An initiallyrestrained Sundance 2005 finally kicked into life yesterday (23) with a flurryof deals closed, led by Paramount Pictures and MTV Films' $16m three-picturedeal with producer John Singleton that includes the acquisition of CraigBrewer's early festival favourite and American Dramatic Competition entry Hustle& Flow.
Meanwhile Miramax was believed to be in final negotiations with CAA last night for multiple territory rights to Richard Shepard's popular Premieres entry The Matador, starring Pierce Brosnan in outrageous form as a world-weary assassin.
The approximately $8m deal is expected to be confirmed today and flies in the face of any notion that Miramax's uncertain future has curtailed its acquisitive ambitions.
In the otherdomestic deal of the day, Warner Independent Pictures and National GeographicFeature Films teamed up to acquire US and UK rights to Luc Jacquet's TheEmperor's Journey (LaMarche de L'Empereur),which plays in the Special Screenings strand.
Meanwhile AndrewHerwitz's The Film Sales Company has taken on all English speaking sales forWorld Dramatic Competition hopeful Live-In Maid and picked up rights excluding US paycable to American Documentary competitor After Innocence.
At time ofwriting buyers were circling a number of hot pictures including: Rian Johnson's noirish debutand American Dramatic Competition entry Brick, which is represented by Cinetic Media;Dan Klores and Ron Berger's American Documentary Competition entry Ring OfFire: The Emile Griffith Story, which has attracted the attention of USA Network, among others; and Tim Kirkman's bittersweet family drama Loggerheads, which is also represented by The FilmSales Company and plays in American Dramatic Competition.
ParamountPictures and MTV Films, its sister company at Viacom, paid $9m for Hustle& Flow, anenergising account of an angst-ridden pimp who tries to achieve his dream ofbecoming a rapper. Terrence Howard, Anthony Anderson and rapper Ludacris star,among others.
Hustle &Flow is the first ofthree pictures that Singleton and producing partner Stephanie Allain willdeliver to the Viacom stable, which paid $3.5m for each of two further, as yetunannounced, projects, although they are not guaranteed theatrical distributionin the deal.
Paramount andMTV Films picked up worldwide rights in all cases. Paramount Classics willlikely distribute Hustle & Flow with MTV Films as it did on Better LuckTomorrow.
ParamountClassics co-presidents David Dinerstein and Ruth Vitale and David Gale of MTVFilms negotiated the deal with UTA's Jeremy Barber, Jeremy Zimmer and RichKlubeck.
Paramount movedin immediately after Saturday night's festival screening. "This is part of theagenda that Tom [Freston, Viacom co-president and co-chief operating officer]has been speaking about over the past six months and Brad [Grey, incomingParamount Pictures chairman] feels the same way," Viacom motion picture groupvice chairman and Paramount chief executive officer Rob Friedman toldScreendaily.
"One of the typeof films we're interested in is lower-cost genre and music-driven movies thatwe can brand across Viacom's sister companies."
"This is a greatfollow-up to Napoleon Dynamite, which we released with Fox Searchlight last summer and has goneon to gross $45m at the domestic box office," added MTV Films senior vicepresident of communications Janet Hall.
"It's great thatwe were able to make the picture and great that people will be able to see it,"Singleton said. "The whole three-picture deal is really cool."
Singleton iscurrently shooting Four Brothers for Paramount in Canada, which is not part of yesterday's deal.Mark Wahlberg and Andre 3000 star in the story of brothers who investigate thesupposed murder of their mother. Lorenzo di Bonaventura is serving as producer.
WarnerIndependent Pictures (WiP) and National Geographic's deal for The Emperor'sJourney was forapproximately $1m. WiP's Andrew Kramer negotiated the deal with Carole Baratonof The Wild Bunch and a domestic release is scheduled for the summer. Canadianrights are still available.
Jacquet's16mm French production charts the journey by a colony of penguins to theirtraditional breeding ground. The crew endured 13 months of Antarctic winterwithout access to sea or air transportation to get the story.
Live-In Maid, which The Film Sales Company has pickedup for English-speaking territories, centres on the bittersweet relationshipbetween two women and was directed by Tim Parsa. Norma Aleandro and NormaArgentina star.
The company willalso represent the wrongful imprisonment documentary After Innocence, which receives its premieres on Jan 24.Showtime has US pay cable rights but all other rights are available.