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Sundance 2013: Three Bidders Vie for 'Austenland'

Jerusha Hess' directorial debut premiered at Eccles Theatre on Jan. 18.


PARK CITY -- A trio of bidders are locked in a battle to acquire worldwide rights to the Sundance Film Festival hit Austenland: Exclusive Releasing/FilmDistrict, Fox Searchlight and an undisclosed third distributor.

The comedic spin on Jane Austen from director Jerusha Hess originally sparked five bids, including separate ones from Exclusive and FilmDistrict, but as the counter-offers escalated, Exclusive and FilmDistrict decided to team up on a bid that would have them share worldwide rights 50-50, sources tell THR.

Searchlight, which distributed the Hess-penned 2004 Sundance breakout Napoleon Dynamite, also is said to be very interested in acquiring the film.

Still, a deal cannot be struck until at least Monday, as producer Stephenie Meyer had been unavailable Sunday, according to multiple sources.

UTA, which reps Hess, is brokering the deal that would mark Sundance's second major sale of a narrative feature. IFC Films picked up Michael Winterbottom's Look of Love on Sunday night.

Hess, who co-wrote with husband Jared Hess Napoleon Dynamite as well as the Jack Black starrer Nacho Libre, wrote Austenland with Shannon Hale.

The film follows a woman obsessed with a BBC production of Pride and Prejudice who travels to a Jane Austen-styled English resort to find her perfect gentlemen.

Austenland premiered as part of Sundance's U.S. Dramatic Competition section on Jan. 18 at Eccles Theatre. It stars Keri Russell, JJ Feild, Jennifer Coolidge, Georgia King and James Callis.

Email: Tatiana.Siegel@THR.comDaniel.Miller@THR.com

Twitter: @TatianaSiegel27; @DanielNMiller