Lot Entertainment, Kidman's production company Blossom Films and Olympus Pictures. Leslie Urdang, Dean Vanech, Kidman, Per Saari and Gigi Pritzker produced, with Daniel Revers, Bill Lischak, Linda McDonough and Brian O'Shea executive producing.

The deal was negotiated between CAA on behalf of the producers and Lionsgate's Jason Constantine, Eda Kowan and Wendy Jaffe. It marks Lionsgate's second buy of a high-profile Toronto title after it joined with Roadside to acquire Robert Redford's "The Conspirator," which will be released next year.

Almodovar's "Skin," which stars Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya and Marisa Paredes, began production last month in Spain. The story centers on a father avenging his daughter's death and is inspired by Thierry Jonquet's novel "Mygale."

Almodovar's brother Agustin is producing via the duo's El Deseo production shingle. SPC and Deseo have a two-decade-long relationship, having partnered on nine films including "Volver," "Talk to Her" and "Broken Embraces."

Bonito's "Carjacked" is set to star Maria Bello and Stephen Dorff and begin principal photography Nov. 15 in Baton Rouge, La. Anchor Bay's rights deal is for theatrical and video and includes North America, U.K. and Australia. The aim is to release the movie during second-quarter 2011.

Bello will play a single mom who, with her son, is carjacked by a bank robber (Dorff) on the run from police.

The film is produced by Daniel Grodnik and Mass Hysteria Entertainment, one of the companies behind "Powder" and "Bobby." Eric Gozlan, Murray Rosenthal, Richard Lott and Mike Greenfield are exec producing.

Dorff appears in Focus Features' "Somewhere," Sofia Coppola's drama that won the Venice Film Festival's Golden Lion during the weekend. Bello appears in "Beautiful Boys," which premiered at Toronto and also was acquired by Anchor Bay.
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