'Penelope' slides to Summit

Toronto fave set for Feb. 1 release

In a journey as bizarre as the one taken by its heroine, producer Reese Witherspoon's fable "Penelope" has landed at Summit Entertainment.

Summit has picked up North American rights to Mark Palansky's $15 million feature debut. Christina Ricci stars as a pig-snouted girl looking for love, with a cast that includes James McAvoy, Catherine O'Hara, Richard E. Grant, Peter Dinklage and Witherspoon. Summit plans a Feb. 1 release.

"Penelope" was the belle of the ball at last year's Toronto International Film Festival, where it had a world premiere at one of the fest's Gala screenings. It was a centerpiece of ICM's burgeoning indie division, produced by Stone Village Pictures' Scott Steindorff with Type A Films' Jennifer Simpson and Witherspoon. "Penelope" seemed to have a happy ending in October, when it was picked up for theatrical release by IFC Films and home video and TV distribution by the Weinstein Co. in North America. A source placed the sale at about $10 million.

But things began to turn ugly when its initial spring theatrical release was postponed. Before its rescheduled late-August release, the film's rights were pulled back to sales agent ICM, which also reps the director and several of the leads.

According to two sources close to the deal, issues with the Weinstein Co. portion of the agreement were the reason for the deal being scrapped and rights reverting back to the sellers. A Weinstein Co. spokeswoman said the decision had nothing to do with the company.

One $4 million Weinstein Co. purchase from last year's TIFF, "Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show: 30 Days & 30 Nights — Hollywood to the Heartland," was returned to sender over marketing disagreements. Another $3 million-$4 million Weinstein Co. Toronto buy from last year, "All the Boys Love Mandy Lane," was sold to Senator Entertainment shortly before its scheduled summer release.

Although no sources indicated that IFC was a cause of the deal changes, an IFC source said the company now will be focusing on more modestly priced pictures with budgets up to $3 million.