In the first big play ofSundance 2006 Fox Searchlight has taken worldwide rights to Little MissSunshine in a deal believed to be inthe region of $10.5m.
The deal is also reported, by the New York Times, to have given the participants 10% of all gross revenues on the film, a total purchase package that hoists this fim into the premier league of Sundance acquisitions.
Husband-and-wife music videodirectors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris made their directorial debut on theCapraesque feature debut which was one of the hottest tickets in town ahead ofits world premiere on Friday, and it lived up to the hype - buyers huddledfuriously immediately after the screening preparing their strategies.
Despite keen interest fromThe Weinstein Company, Focus Features and Paramount's as yet un-renamedclassics division, Fox Searchlight won out following a marathon negotiatingsession at the Riverhorse Cafe on Main Street in Park City.
The Searchlight team waslocked in the room with the film's representatives led by Cinetic Media's John Sloss as talks ran on throughoutthe night and finally concluded around 8am on Saturday.
The studio, back to itshigh-profile acquisitive ways here after Sundance 2004 when it bought NapoleonDynamite and co-purchased GardenState with Miramax, plans to releasethe comedy this summer, adding another picture to what is already its biggestever annual slate. Fox International chiefs will immediately set about devisingthe distribution strategy outside North America.
Starring red-hot GoldenGlobe winner Steve Carell, Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette and Alan Arkin, LittleMiss Sunshine follows a littlegirl's bid to become a beauty queen as she travels to the competition with herhighly dysfunctional family.
"It's both incrediblyfunny and heartbreaking," Fox Searchlight chief Peter Rice said."It's made with such a sure hand for first-time directors and thescreening drew the most rapturous reaction I've ever seen at Sundance."
The Big Beach and Bona FideProductions film was produced by Marc Turtletaub, David Friendly, Peter Saraf,Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa. Jeb Brody and Michael Beugg served as executiveproducers.
"We are absolutelythrilled to be a part of Fox Searchlight and that they will be distributing LittleMiss Sunshine," Dayton andFaris added. "We love what Searchlight has done with other films and lookforward to working together."
Fox Searchlight executivevice president Joseph De Marco and senior vice president of acquisitions TonySafford negotiated the deal with Big Beach's Turtletaub, Saraf and Brody, andCinetic Media on behalf of the filmmakers.
Other buzz titles over thefirst two days included Patrick Creadon's heartwarming New York Times crossworddocumentary Wordplay, and JamesPonsoldt's father-son drama Off The Black starring Nick Nolte and Trevor Morgan, who was one of the leads in theSundance 2004 entry Mean Creek.
Come Early Morning, Joey Lauren Adam's small town portrait starringAshley Judd as a self-loathing woman who tries to rebuild her life, has alsobeen a strong draw for buyers both here and abroad, and a domestic deal isexpected to close within days.
As previously announced(Screendaily, Jan 20), Icon Entertainment International has closed a raft ofsales on Finn Taylor's dark comedy The Darwin Awards prior to the festival. The film premieres onWednesday.