EXCLUSIVE: In the third huge pre-buy deal this year,bayona Focus Features is committing $20 million in P&A to release A Monster Calls, a film that will be financed by River Road Entertainment and Participant Media. The film will be the next directed by Juan Antonio Bayona, who helmed the tsunami film The Impossible and made his breakthrough on The Orphanage. The film is an adaptation of the children’s fantasy novel series by Patrick Ness and it is already on course to begin production this fall for release in 2016. The novel focuses on a young lad who tries to deal with school bullies and his mother’s illness by losing himself into a vivid world of monsters and fairy tales. Ness adapted his own prize-winning work.

monstercIn the configuration taking shape, Focus releases the film wide domestically and Universal Pictures International releases in Spain. Lionsgate International is a key piece of this puzzle, as Patrick Washsberger’s troops will sell all other world territories. Producing is Belen Atienza, who teamed with Bayona on his films and produced Pan’s Labyrinth. Bill Pohlad’s River Road is coming off the Best Picture for 12 Years A Slave, and I’m told Pohlad and his team will exec produce with Participant Media’s Jeff Skoll and his team, along with Wachsberger.

This becomes the first major deal for Peter Schlessel since James Schamus and Andrew Karpen left Focus and Schlessel merged his FilmDistrict shingle in the company and took the reins. While Bayona is separately attached to helm a sequel to the zombie saga World War Z 2, this film will come first.

mcallsWorth noting that this is the third monster deal like this brokered by CAA, which was behind the $7 million U.S. rights deal made by The Weinstein Company for The Imitation Game at Berlin, and also the $7 million U.S. rights deal that Lionsgate made for American Ultra days ago. That agency, which had a hand in packaging Best Picture winner 12 Years A Slave and nominees Dallas Buyers Club, American Hustle and Her, has clearly found a seam in the current climate where studios have slowed down developing their own projects but need product. They are willing to invest in fully fleshed out packages that have outside financing or co-financing and are ready to go into production.

Waiting for confirmation on this, but it shouldn’t be a long wait.