CANNES, FRANCE — Outbidding several companies that specialize in independent films, Sony's Columbia Pictures has plunked down a hefty $11.5 million for North American rights to James Gray's "We Own the Night," a gritty crime drama that made its debut at the festival.
In topping bids from Fox Searchlight, Miramax, Lionsgate and Summit Entertainment, Columbia also committed to an expansive theatrical release this fall and a rich video deal for Gray's movie, the first since his 2000 work, "The Yards."
"We Own the Night," which costars Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Wahlberg, Eva Mendes and Robert Duvall and concerns the Russian mafia in late 1980s New York, was initially developed by Universal Pictures.
When Universal backed out of the project, Todd Wagner and Mark Cuban's 2929 Entertainment financed the film.
"We have tried to pick the movies that somehow don't work for a studio's dynamics but work for us," said Wagner, whose company also backed George Clooney's "Good Night, and Good Luck." "I'll take this almost as a badge of honor."
After "We Own the Night" was shown to virtually every major buyer in Cannes for the film festival, sales agent John Sloss arranged for subsequent screenings in Los Angeles. Sony's Amy Pascal and Jeff Blake watched the movie Friday afternoon, and the deal closed Saturday in Cannes.
-- John Horn