The distributor reportedly paid around $6m for worldwide rights on Monday night (23) to Ben Lewin’s surprise crowd-pleaser as a number of other deals were poised to close.

CAA was inundated with enquiries immediately after Monday morning’s world premiere which drew a standing ovation. John Hawkes stars as a man in an iron lung who hires a sex surrogate to lose his virginity. Helen Hunt and William H Macy also star.

The fact that Searchlight acquired the film several hours after the world premiere speaks volumes about the distributor’s confidence in The Surrogate both as a targeted commercial play and possibly an awards contender for next season.

Meanwhile CAA and ICM were fielding offers from domestic and international buyers for Robot And Frank and UTA was understood to have received at least two bidders willing to pay what some buyers claimed to be a $1m-plus asking price for Celeste And Jesse Forever. Red Lights, Rodrigo Cortes’ follow-up to his Sundance 2010 hit Buried, was also in the mix and is expected to close shortly.

Talks with WME Global had reached an advanced stage on Beasts Of The Southern Wild, with Searchlight, SPC and one or two others believed to be leading the hunt. WME Global was also entertaining bids from a range of buyers for the financial crisis drama Arbitrage. Buyers were also circling The Other Dream Team.

Gersh is entertaining offers for Liberal Arts, which premiered on Sunday and stars Josh Radnor and Elizabeth Olsen. Stephen Frears’ Lay The Favorite polarised buyers although it remains an attractive VoD play at the very least and according to one acquisition executive was being touted for around $3m. Wild Bunch holds international rights.

Colin Trevorrow’s madcap rom-com Safety Not Guaranteed represented by ICM and Cinectic is understood to be generating buzz among international buyers but Robot And Frank appears to be the most consistently appealing title to the sector since it premiered last Friday. The Surrogate was on the radar too, but now that has been swiped off the table.