EXCLUSIVE: While we wait for the Sundance acquisitions market to get going, I’ve learned that a coveted title not in the festival has sold in a substantial preemptive deal after a bidding battle. Tom Quinn’s NEON has landed Ammonite, a Francis Lee (God’s Own Country) scripted and directed drama that stars Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan. I’ve heard the deal was $3 million for U.S. and Canada rights, and that several of the top prestige film distributors bid hard for it. Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions already acquired international territories on the film. There was speculation early on that this film might debut at Sundance, but now it is expected to bow at a later festival for an awards season release. NEON would not comment.
NEON is in the middle of the Best Picture and Best International Film Oscar race with Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite, a film that opened in Cannes and became the first Korean film to win the Palm d’Or. The film has grossed $144 million worldwide, with a remarkable $29 million U.S., a strong showing for a foreign language film.
Ammonite is set in 1800s England, as acclaimed but unrecognized fossil hunter Mary Anning (Winslet) works alone on the rugged Southern coastline. With the days of her famed discoveries behind her, she now searches for common fossils to sell to tourists to support herself and her ailing mother. When a wealthy visitor entrusts Mary with the care of his wife Charlotte (Ronan), she cannot afford to turn his offer down. Proud and relentlessly passionate about her work, Mary initially clashes with her unwelcome guest, but despite the distance between their social class and personalities, an intense bond begins to develop, compelling the two women to determine the true nature of their relationship.
A See-Saw Films production, Ammonite is produced by Iain Canning & Emile Sherman (The King’s Speech and Lion), and Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly (Lady Macbeth). Winslet is exec producer as are Simon Gillis, Mary Burke, Rose Garnett and Zygi Kamasa. See-Saw developed it with BBC Films and the BFI.
CAA Media Finance brokered the deal with Cross City Films, See-Saw’s in-house sales arm that sold international rights at Berlin last year.