EXCLUSIVE: STX has won U.S. rights to comedy Pomsstarring Diane Keaton, Jacki Weaver and Pam Grier, following a competitive multi-day auction. The deal is understood to be in the $8-9M range, making it the biggest deal so far at this year’s AFM.

Keaton plays a woman who moves into a retirement home and recruits the residents there to form a cheerleading squad. Zara Hayes directs. Currently in post-production, a wide theatrical release is expected next year. The three minutes of footage showing here and the acclaimed cast clearly convinced buyers of its solid grey-pound-crossover potential. MGM and Lionsgate were also understood to be in the frame for this one.

This is the second year in a row that a Keaton comedy targeted at a mature audience has fired up AFM distributors. Last year, Keaton-starrer Book Club proved to be the hot ticket in Santa Monica, selling for $10M to Paramount. That film has taken around $90M worldwide. While it used to be that action stars were the ones driving the deals at AFM, Oscar-winner Keaton is once again at the center of the market’s biggest deal to date. Poms even has one of the Book Club producers aboard: Alex Saks. Also starring are Celia Weston, Phyllis Somerville, Alisha Boe, Charlie Tahan, Bruce McGill, and Rhea Perlman.

Endeavor Content is selling along with eOne’s Sierra/Affinity, which is producing and financing. Sierra and STX most recently teamed up on Jessica Chastain starrer Molly’s Game, which found favour with critics and took $60M global. 

Hayes, best known for her documentary The Battle Of The Sexes, directs from a script written by Shane Atkinson based on a story by Hayes and Atkinson. Producing are Kelly McCormick (Atomic Blonde); Alex Saks (Book Club); Mad as Birds Films’ Andy Evans, Ade Shannon, Celyn Jones, and Sean Marley; and Rose Pictures’ Rose Ganguzza. Keaton, Sierra/Affinity’s Nick Meyer and Marc Schaberg, and Will Greenfield are executive producing.

AFM has been sluggish on the dealmaking front so far, but this one and the sizeable deals on the George Miller movie have injected some life into proceedings.