Fox Searchlight has acquired North American rights to Irish screenwriter-director John Carney's "Once," a popular and critical hit at last month's Sundance Film Festival.

Fox Searchlight has acquired North American rights to Irish screenwriter-director John Carney's "Once," a popular and critical hit at last month's Sundance Film Festival.

Carney shot the $100,000 musical love story on the streets of Dublin with hand-held digital cameras, natural light and live sound. "Once" illustrates how a chance meeting on the street between two like-minded musical souls (the Frames' lead singer Glen Hansard and musician Marketa Irglova) can lead to surprising growth, warmth and music. As the two sing, play and interact, the camera reveals depths of emotion that the characters would not reveal through speech.

The film, which took home the Sundance World Cinema Dramatic Audience Award, didn't sell immediately at the festival, where it built strong buzz, because some distributors were afraid that it was too Irish, local and small, sources said.

Summit Entertainment picked up world rights to the Irish musical at Sundance and sold North American rights to Searchlight for slightly less than $1 million, sources said. Searchlight COO Nancy Utley said she plans to release the film in 2007.

Meanwhile, the Frames' new album, "The Cost," arrives Feb. 20 via Anti-.