EXCLUSIVE: In the auction for North American rights to Paddington 2a bull market has emerged for the animated bear from darkest Peru. Deadline has learned that Warner Bros and Sony are the front-runners in a deal that we expect will bring in north of $30 million for Studiocanal and embattled The Weinstein Company. That doesn’t include P&A. Other bidders including Lionsgate and Global Road are still in the mix, but we expect either Warners or Sony to emerge with the title in an auction that should close within the next 24 hours.

TWC’s share will go toward keeping the company solvent as the board moves toward selling the remaining assets. The sequel to 2014’s $268M worldwide grosser was auctioned because its release date is closing in quickly. TWC is still in discussions with Fortress for $35M in bridge financing, but the Paddington 2 cash will help the company meet its commitments as the board moves to broker a deal for all assets by year’s end. Sources said that Studiocanal and TWC will retain rights to profit participation and involvement in future sequels.

In the wake of the mountain of sexual harassment and assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein — and the implosion of TWC as a result — Paddington 2 has been an obvious plum title for another company. TWC-Dimension released the first film and then picked up P2 for North America under an option. While TWC isn’t letting go of other films that will be bundled as assets in the sale, the family film would have suffered from any association with the scandal-scarred Weinstein.

The sequel to Heyday Films’ and Studiocanal’s 2014 family smash is on its way to a massive UK result — it opened this weekend at 59% above the original. The film has a January 12 release date still locked domestically, which means whoever jumps on it will need to get their marketing muscle in gear fast.

Warner Bros is the long-time home of the film’s producer, David Heyman, and the studio certainly did a strong job on his Harry Potter franchise, as well as Gravity.  But we hear Sony is in hot pursuit. Heyman, incensed by the revelations of Weinstein’s scandalous behavior, recently told Deadline his hope was that ultimately, “The Weinstein Company name is nowhere near Paddington 2.“

He now appears to be getting his wish. The Weinsteins “had absolutely nothing to do with the financing or making of this film,” Heyman earlier told Deadline.

The movie is fully financed by Studiocanal, which is releasing in its own territories. The sequel sees Paul King return to direct from a script he co-wrote with Simon Farnaby. This time around, the marmalade-loving bear gets mixed up in a new adventure while searching for the perfect present for his beloved Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday. Ben Whishaw is again voicing the titular mischief-maker with other returning cast members Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Peter Capaldi and Jim Broadbent. Hugh Grant and Brendan Gleeson are joining the fun this time around. Joanna Lumley and Richard Ayoade have cameos.