January 24, 2006

‘Sleep’ stirs up $6 million Sundance deal

By Anne Thompson and Gregg Goldstein

PARK CITY, Utah (Hollywood Reporter) - Warner Independent
Pictures, the studio behind last year's big Sundance find
"March of the Penguins," has snapped up writer-director Michel
Gondry's "The Science of Sleep" in a $6 million deal.

WIP moved to buy the visually dazzling fantasy starring
Gael Garcia Bernal and Charlotte Gainsbourg right after its
9:30 p.m. screening Sunday and closed the deal at 3 a.m.
Monday. It plans to release the film in the second half of the
year. The deal covers all North American and U.K. rights.

According to sources, Focus Features -- which released
Gondry's "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" -- was one of
a handful of studios that circled the movie, but WIP was so
aggressive in the dealmaking that they weren't seriously
considered by the film's French producer, Gaumont.

Several distributors questioned the lofty $6 million price
tag for what many considered to be an art film. It comes days
after Fox Searchlight paid more than $10 million for the
crowd-pleaser "Little Miss Sunshine." When all the contract
details are known, that deal may surpass the festival's record
of $10.25 million spent by Miramax in 1999 for the box office
bomb "Happy, Texas."

Also Monday, small distributor Arrival Pictures acquired
domestic theatrical rights to Spectrum Sundance entry "La
tragedia de Macario," one of several hard-hitting immigration
dramas at this year's festival. Directed by 23-year-old rookie
Pablo Veliz, who emigrated from Mexico to the U.S., the
Spanish-language movie is planned for a late-spring release.

In other acquisitions activity, Ryan Fleck's addiction
drama "Half Nelson," starring Ryan Gosling, and the puzzle
documentary "Wordplay" are expected to sell imminently. "The
Illusionist," starring Edward Norton, also played well Sunday
night and is being screened "all over Hollywood," according to
one distributor interested in the film.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter