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Sundance 2012: Magnolia Pictures Acquiring Horror Flick 'V/H/S' for North of $1 Million (Exclusive)

UPDATED: The found-footage-within-found-footage creeper is the first horror title to be acquired at the festival this year.


Magnolia Pictures is acquiring North American rights to the horror film V/H/S for slightly more than $1 million after coming out on top in a late-night bidding war that involved three prospective buyers, according to sources. 

The film, which had its premiere in Sundance's Park City at Midnight section on Sunday, will be given a pre-theatrical video-on-demand release as part of Magnolia's Ultra VOD program and it will also receive a significant release in theaters after the 30-day VOD window. Magnet Releasing, Magnolia's genre arm, will distribute the film.

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Sources said that rights to the film in several foreign territories are in play, with offers on the table from potential buyers. V/H/S is the first horror title to be acquired at the 2012 festival. 

Several distributors had expressed interest in the found-footage-within-found-footage creeper, which follows a group of petty criminals who are tasked with finding a VHS tape in a remote and rundown house, only to discover an entire trove of recorded nastiness there. The horror anthology film was helmed by six directors: Adam Wingard, Glenn McQuaid, Radio Silence, David Bruckner, Joe Swanberg and Ti West.

Roxanne Benjamin, Gary Binkow and Brad Miska produced the project, which was written by McQuaid, Bruckner, West, Simon Barrett, Matt Bettinelli-OlpinTyler Gillett, Justin Martinez, Chad Villella and Nicholas Tecosky.

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WME Global's Mark Ankner represented the filmmakers in the sale and Magnolia was represented in-house by Eamonn Bowles and Dori Begley

The film is Magnolia's second acquisition of the festival; it picked up documentary The Queen of Versailles on Friday and is planning a summer theatrical bow with a VOD release to follow.

Magnolia launched its Ultra VOD program in October 2007. The company charges $9.99 or $10.99 (high definition) for its Ultra VOD titles and lowers the price once a film debuts in theaters.

V/H/S was the subject of much talk in Park City on Wednesday after it was reported by various news outlets that two people taking in a Tuesday night screening of the film at Prospector Square Theatre became ill while watching a particularly gruesome portion of movie and were forced to leave the theater. They were treated by paramedics and released. Posting on Twitter early on Wednesday morning, producer Benjamin said that the man and woman were OK and had been suffering from altitude sickness, exhaustion and dehydration.

Wednesday morning, Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions closed a deal to pick up U.S. rights to Arbitrage for a day-and-date theatrical-VOD release, much as the companies did for the 2011 Sundance financial thriller Margin Call. The sale price for Arbitrage was just north of $2 million. Also on Wednesday, Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions and Samuel Goldwyn Films partnered to pick up Robot and Frank for slightly more than $2 million, and IFC Films acquired North American rights to Liberal Arts.

Other recent sales include Red Lights to Millennium Entertainment (U.S. rights, just under $4 million); Celeste and Jesse Forever to Sony Pictures Classics (North American, Latin American, Eastern European rights, around $2 million); For a Good Time, Call… to Focus Features (worldwide rights, $2 million); and Beasts of the Southern Wild to Fox Searchlight, which also grabbed worldwide rights to The Surrogate for just under $6 million Monday.

Sunday, LD Distribution picked up the thriller Black Rock for slightly more than $1 million, and CBS Films acquired the drama The Words for a combined deal valued at $3.5 million. Competition documentary Searching For Sugar Man found a home at SPC on Friday.

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

Twitter: @DanielNMiller; @Writer730