By Gregg Goldstein gcgoldstein@yahoo.com

Sony Pictures Classics Nabs North American and Latin American Rights to An Education in $3 Million Deal

By Gregg Goldstein
Sony Pictures Classics has nabbed North American and Latin American rights to An Education in a $3 million deal, following a winding series of deal moves since its Sunday premiere that had Miramax and Fox Searchlight in play.
With all the buzz about Searchlight’s low bid on the 60s coming-of-age saga An Education — first from Anne Thompson‘s blog late Sunday, then from THR late Monday — two important players were overlooked: Miramax and Sony Pictures Classics.
As every big indie exec attended the Sunday night screening of I Love You Phillip Morris starring Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor, at least two titles were in play: the Saturday premiere sex comedy Spread (also co-repped by CAA and Endeavor – read about the possible sales impact from Ashton Kutcher‘s bodacious back end here – it’s expected to close soon) and the CAA-repped Education, which gained unexpected heat from a strong debut that afternoon.
Less than halfway through Morris, Miramax president Daniel Battsek and one of his execs bolted from their seats in the Eccles to pow-wow about Education. Like Searchlight (whose topper Peter Rice was also in the screening), they felt the high-seven-figure asking price was way too high.
By the time the Eccles screening ended, Miramax and Searchlight had backed off. But it was clearly a high priority if they were interested enough to leave one of the biggest marquee-name films of the fest (and a recipient of some great reviews, despite concerns over graphic gay sex scenes and drastic switches in tone).
By Monday night, the film’s agreed-upon market value was now back down to a Sony Pictures Classics-level price range. The company made some uncharacteristically early Sundance moves last year in similar situations when bidding wars failed to erupt, and Education is similar to several period/pedigree films they’ve handled before.
Any of the distributors could do a great marketing job – both Battsek and Rice know the film’s British milieu, that’s for sure – but all have to overcome having a talented cast with no boxoffice pull, taking a bit of a risk on quality. The last Sundance film led by its star Peter Sarsgaard, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, just sold to Peace Arch… a year after its premiere here. But Nick Hornby’s script and Lone Scherfing’s script have drawn acclaim, and young newcomer Carey Mulligan’s breakout performance as a 16-year-old London girl swept off her feet by a British playboy could be marketed well in the right hands.
After buying stayed in a holding pattern, SPC swept into the lead, willing to outbid competitors that usually sign bigger checks. Endgame Entertainment (which recently sold its Chorus Line doc Every Little Step to Sony Classics) and BBC Films produced the film, which is expected to open this fall.

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“Film festivals, for those who don’t know, are not exactly the glitzy red carpet affairs you see on TV. Those do happen, but they’re a tiny part of the festival. The main part of any film festival are the thousands of people with festival passes hanging on lanyards beneath their anoraks, carrying brochures for movies you have never and will never hear of, desperately scrabbling to sell whatever movie it is to buyers from all over the world. Every hotel bar, every cafe, every restaurant is filled to the brim with these people, talking loudly about non-existent deals. The Brits are the worst because most of the British film industry, with a few honourable exceptions, are scam artists and chancers who move around from company to company failing to get anything good made and trying to cast Danny Dyer in anything that moves. I’m seeing guys here who I first met twenty years ago and who are still wearing the same clothes, doing the same job (albeit for a different company) and spinning the same line of bullshit about how THIS movie has Al Pacino or Meryl Streep or George Clooney attached and, whilst that last one didn’t work out, THIS ONE is going to be HUGE. As the day goes on, they start drinking and it all gets ugly and, well, that’s why I’m the guy walking through the Tiergarten with a camera taking pictures of frozen lakes and pretending this isn’t happening.

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