Women + history + religion + controversy = big box-office in Europe

Agora finally has an American distributor, and the film may have its box-office success in its native Spain to thank for that.

Directed by Alejandro Amenábar, the film, which depicts the growing clash between the female philosopher Hypatia and the “unstoppable surge of the Christians” in 4th-century Alexandria, premiered at Cannes in May, and was then shown in a slightly shorter form at the Toronto film festival in September — but no American distributors picked it up.

They began to get interested, however, when the film opened in Spain last month and began raking in the dough; its box-office total there currently stands at about $30 million. Fox and Sony were said to be eyeing the film two weeks ago, but today it was announced that Newmarket — the distributor behind Memento (2000), The Passion of the Christ (2004) and the upcoming Charles Darwin biopic Creation — had sealed the deal.

Newmarket plans to release the film in “the first half of 2010.”

In quasi-related news, Pope Joan also opened in Europe a few weeks ago — specifically, in Germany — and it topped the box-office chart there in its first week, at least.

Based on a novel about a 9th-century woman who supposedly ruled the Catholic church while disguised as a man, the film version of Pope Joan was first announced three years ago, but it went on to have a somewhat troubled production history; among other things, its original director and lead actress were replaced, and there was some debate as to whether or not John Goodman would play Pope Sergius. (In the end, he did.)

According to the IMDb, the film will be distributed in the United States by Summit Entertainment, the company behind the Twilight phenomenon, and in Canada by Seville Pictures.

You can watch trailers for the two films below:

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  • RC

    How interesting – haven't heard much about these at all – that's interesting about their European box offices, because I feel like these films would fall pretty flat in the US…not sure exactly what that says.