Asserting itself after what has been a largely quiet Cannes on the domestic buying front, Sony Pictures Classics (SPC) has closed deals on two international festival films - taking rights in North America, Australia and New Zealand to Zhang Yang's Quitting from Fortissimo Film Sales and North American rights to French Quinzaine entry Pauline Et Paulette from TF1 International.
SPC also had domestic rights to Zhang Yang's last film Shower which screened at the 1999 Venice and Toronto film festivals. Quitting is likely to have its world premiere at this year's Venice Film Festival.
Pauline Et Paulette is a Belgian/French/Dutch co-production directed by Lieven Debrauwer about an intellectually challenged woman and her three sisters. SPC paid some $500,000 for the film.
SPC, still basking in the glory of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the Taiwanese movie which grossed $120m domestically and won four Academy Awards, celebrated its tenth anniversary with a party on Tuesday night at Cannes.
The latest deals raise the acquisitions ante on Croisette, where until now Miramax Films had been the one making the splashy announcements and multiple acquisitions. Before this double pick-up, SPC chiefs Michael Barker and Tom Bernard had maintained a low profile, announcing only a pre-market buy of Fabien Bielinksy's Argentinian con-artist thriller Nine Queens.
Also coming on strong is USA Films, which acquired North American distribution rights to Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding with an offer thought to be in the region of $900,000. At that price, USA's bid was simply too good to refuse even though the film was financed by IFC Productions which has its own domestic distribution outfit in IFC Films.
Until USA weighed in at the last minute, it was assumed that IFC Films would have the inside track on releasing the film especially since its chief Bob Berney is currently enjoying phenomenal success in the US with Memento (whose box office gross has already crossed $10m).
Adding piquancy to the situation is that the fact that USA's owner Barry Diller was until recently negotiating to buy IFC as part of a portfolio of Cablevision programming networks.
Moonsoon Wedding, a family comedy set at a wedding in New Delhi, is produced by Caroline Baron and Nair and written by Sabrina Dhawan. Its domestic purchase deal was negotiated by Jonathan Sehring and Caroline Kaplan of IFC and Bart Walker of talent agency ICM on behalf of Nair, and by Avy Eschanasy, executive vice president of business affairs on behalf of USA Films. Steven Raphael, senior vice president, acquisitions and production at USA and Amanda Klein, vice president, acquisitions and production, were responsible for bringing the film into the company.
Monsoon Wedding had its world premiere in the market section of Cannes, where it is being sold in international territories by Christa Saredi at Orfeo Films International. Overseas deals in place on the film include those with Ocean in France, Key Films in Italy and Monopole Pathe in Switzerland.