Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Here’s the latest of what deal makers are calling an unprecedented volume of distribution pacts for Toronto International Film Festival fare: Focus Features has acquired distribution rights to Beginners, the film that writer/director Mike Mills unveiled on September 11th. Focus acquired worldwide rights, excluding Canada, France, Australia, Scandinavia and Benelux. The deal was brokered by UTA Independent Film Group, which packaged the film. I’m told the big part of the deal is a P&A commitment of around $2 million, with a generous gross corridor for the filmmakers. There were five other offers on the table for domestic distribution.

Ewan McGregor stars as a man distracted from his promising new relationship with Anna (Inglourious Basterds star Melanie Laurent) by memories of his deceased parents. He was especially close to his father (Christopher Plummer) who dropped a bombshell on his son by announcing he was gay, and lived the remainder of his life out and proud. His son wonders if he’ll ever be able to be that happy. Mills previously directed the indie Thumbsucker.

Pic was produced by Olympus Pictures and Parts and Labor, with Leslie Urdang, Dean Vanech, Miranda de Pencier, Lars Knudsen and Jay Van Hoy the producers. Olympus’ Urdang and Vanech also financed the Nicole Kidman-starrer Rabbit Hole, which was acquired by Lionsgate.

Aside from domestic distribution, Focus Features International will be the film’s overseas sales agent, save for those excluded territories that were sold by UTA at the festival. Those territorial deals brought just under $2 million to the filmmakers.

It’s the first Toronto buy for Focus, which also unveiled the Anna Boden/Ryan Fleck-directed It’s Kind of A Funny Story at the fest. It’s the first festival acquisition for Focus since it bought the Lisa Cholodenko-directed The Kids Are All Right at Sundance and watched it gross north of $20 million and emerge as an awards season contender. It’s unclear when Focus will release Beginners, but it won’t likely be in the first quarter of next year. Focus has the Kevin Macdonald-directed Roman-era drama The Eagle, the Joe Wright-directed Hanna, the Cary Fukunaga-directed Jane Eyre and the Lone Scherfig-directed Anne Hathaway-starrer One Day all slotted. I’m told the picture is likely headed for a late spring launch, in a track similar to the one followed by The Kids Are All Right.

Below is an interview with Mills that gives the film some context:

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