Fuqua's 'Finest' to screen on Friday

PARK CITY, Utah — Opening the Sundance Film Festival with his traditional meet-the-press event, Robert Redford and head programmer Geoffrey Gilmore mused on the fest’s 25 years in business.

“The way we’ve programmed is the same as the first day we started,” Redford said Thursday. “It’s the world that has changed.”

Indeed, questions from the reporters centered on the financial crisis and the new administration. On the former, Redford was somber and cautious. On the latter, he was looking forward to “art and culture returning to the national agenda.”

“And I’m just glad to see the gang that couldn’t shoot straight get out,” he said.

The Sundance pilgrimage started in earnest Wednesday morning, as direct flights from the coasts were packed with execs, filmmakers and flacks.

After the fest’s opener, Adam Elliot’s clay animation pic “Mary and Max,” execs began looking toward today’s high-profile screenings. Antoine Fuqua’s cop thriller “Brooklyn’s Finest,” starring Richard Gere and Ethan Hawke, was on the lips of many. Other buzzed-about offerings for today were the buddy comedy “Humpday” and the urban drama “Push.”

There was mixed emotion for the still-unseen Jim Carrey starrer “I Love You Phillip Morris.” A few execs, still shell-shocked from last year’s tepid screening of the celeb-heavy “What Just Happened?,” were leery. Pic unspools Sunday night.

“It just has to be good,” said Summit’s Michael Schaefer. “If it’s not good, we’ll move on.”

Among the peppering of early deals, HBO nabbed U.S. TV rights to Anders Ostergaard’s docu “Burma VJ” from Submarine Entertainment, while Sony Pictures Classics sealed deals for “Rudo y Cursi” and James Toback’s docu “Tyson.”

Adding to the dwindling list of distribs, Consolidated Pictures Group has planted a flag. The new company was formed by “Bottle Shock” helmer Randall Miller, producer Jody Savin and Leonidas Films’ Timothy Cavanaugh and James Mancuso. With equity in place, the group plans to produce and acquire films, with Sundance the first hunting ground.

Miller and Savin found success in self-distributing “Bottle Shock” after its Sundance 2008 preem. Pic cumed $4.5 million domestically.

“The distribution model for independent films is broken,” said Miller, “and my partners and I determined to do for others what we did for ‘Bottle Shock.’ “

The Sundance Film Festival runs through Jan. 25.

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