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Sundance: Fox Searchlight Lands 'The Way, Way Back' In Big Deal, 'Austenland' Winds Up At Sony

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by Ken Guidry
January 22, 2013 9:29 AM
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The economy might be in rough shape, but major spending is taking place at the Sundance Film Festival. Relativity has already promised big bucks to promote Joseph Gordon-Levitt's directorial debut "Don Jon's Addiction" with a $25 million P&A commitment on top of a $4 million price tag. But Fox Searchlight may best them as they're reportedly paying upwards of $10 million for "The Descendants" writers Nat Faxon and Jim Rash's directorial debut, "The Way, Way Back," in a deal which THR has just confirmed is closed. The deal for the coming-of-age story, starring Sam Rockwell, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Maya Rudolph, Rob Corddry and more, is definintely one of the big deals of the fest.

Meanwhile, though it was initially reported that FilmDistrict and Executive Releasing would be distributing the Jerusha Hess film “Austenland,” THR reported yesterday that Sony Pictures is actually the studio that has obtained the worldwide distribution rights, with its indie division Sony Pictures Classics distributing the film domestically. The deal is reportedly at around $4 million.

The film premiered at Sundance late last week to relatively positive reviews (we were lukewarm) and it follows “a woman (Keri Russell) obsessed with the BBC production of 'Pride and Prejudice' who travels to an Austen-styled England resort to find her perfect gentleman.” This is the first film directed by Jerusha Hess, who co-wrote “Napoleon Dynamite” and “Nacho Libre” with her husband Jared Hess.

The Weinstein Company continue to make their presence known, snapping up "Concussion" for their offshoot Radius label. Written and directed by Stacie Passon (making her debut), the film is a poignant sexual examination of Abby (Robin Weigert), a forty-something, married, wealthy, lesbian homemaker who, after suffering a blow to the head from getting smacked by her son’s baseball—walks around every corner of her suburban life to confront a mounting desire for something else. She takes on a new project and purchases a pied-à-terre in Manhattan. Walking around the city streets reminds Abby what it feels like to be sexy, and her pent-up libido shakes off its inhibitions. Her newfound desire is not a take-home item, so Abby inaugurates a double life as a high-end escort.... Well, we'll say this, the premise is certainly unique....

In other acquisition news, CNN Films has picked up the distribution and US broadcast rights to the Roger Ebert documentary announced last fall, which is based on his memoir “Life Itself." Steve James ("Hoop Dreams," "The Interrupters") is directing the documentary with Martin Scorsese and Steve Zaillian executive producing. CNN Films, the documentary branch of CNN worldwide, is expected to release the film theatrically before it airs on CNN in 2014. 

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