Picturehouse set to adopt 'Orphanage'


BERLIN -- Picturehouse, the joint venture between HBO and New Line Cinema, obtained the keys to hot Spanish thriller "The Orphanage" on Monday, taking U.S. rights in one of the highest-profile acquisitions of this year's EFM.

Picturehouse president Bob Berney said the heat on the picture was turned up after promo footage unspooled at the festival here. The movie is being sold in Berlin by French sales house Wild Bunch.

"It's a real discovery picture, with a first-time director, first-time writer and first-time DOP," Berney said in an interview.

Directed by J.A. Bayona, "The Orphanage" is written by Sergio G. Sanchez and produced by Guillermo del Toro, Mar Targarona, Alvaro Augustin and Joaquin Padro.

"Guillermo really has shepherded this project through and the director is a truly brilliant discovery," Berney said.

The movie centers on Laura, who purchases her beloved childhood orphanage with dreams of restoring and reopening the long-abandoned facility as a place for disabled children. Once there, she discovers that the new environment awakens her son's imagination, but the ongoing fantasy games he plays with an invisible friend quickly turn into something more disturbing.

"Bayona has captured some very moody and terrifying footage that just blew me away," del Toro said. "After my great experience with Bob and his team on 'Pan's Labyrinth,' I knew that 'The Orphanage' was a perfect film for them to release. I know they will give our film the attention and care it needs to break out."

The deal was brokered on behalf of Picturehouse by Berney, by Carole Baraton at Wild Bunch and New Line execs Alexandra Rossi, vp European and Latin American acquisitions/production, and Carolyn Blackwood, executive vp business affairs and co-productions.