Buying interest among studiodistributors and leading territorial indies is starting to coalesce around aprized handful of projects being touted here by script packages and promoreels.

Acquisition appetites have beenwhetted by a remake of the 1966 crime caper Gambit, scripted by the Coen brothers, which GrahamKing's Initial Entertainment Group is fully financing with an eye toshooting next year in the UK.

So far no cast has been set.Jennifer Anniston has been attached to the project for some time, but heravailability is yet to be firmed up. If she does sign, she would step intoShirley MacLaine's shoes as a showgirl who teams up with a bumbling butdebonair English cat burglar in a plan to steal a priceless statue from theworld's richest man.

Another hot project stillawaiting cast is Corey Yuen's DOA: Dead Or Alive, a big-screen adaptation of Tecmo fighting videogame that is being produced by Impact Pictures and Constantin and sold throughSummit.

Universal is understood alreadyto have taken a slew of rights on the film, which follows the adventures of anall-female kick-boxing squad comprised of a wrestler, a cast burglar and aJapanese ninja.

Also getting buyers worked upis Marc Forster's comedy project, Stranger Than Fiction, starring Will Ferrell, which is being handled bySenator International. Buyers are excited about the script but concerned thatFerrell's overseas value is still just a fraction of his domestic.

Richard Kelly may have onlydirected one film so far, but the cult popularity of his Donnie Darko particularly in the UK art-house realm, has beenenough to turn up the temperature on Southland Tales. This new project, being put together by UTA, is amusical/comedy set in 2008 where a three-day heat-wave in Los Angelesculminates in a huge Fourth of July party. Due to start shooting early nextyear, it stars Sarah Michelle Gellar currently riding at the top of the NorthAmerican box office chart as the lead in The Grudge.

Beyond films from emerging USfilmmakers, two Chinese projects by Hong Kong stylists have set the AFM alight.Wong Kar-wai's The Lady From Shanghaiis being pursued by at least six sales agents, their interest all the moreheightened by the commitment of Nicole Kidman in the lead role. And TsuiHark's Seven Swords, fromFortissimo, has enough epic martial arts elements to invite comparisons withsuch recent global breakouts as Zhang Yimou's Hero and House Of Flying Daggers.

Although cleverly-edited promoreels invariably leave buyers wanting to see more before committing -particularly at the pre-sales prices quoted by the top sales houses here -nonetheless a few seem to have done the trick in Santa Monica.

Among the consistent talkingpoints have been Stephen Frears' Mrs Henderson Presents, based on just a couple of teasing minutes shown byPathe International on Thursday night, and several of the titles on the Focusslate, including Silent Hillbased on the popular horror-survival video game series of the same name.

Indeed, in the wake, of indie successes such as TheGrudge and Resident Evil, the market can't quite get enough these daysof video game/comic book spin-offs and horror creep-fests. Sure enough Miramaxtreated its buyers to a full screening of Wes Craven's Cursed and footage of Robert Rodriguez' SinCity, with their respective directors inattendance. And guess what: One is a horror film, the other a comic bookadaptation.