In the highest-profile pre-sale during the London market screenings so far, Spanish mini-studio Filmax Group has partnered with Miramax Films on Jaume Balaguero's horror flick Darkness for English-speaking territories including the US.

Miramax snagged the English-language title during the London screenings after a bidding war for US rights on the highly-anticipated second film from the award-winning director of The Nameless (Los Sin Nombre).

The deal was signed in the wee hours Tuesday night following a web of phone calls and faxes between Miramax's New York headquarters, Filmax president Julio Fernandez's Barcelona office, and the London Screenings base of Filmax head of acquisitions and sales Antonia Nava.

The Miramax deal underlines the role of October's London market as a deal-making platform. While international distributors have been keenly eyeing a series of studio-level titles on sale, US buyers have finalised deals for Born Romantic and now Darkness over less than three days.

Miramax's Darkness swoop also confirms Filmax's upward projection as one of Spain's leading production players. A pre-sale on a Spanish film, particularly to the US and other English-speaking markets, is a rarity. Few Spanish directors outside Pedro Almodovar attract as much international attention prior to a shoot as Balaguero has with Darkness.

Prior to the London Screenings, Darkness had already pre-sold to most of the distributors handling Nameless, including StudioCanal for France and Benelux, Ad Movie (South Korea), Mongkol (Thailand), New Action (Taiwan), Malaysia (Suraya), India (Aditya) and the former Yugoslavia (AG Market).

The film is being prepped for an early 2001 shoot in Spain on a budget originally set at $6m but likely to grow with the pre-sales. Sources at Filmax suggest actors from the US, UK and Spain will be sought for the film, the script for which Balaguero also wrote.

Darkness marks the first title on the second-year slate of Filmax's sci-fi and horror Fantastic Factory genre division, which has proven hugely popular among buyers. "The first four films have had an incredible impact," said Filmax's Nava from London.

Those films, which all closed wide sales, include Brian Yuzna's Faust, Jack Sholder's Arachnid and forthcoming films Dagon from Stuart Gordon and Beyond Reanimator from Yuzna.