The Disney-backed mini-major plunked down a reported $6 million for The Castle, a quirky Australian comedy made for $500,000. The shocking thing? The film has reportedly been on the market since last May, with virtually every indie distributor having seen it and saying "no thanks." (No word on whether Miramax actually passed previously.)
But rave reviews at a Saturday screening got the buzz going, and after a Monday showing left audiences howling, Miramax, Polygram and LIVE Entertainment all jumped into the bidding.
Miramax's $15 million spending spree over the last two days flies in the face of conventional wisdom coming into the festival, which held that few big-money deals would be inked following last year's feeding frenzy that resulted in millions of dollars in losses. One executive speculated that a dearth of commercial films has made the bidding intense for a few.
Producers of Spark are in discussions with more than five interested distributors; the makers of Slam say they're putting the final touches on a deal that will be announced tomorrow; and Relax...It's Just Sex is reportedly also under intense negotiations.
So, do they have a reasonable shot at making back their money? "It's not just about making money," a Miramax spokesperson said from the company's crowded hospitality suite in Park City, Utah. "It's about wanting to be in business with these filmmakers and wanting to make a relationship over several pictures."
Both The Next Stop, Wonderland and Jerry and Tom deals included options and incentives on future projects. Details were not available about The Castle.
According to Australian journalist Alix Clarke, The Castle is one of the top box-office grossers in that country's cinematic history. And Working Dog Productions, which produced the film, is somewhat of a comedic institution.
Company head Rob Sitch, who directed The Castle, has an MD and a Harvard MBA, and is responsible for the Aussie TV hit Frontline (a tabloid TV spoof) and A River Somewhere, a new travel/fly fishing/comedy documentary series in which he also stars.
Given the background of the players involved, perhaps the shocking thing is not that the film sold for such a price, but why it took so long.