September 15, 2005

Chappelle’s ‘Block Party’ booked at Toronto

By Gregg Goldstein

TORONTO (Hollywood Reporter) - "Dave Chappelle's Block
Party," a concert documentary revolving around a giant bash the
comedian threw for himself, has been sold at the Toronto
International Film Festival after a bidding war between two

The eventual victor was Rogue Pictures, the genre arm of
Universal Pictures' Focus Features label, which will release
the film next year. Also bidding, sources said, was Paramount
Pictures and its MTV Films arm.

Sources close to the production tagged the complex deal at
$7 million, with the film's major participants receiving a
share of box office revenues as well.

"Block Party" was directed by Michel Gondry -- an Oscar
winner for the screenplay of "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless
Mind," which Focus Features released. The 2004 naighborhood jam
featured performances by the Fugees and Kanye West.

About halfway through the movie's first public screening
Monday night, Rogue began aggressively pursuing the deal for
worldwide rights, including home video rights, and it closed
late Tuesday night. The film's eventual DVD release is expected
to be of particular value since DVD releases of Chappelle's
Comedy Central series "Chappelle's Show" have been big sellers.

Before Toronto, a rougher version of the film was shown to
several distributors, who didn't immediately bite.

"I don't regret showing the earlier version," said producer
Bob Yari, who partnered on the project with Chappelle. "It may
have been misunderstood, but it was done primarily for

By the end of its more polished public unveiling -- which
was still billed as a "work-in-progress" screening in Toronto
-- several major executives saw the crowd's enthusiastic
response, which eased some doubts.

"The movie is incredibly dynamic and tremendously
entertaining," Rogue president David Linde said. "It's a new
kind of entertainment for all kinds of audiences."

Elsewhere, Sony Pictures Classics snapped up North American
rights to Brazilian drama "The House of Sand" on Wednesday,
paying low six figures.

The film chronicles three generations of women (played by
Fernanda Montenegro and her daughter Fernanda Torres) living in
a destitute desert town. The film is directed by Torres'
husband, Andrucha Waddington ("Me, You, Them").

"It's very much a family affair; Fernanda introduced me to
her son-in-law and daughter," said Sony Classics co-president
Michael Barker, whose company has released Montenegro and
Waddington's most notable films, including "Central Station,"
for which Montenegro received an Oscar nomination.

Depending on whether the film becomes Brazil's official
submission for the foreign-language Academy Award, it will be
released in mid-2006 or 2007.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter