'Kids Are All Right' sells at Sundance

Focus Features acquires rights for under $5 mil

PARK CITY -- The kids are doing even better now.

Lisa Cholodenko's drama-tinged comedy "The Kids Are All Right" has found a quick home after its packed, enthusiastic Monday night screening at the Library Theatre. Focus Features has acquired North American distribution rights -- plus rights to South Africa, the U.K. and Germany -- to the film after rabid interest from several buyers in the past 48 hours.

Immediately after the screening -- which reps from the Weinstein Co., Focus, Magnolia Pictures, Summit Entertainment and Fox Searchlight attended -- interest in a theatrical release ran rampant. Summit and Focus, in particular, were competing seriously for the pickup in the first post-screening 24 hours.

Ultimately, James Schamus' Focus sealed the deal with a bid of just under $5 million. Bart Walker and John Sloss of Cinetic Media handled the negotiations for the filmmakers.

Focus last acquired a Sundance entry when it picked up the comedy "Hamlet 2" for $10 million in 2008. That proved to be a bad bet when the film underperformed in theaters. Despite recent boxoffice disappointments, Focus scored its second-biggest hit to date last year with the $75 million-grossing "Coraline," and several Oscar wins for "Milk" took the gay politico biopic to $32 million.

"Kids" could break the streak, however, as it has a much more commercial feel than much of Focus' recent output. In the film, Annette Bening and Julianne Moore star as a committed lesbian couple who have birthed and raised two teenagers together. When their daughter turns 18, she and her brother decide to reach out to their mothers' sperm donor, played by Mark Ruffalo, who gradually becomes an intimate part of all of their lives, with some positive and some disastrous results.

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The film's raunchier scenes and graphic sexual material, along with its gay protagonists, as funny and sexy as they are, could cut into the film's potential boxoffice prospects. This edginess, however, could be leavened by the presence of a recognizable and likable cast well known by mainstream and indie audiences alike.

And with "Precious," last year's tough sell with its rapes, incest and general misery, racking up $45 million in U.S. theaters, hopes for this happy little gem aren't unreasonable.

Cholodenko's debut, "High Art," screened at the fest in 1998 and took home the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award, while her follow-up, "Laurel Canyon," played there in 2003.

A number of Sundance titles -- "HappyThankYouMorePlease," "The Company Men," "The Tillman Story," "Splice," "Catfish" and "Winter's Bone" -- continue to wriggle toward distribution deals as buyers and sellers take their time to work out the release and P&A details.

Lionsgate nabbed the first big deal of the fest Sunday when it bought "Buried" for $3 million-$4 million. Paramount announced its pickup of the Davis Guggenheim documentary "Waiting for Superman" on Thursday afternoon as the festival opened as a Paramount Vantage title.