A quartet of narrative acquisition deals were made at Sundance today, with the romantic dramedy "Liberal Arts", the paranormal thriller "Red Lights", the futuristic buddy comedy "Robot & Frank" and the thriller "Arbitrage" all acquiring distribution. So where to begin? Let's start with the biggest deal first and work our way down, shall we?
The biggest pick-up today - monetarily, anyway - was "Red Lights" (review), which stars Robert De Niro as a blind psychic being investigated by a college professor (Sigourney Wevaer) and her assistant (Cillian Murphy), a pair whose M.O. is debunking paranormal phenomena. U.S. rights to the film, which co-stars Elizabeth Olsen and Joely Richardson, were acquired by Millenium Entertainment for just under $4 million, according to The Wrap. It was directed by Rodrigo Cortes, whose last film was the little-seen Sundance darling "Buried" starring Ryan Reynolds.
Next up is "Arbitrage" (review), a thriller about a crooked hedge-fund magnate (Richard Gere) who makes an "unexpected, bloody error" whilst attempting to unload his trading empire before the enormous fraud he's perpetrated comes to light. That film was directed by Nicholas Jarecki in his narrative feature film debut (he was previously best known for writing the script for the critically-panned 2009 Bret Easton Ellis adaptation "The Informers"). U.S. rights were bought for $2.5 million by Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions. The film also stars Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth, Brit Marling and Nate Parker. As indicated by Deadline, the distributors are planning a simultaneous theatrical and VOD release for the film.
"Robot & Frank", meanwhile, was picked up by Sony Worldwide Acquisitions and Samuel Goldwyn for more than $2 million. The two distributors jointly bought distribution rights to North America, Latin America, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, according to Deadline. The film takes place in the near-future and stars Frank Langella as a retired thief whose adult children buy him a robot to help him function in his old age. He then uses the robot as a means to both return to his old criminal ways and capture the romantic attentions of a local librarian (Susan Sarandon). Also starring Liv Tyler, James Marsden, Peter Sarsgaard, Jeremy Sisto and Jeremy Strong, the film was directed by Jacke Schreier in his feature-length helming debut.
Last but not least we have "Liberal Arts", which was written and directed by "How I Met Your Mother" actor Josh Radnor (who won the Audience Award at Sundance 2010 for his dramedy "happythankyoumoreplease"). Radnor also stars in the film, as a 35-year-old man who falls in love with a 19-year-old college student (Elizabeth Olsen) during a trip he takes to attend his former professor's retirement dinner. The film was bought by IFC Films for right around $1 million. It also stars Richard Jenkins, Zac Efron, Allison Janney and Elizabeth Reaser.
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