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Sundance 2012: Dealmaking Heats Up for 'Beasts,' 'Arbitrage,' More

UPDATED: Sunday in Park City is shaping up to be a day full of acquisitions mixed with playoff football.

Beasts of the Southern Wild

With the sun up and out over Park City Sunday morning and a day of playoff football ahead, several acquisitions deals for narrative films are moving toward completion. CBS Films finalized a deal to acquire U.S. rights to the drama The Words in the early morning hours. That deal was closed with a $2 million minimum guarantee and a $1.5 million P&A commitment and a potential fall theatrical release. Upstart LD Distribution also has acquired the thriller Black Rock for north of $1 million.

Meanwhile, the dark drama Beasts of the Southern Wild has been juggling multiple suitors since its premiere Friday, though the film’s unique nature makes it likely that it will take some time to hammer out the precise details of a deal with any distributor. Fox Searchlight, The Weinstein Co., Sony Pictures Classics, River Road Entertainment, Oscilloscope and Focus Features have all circled, with SPC looking like the best positioned as of Sunday early afternoon. In recent years, SPC toppers Tom Bernard and Michael Barker have gravitated toward unique directorial vision and gritty subject matter, with such Sundance pickups as Take Shelter (2011), Animal Kingdom (2010) and Frozen River (2008). The company purchased North American rights to the documentary Searching for Sugar Man Friday. River Road screened Beasts in Los Angeles today and Oscilloscope is screening the film in New York tonight.

Arbitrage, a thriller starring Richard Gere and Tim Roth, has several suitors, as well, after a positively received first screening on Saturday. Universal and the Weinstein Co. have shown serious interest, as has Relativity. All three companies are having L.A. screenings of the film set up for today, indicating that no deal will be in place before late tonight. Also, SPC is slated to screen the film tonight or on Monday. WME Global is repping sales on both Beasts and Arbitrage.

The Friday premiere Celeste and Jesse Forever has four offers on it, while Ice-T’s debut documentary The Art of Rap, which first played Saturday afternoon, is also fielding serious interest. Both films are repped by UTA.

Buyers are moving a little more cautiously on a few other high-profile titles.

Red Lights, Rodrigo Cortes' follow-up to his 2010 Sundance hit Buried, received some mixed reactions, especially to the film's ending, but Millennium Entertainment has expressed some interest. Robot & Frank, a dramatic comedy starring Frank Langella and a robot voiced by Peter Sarsgaard, received a warm reception at its Saturday premiere. That film is being repped by ICM. 

Stephen Frears' gambling dramedy Lay the Favorite features a star-studded cast (Bruce Willis, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Rebecca Hall) and has moments of broad comedy, but reaction after the Eccles Theatre premiere on Saturday was not overwhelmingly positive. Execs including Summit/Lionsgate's Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger and Millennium's Bill Lee were in attendance at the premiere on Saturday. The commercial playability will likely lead to a big-ticket deal. 


Email: Jay.Fernandez@THR.com; Daniel.Miller@THR.com

Twitter: @Writer730@DanielNMiller