April 27, 2009 / 1:51 AM / 10 years ago

Ghost story scares up interest at Tribeca fest

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.

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

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.

Also on the publicity front, Kirby Dick, who directed 2006’s provocative movie-ratings exploration “This Film Is Not Yet Rated,” unspooled “Outrage,” his look at allegedly closeted politicians.

The Magnolia release looks at what Dick alleges is hypocrisy on the part of legislators, mostly Republicans, who vote and rail against gay rights even as they privately lead homosexual lifestyles. Among those at the screening was former New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey, who stunned the nation in 2004 when he announced he was gay and resigned from office.

Since its inception in 2002, Tribeca has been an important media platform for studios’ spring releases. During recent years, though, the fest has moved to become more of a market, selecting films and reaching out to the industry in the interest of spurring sales.

By Sunday afternoon, with “Eclipse” on the cusp of a deal, it seemed to have gotten its wish.

(Editing by Dean Goodman at Reuters)

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