Ghost story scares up interest at Tribeca fest

Sun Apr 26, 2009 9:46pm EDT
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By Steven Zeitchik

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - Seeking its first sales breakout in four years, the Tribeca Film Festival appears to have found it in "The Eclipse," a character drama tinged with supernatural elements.

Several distribution executives turned out Friday for the world premiere of playwright Conor McPherson's follow-up to last year's crime drama "Pride and Glory." Several more made their way to Saturday's press-and-industry screening, setting off a series of sales discussions generally seen only at more acquisition-minded festivals. By Sunday, sales agent Submarine Entertainment seemed likely to close a deal for "Eclipse."

Lionsgate, Magnolia and Roadside were said to be circling the film, which centers on a recently widowed man in a seaside Irish town (Ciaran Hinds) who believes he is seeing ghosts and the relationship he develops with a visiting horror novelist (Iben Hjejle). Aidan Quinn also stars, as a smarmy American writer trying to win Hjejle's affections.

The tightly constructed film is viewed by buyers as a potential word-of-mouth hit along the lines of Thomas McCarthy's "The Visitor" and Guillaume Canet's "Tell No One," both of which rolled out slowly last year but racked up $9.4 million and $6.2 million, respectively, at the domestic box office.

A deal for "Eclipse" would mark the first major sale at Tribeca since 2005, when the Weinstein Co. purchased Duncan Tucker's "Transamerica," which went on to earn $9 million domestically and score an Oscar nomination for star Felicity Huffman.

Buyers also were tracking "Serious Moonlight," which marks the directing debut of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" co-star Cheryl Hines. It was written by murdered actress/filmmaker Adrienne Shelly ("Waitress").

A title on the fest's trademark roster of documentaries, Marshall Curry's Go-Kart tale "Racing Dreams," stirred interest after its Saturday bow, and the relationship drama "Don McKay," Jake Goldberger's directorial debut starring Thomas Haden Church and Elisabeth Shue as former lovers who reconnect, also was in play Sunday afternoon.

Apart from potential sales activity, several high-profile, publicity-oriented debuts came during the weekend. Spike Lee premiered ESPN Films' "Kobe Doin' Work," his game-in-the-life doc about Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, which had a splashy premiere Saturday night at Tribeca's Borough of Manhattan Community College flagship venue.   Continued...

<p>Actor Robert De Niro addresses the audience during a press conference before the start of the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival in New York April 21, 2009. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson</p>