Sony group playing pickup

'Outpost' latest in acquisition surge

Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions Group has picked up distribution rights in the U.S. and eight other territories to the horror film "Outpost" from Content Film International. It's the latest in a surge of activity at SPWAG since Peter Schlessel was named president of the group, which acquires films for the company's platforms, last year.

An aggressive player at May's Festival de Cannes, where it snapped up James Gray's "We Own the Night" for Sony's Columbia Pictures, SPWAG in recent months has gained rights to titles ranging from Milos Forman's period drama "Goya's Ghosts" to "September Dawn," an account of the 1857 Mountain Meadows Massacre starring Jon Voight and Terrence Stamp, to the Paris Hilton vehicle "The Hottie and the Nottie."

Although some of the films are set to receive theatrical distribution in the U.S., all will find a home in Sony's Home Entertainment catalog, augmenting studio-produced titles. In some cases, the company picks up international rights, while in others it just handles domestic.

For example, Slow Hand releasing was already planning a release for "Dawn" when SPWAG picked up DVD rights. Similarly, Samuel Goldwyn Films secured the U.S. theatrical on "Ghosts," produced by Saul Zaentz, while Sony picked up domestic video rights.

Alternately, in the case of "Rise: Blood Hunter," a vampire tale starring Lucy Liu, SPWAG acquired rights from Mandate Pictures and then Goldwyn came aboard for a limited theatrical release through its IDP distribution outfit this month.

Titles that SPWAG has recently acquired that will go direct to DVD include "Hero Wanted," starring Cuba Gooding Jr.; "Bobby Z," an action tale about drug lords starring Paul Walker and Laurence Fishburne; "American Crude," an ensemble comedy featuring Rob Schneider; "The Myth," a fantasy/comedy starring Jackie Chan; and Hilton's "Hottie."

"We do the bulk of our business at Cannes and (the American Film Market), but the truth is we buy year-round. I think we bought 11-12 movies at Cannes, but we're buying about 100 movies a year," said Lara Thompson, senior vp acquisitions and productions, who scouts potential projects along with director of acquisitions Lia Buman.

"Outpost," the group's most recent acquisition, is directed by Steve Barker and stars Ray Stevenson, Julian Wadham and Richard Brake. Set in Eastern Europe, it revolves around a group of mercenaries who discover a secret in an abandoned military bunker. No decision has been made about a theatrical release.

The film is produced by Black Camel Pictures and Cinema One in association with Matador Pictures and Regent Capital. Producers are Arabella Page Croft and Kieran Parker of Black Camel. Nigel Thomas of Cinema One is executive producing.

The deal was negotiated between CFI's Jamie Carmichael and Thompson.