TIFF Scorecard: Weinstein Gets ‘Submarine’; Lionsgate, Roadside Buy ‘Conspirator’

After a two day bidding competition, The Weinstein Company bought a popular British comedy, “Submarine,” for $1 million; Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions bought Redford’s “Conspirator”

The acquisitions continue to heat up at the Toronto Film Festival, even if the dollar figures remain relatively modest.

The Weinstein Company has bought North American distribution rights to "Submarine," a British comedy by writer-director Richard Ayoade.

TWC paid $1 million for the rights, according to an individual close to the deal, which was lower than other bids, but included a strong marketing commitment.

Three other distribution companies were after the title, and the deal closed at 5 am on Wednesday, including Sony, Fox Searchlight and IFC.

Negotiations went on at the Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto.

Ayoade is a hot ticket in the British comedy world, and is poised to be a rising presence on this side of the ocean. Ben Stiller flew in to Toronto present the film.

The film, which debuted two nights ago and set bidders running then, is tonally in the vein of cult hits  "Little Miss Sunshine" or "Bottle Rocket," two cult hits.

David Glasser, COO of The Weinstein Company, told TheWrap: “Between this picture and Dirty Girl, we felt these were two of the best films in the festival. It’s reminiscent of the kind of pictures that Harvey (Weinstein) markets best, and knows how to find the audience. It’s sweet, it’s funny – this filmmaker is an unbelievable talent.”

The deal was handled by Graham Taylor of WME and international sales agents Protagonist Pictures.

Here's the description from the film festival site:

Fifteen-year-old Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts) has two big ambitions: to save his parents’ marriage via carefully plotted intervention and to lose his virginity before his next birthday. Worried that his mom (the always delightful Sally Hawkins) is having an affair with New Age weirdo Graham (Paddy Considine, hilarious here in a comedy hairdo), Oliver monitors his parents’ sex life by charting the dimmer switch in their bedroom. He also forges suggestive love letters from Mom to Dad. His love interest Jordana (a spirited performance by Yasmin Paige) is refreshingly complicated; a self-professed pyromaniac, she supervises Oliver’s journal writing ­– especially the bits about her. When necessary, she orders him to cross things out.

Ayoade is an actor, comedian, writer and director who studied at the University of Cambridge. His television writing-directing credits include The Mighty Boosh, Man to Man with Dean Learner and Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace. He wrote and directed the short film AD/BC: A Rock Opera (04) and directed Arctic Monkeys at the Apollo (08). Submarine (10) is his first feature film.

Meanwhile, Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions announced that they had acquired "The Conspirator," Robert Redford's period drama about a woman charged in the conspiracy to assassinate Abraham Lincoln.

"Conspirator" boasts a mix of heavyweight veterans  such as Robin Wright, Kevin Kline, and Tom Wilkinson, and up-and-comers like  James McAvoy and Justin Long.

Though the movie had been discussed as a likely Oscar contender, it won't be chasing awards glory — at least not this year. Lionsgate and Roadside plan to release it in spring of 2011.

Press release follows:


(Toronto, Sept. 15)  Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions have acquired U.S. distribution rights for The American Film Company’s first feature film, THE CONSPIRATOR, which made its world premiere at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival this week.  The announcement was made jointly today by Lionsgate president of acquisitions and co-productions Jason Constantine, and Roadside Attractions co-presidents Howard Cohen and Eric d'Arbeloff.  A spring 2011 release is planned.

Directed by Robert Redford from a script by James Solomon, THE CONSPIRATOR is the true story of the only woman charged in the conspiracy to assassinate Abraham Lincoln, and the young attorney forced to defend her.  Robin Wright and James McAvoy star along with a cast that also features Kevin Kline, Evan Rachel Wood, Tom Wilkinson, Alexis Bledel, Danny Huston, Justin Long, Colm Meaney and James Badge Dale.  The film was produced by The American Film Company.

“There are few American directors as gifted in cinematic storytelling as Robert Redford,” said Cohen, “and with THE CONSPIRATOR, he has chosen a fascinating, little-known tale that illuminates a new perspective on a turning point of history.  The American Film Company is off to a tremendous start with their first feature, and we are honored to be partnered with them.”

Robert Redford said, “Being invited to the Toronto International Film Festival was a pleasure, and now also to partner with distinguished distributors, Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions, is an even greater pleasure.”

Joe Ricketts, CEO of The American Film Company, added, "All of us at The American Film Company are thrilled that after working with an iconic director and incredibly talented actors, we now will partner with the seasoned distribution and marketing teams at Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions."

As part of the agreement, EPIX, the premium entertainment channel, video-on-demand and online service, will hold the exclusive premium pay television window distribution rights to the film.

Commenting on the film and the agreement, Mark Greenberg, president and CEO of EPIX said, "Robert Redford is an incredible director who has an ability to bring powerful stories to life in film and we are excited to have this film as part of our line-up of films on EPIX in the premium pay television window."

A riveting thriller, THE CONSPIRATOR tells the powerful story of a woman who would do anything to protect her family, and the man who risked everything to save her.  In the wake of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, seven men and one woman are arrested and charged with conspiring to kill the President, Vice President, and Secretary of State. The lone woman charged, Mary Surratt (Wright) owns a boarding house where John Wilkes Booth (Toby Kebbell) and others met and planned the simultaneous attacks.  Against the ominous back-drop of post-Civil War Washington, newly-minted lawyer, Frederick Aiken (McAvoy), a 28-year-old Union war-hero, reluctantly agrees to defend Surratt before a military tribunal. Aiken realizes his client may be innocent and that she is being used as bait and hostage in order to capture the only conspirator to have escaped a massive manhunt, her own son, John (Johnny Simmons).  As the nation turns against her, Surratt is forced to rely on Aiken to uncover the truth and save her life.

CAA, which represents Redford, Wright, Wood, Bledel, and Long, and Steve Monas of Business Affairs, Inc., brokered the deal on behalf of The American Film Company with Constantine of Lionsgate and Cohen and attorney Greg Bernstein on behalf of Roadside Attractions.