Fox Searchlight wins 'Wrestler' bidding war

Toronto film fest title going for about $4 million

TORONTO -- Fox Searchlight has acquired U.S. rights to Darren Aronofsky"s "The Wrestler" for a figure reported to be in the $4 million range at the Toronto International Film Festival.

An all-night negotiating session with seller CAA that included Overture, Senator and Lionsgate came to a head around 5 a.m. Monday, as it became clear that filmmakers wanted to go in the Searchlight direction. The deal was finally closed at about 11 a.m. Monday.

The movie, starring Mickey Rourke as a wrestler attempting a comeback, earned strong responses at its Toronto premiere Sunday; it's expected that the winning studio will turn around and go into awards mode immediately with a fall release.

After what looked like a lighter-than-usual fall -- the company has seven titles compared to 13 in 2006 and 10 last year -- Fox Searchlight with "Wrestler" would have two significant acquisitions it didn't have just several weeks ago. The other is Danny Boyle's India dramedy "Slumdog Millionaire," which it is distribbing in a partnership with Warners and which, coincidentally, premiered opposite "The Wrestler" on Sunday night.

The sale would mark the first big U.S. deal of the fest and could kick-start what had been a slow acquisitions market, with the Jennifer Aniston starrer "Management" and Richard Eyre's "The Other Man" other potential sales.

Borys Kit contributed to this report.