Fox Seachlight has splashed out $4m for the distributionrights to The Deep End in all available worldwideterritories except Italy, where Key Films looks set to release the film aftertabling a pre-emptive bid during this year's Sundance Film Festival.

Cited by this jury for its cinematography, The Deep End stirred up considerable buying interest in Park Cityafter arriving at the festival with the French rights already pre-bought byARP. The stylish psycho-thriller stars British actress Tilda Swinton and marksthe second feature from the directing team of David Siegel and Scott McGeheefollowing their eye-catching debut Suture, (winner also of the Sundance cinematography award back in 1994).

The final sum agreed by Fox for The Deep End marked the biggest single deal signed during the courseof the festival, eclipsing the $3m paid by Fox earlier in the week for worldwiderights to Super Troopers. Bothfilms were represented at Sundance by New York's John Sloss and his SlossLaw Office.

The fact that Fox is not releasing the film in all the majorterritories demonstrates just how aggressive European buyers are becoming onthe acquisition front. Rome-based Key Films, spearheaded by Kermit Smith, islittle more than a year old but already has become a potent force on theinternational scene as both buyer and producer.

Last year, Key Films announced a pact with Mediatrade,Silvio Berlusconi's television and film rights divison, allowing Smith topursue Italian rights to major features knowing that local television rights toany acquisitions would be guaranteed. The deal also extends to any pre-salesand or co-production agreements that Key might be interested in entering.

Key was not the only European player to make its presencefelt at Sundance. ARP added to its tally of Sundance pick-ups by buying JoelHopkins' Jump Tomorrow (evenbefore a US deal on the picture had been agreed with IFC Films) and thengrabbing continental European rights to another American Spectrum entry HaikuTunnel.

European distributors were also known to be interested inRichard Linklater's Waking Life,the ground-breaking animated feature that was being viewed by the likes of SonyPictures Classics and Fox again as a possible worldwide pick-up.