2ND UPDATE, 2:25 AM PT: After an all night auction, The Weinstein Company is nearing a deal to acquire U.S. rights to the John Carney-directed Can A Song Save Your Life? TWC is now in exclusive negotiations and I’m told they are tying down a deal that will land at around a $7 million minimum guarantee for U.S. rights with a P&A commitment of at least $20 million. They are working on the final numbers in what is a very strong deal for the film backed by Exclusive Media and Sycamore, and Exclusive is nearly done auctioning off the remaining foreign countries. There are going to be a lot of tired deal makers roaming around Toronto Sunday, as CAA, UTA and WME were all in the mix making all of these deals, with several bidders in the mix until the wee hours. These kinds of auctions don’t happen that often anymore, but Carney made an exceptional movie with breakout potential if it is handled right and I’m not surprised so many distributors sparked to it the way they did. Coming in, it looked like Can A Song Save Your Life? and Bad Words would be the big money titles and they didn’t disappoint. Both went in big deals within hours of their premieres. There are still a lot of available titles and it will be interesting to see if the aggressive bidding continues with other pictures that premiere over the next few days.
UPDATE, 1:40 AM PT: The bidding is still going, but it is down to The Weinstein Company and Lionsgate on John Carney’s Can A Song Save Your Life? The sellers have been trying to get to an $8 million minimum guarantee, and at 4:43 AM Toronto time, I have no idea when this one is going to wrap up. But it will go down as one of the more memorable film auctions in recent Toronto Festivals.
EARLIER EXCLUSIVE, Sept 7, 9:20 PDT: At least four bids surpassing the $7 million minimum guarantee mark have been made for U.S. rights to Can A Song Save Your Life?, after this gem of a film premiered tonight at the Princess Of Wales Theater. Written and directed by Once helmer John Carney, the film played through the roof. Buyers skipped the after party because they went off to crunch the numbers as soon as the lights went up. Bidding started right away, with The Weinstein Company, Summit/Lionsgate, CBS Films, Fox Searchlight in the mix along with A24, I hear. The latter bidder bowed out at $7 million.
Carney, an Irish helmer with a lot of heart, has infused his movie with the same love of music that made Once so charming, but here he has the star power and broader scope to reach a crossover audience. The film stars Keira Knightley as a songwriter who comes to the U.S. with her singer boyfriend (Maroon 5 front man Adam Levine) only to catch him philandering with a record company exec. When she plays her painful song for a bar crowd, it’s heard by a former hotshot record exec (Mark Ruffalo) who helps the singer and heals his own shattered life in the process. It’s got the sentimental moments of a movie like Love Actually and the soundtrack is very strong. The cast, which also includes Hailee Steinfeld, Catherine Keener, James Corden, Mos Def and Cee-Lo, is adorable. Given that Levine makes his screen starring debut and Cee-Lo is prominent in the film, it would seem to be a natural cross promotion opportunity with their popular show The Voice.
Sony developed the script and had some first look provision, but I am getting the impression that it would have come back to Sony only if the numbers hadn’t escalated the way they are doing. This could be a late nighter, but it seems certain to eclipse the $7 million that Focus Features paid this morning for the Jason Bateman-directed comedy Bad Words, since that deal covered world rights. Stay tuned.