Sony PicturesClassics has picked up US rights to David Cronenberg's Cannes competitionentry Spider, payingbetween $1.5m and $2m. The deal was finalized with Spider's sales agent Capitol Films onlyyesterday, according to SPC co-president Tom Bernard.

Bernard told ScreenDaily he plans on releasing the $12m Canada/UKcoproduction for an Oscar-nomination run at Christmas. "It's acontender," said Bernard. "It's an important film from animportant director."

The psychological thriller features Ralf Fiennes as amental patient haunted by his past. Released to a half-way house, he begins tounravel the mystery behind the murder of his mother only to discover thatthe truth is much worse than his memory.

ScreenInternational'sown review, published during this year's Cannes Film Festival-where the film surprised many seasoned critics by walking away without a singleprize to its name - praised Spider for its "uncompromising look at a mind consumed in aprocess otherwise invisible to the outside world," and singled out theperformances of both Fiennes and Miranda Richardson, who plays three roles.

"The filmcaptures the 'unbeautiful mind' of the title character, exposingthe true face of psychosis and providing a necessary counterpoint to thefeelgood Oscar winner [A Beautiful Mind]," noted Screen in its review.

Bernard pointedto five potential Academy Award nominations: for director David Cronenberg,lead actor Ralph Fiennes, lead actress Miranda Richardson, Gabriel Byrne forsupporting actor and a potential best adapted screenplay nod for PatrickMcGrath, who adapted his novel of the same name.

Negotiations forthe rights started in Cannes and Bernard says he closed the deal on June 12thwith Jane Barclay of Capitol Films, the London-based sales agency which steppedin at the eleventh hour to rescue the film's financing after originalbacker Cobalt Media dropped out.

As part of itsfinancing, Spider waspre-sold to at least three territories, to Metropolitan Filmexport in France,to Alliance Atlantis in Canada and to Helkon SK in the UK. Other territoriessold include Benelux (Les Films D'Elysee), Czech Republic (Hollywood Classics),Greece (Odeon), Iceland (Myndform), Israel (Noah Communications), Japan (MediaSuits), Poland (Monolith), Portugal (Lusomundo), Russia (Central Partnership),Scandinavia (Scanbox), Spain (Manga Films), Thailand (Digital Rights Pictures),and former Yugoslavia (Discovery).