Distribs show interest in 'Murderball,' Singleton's 'Flow'

This article was updated at 9:48 p.m.

PARK CITY — High-level dealmaking and schmoozing is in full force at fest this year.

Agency heads and studio power players, including HBO’s Chris Albrecht, Universal vice chairman Scott Stuber, Endeavor’s Arie Emanuel, producer Brian Grazer, New Line’s Bob Shaye and Toby Emmerich, ICM’s Hal Sadoff, CAA’s Rick Nicita, Manny Nunez and John Ptak as well as actors Pierce Brosnan, Tobey Maguire and Kevin Costner are among those powering up Main Street in high-end black SUVS and emerging to mingle with execs, filmmakers, talent and festgoers at screenings and parties.

Newly installed Paramount chief Brad Grey, who is not in Park City, has also been in talks over the weekend with filmmaker John Singleton to try and make a deal for his pic “Hustle & Flow,” which screens Saturday at the fest. Viacom co-president and COO Tom Freston is expected to fly into the fest tonight to try and clinch a deal for MTV/Paramount Classics with UTA reps for Singleton’s pic. Others interested in pic include TriStar, Newmarket, Miramax, New Line, Fox Searchlight, Warner Independent and Focus.

Pic, financed and produced by John Singleton was written and directed by Craig Brewer. It’s the story of a pimp (Terrence Howard) who suffers a midlife crisis and yearns to become a respected rapper. UTA reps the film.

Meanwhile, Main Street is jammed as festgoers try — and fail — to get into parties. Clout meant nothing in the face of a headset-wearing Sundance volunteer; even Tobey Maguire and his entourage were turned away from a sold-out screening.

“Inside Deep Throat,” Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato’s documentary about the cultural impact of “Deep Throat,” has been the talking point of the fest so far, with a rapturous response for its filmmakers at its screenings this weekend.

Also wowing audiences is “Murderball,” the ThinkFilm doc chronicling the lives of young male quadriplegic athletes who play murderball (aka quad rugby). Pic received standing ovations at screenings over the weekend and several distributors, including MTV Films, has approached ThinkFilm to partner up to co-distribute pic.

Going into the weekend, the temperature in Park City rose as Main Street was overcrowded with cars and people spilling over into traffic as festgoers anticipated a night of frenetic party hopping.

Meanwhile, the fest also gained heat as a number of high-profile pics that screened Friday and Saturday were already in hot pursuit by buyers.

Though no deals had closed, acquisitions execs were circling “The Matador,” “Brick” and the Slamdance title “Mad Hot Ballroom.”

“Matador,” starring Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear and Hope Davis, gained keen interest after the contempo hit man pic first screened Friday. Sources said that the film, sold domestically by CAA, had a number of distribs taking a closer look, including Lions Gate Films, Warner Independent Pictures and TriStar Pictures.

Modern-day film noir “Brick,” from tyro helmer Rian Johnson and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Lukas Haas, seemed close to a deal this weekend. Lions Gate and Focus Features among others were circling “Brick” on Saturday being repped at fest by John Sloss’ Cinetic Media.

Likewise, Slamdance opener “Mad Hot Ballroom” has attracted keen interest from Lions Gate, which came away with the lucrative shark tale “Open Water” a year ago. A ballroom dance doc, “Mad Hot” screened again in Salt Lake City Saturday. Among the distribs clamoring to see the film are Fox Searchlight, New Line, Focus Features, Roadside Attractions, Samuel Goldwyn Films and Miramax, but rep John Sloss at Cinetic Media has insisted that they wait until Tuesday to see the pic in Park City, rather than arrange a private screening.

Slamdance is generally considered an also-ran for fest fare, which is why so many of the indie decision makers have been caught by surprise. Pic’s programming is an early coup for Slamdance’s new fest director Kathleen McInnis, formerly of the Seattle Fest, who was looking for pics to raise Slamdance’s profile as an acquisitions hotbed.

Rumors also blew around Main Street Saturday morning that Lions Gate had eaten up pic “Hard Candy” before its premiere here Sunday, but the talk proved to be untrue. Helmer David Slade’s pic, being repped by William Morris Independent, follows the relationship between a teen girl and a man she meets on the Internet.

Also high on the radar is Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette’s behind the scenes doc about comedians, “The Aristocrats.” Both pics bowed Saturday night.

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