You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Schussing over highs and lows of Sundance

MERITS AND DEMERITS: Producer Lawrence Bender received two awards — one official, the other less so — at Sundance.

“Fresh,” which offers a youthful perspective on inner-city violence, was cited with the Filmmakers Award. And, on a more personal note, Bender received the Slopes Award, given annually to the industry light who sustains the first skiing injury at the event. He hobbled to accept it on crutches.

There were other winners in unrecognized categories worth mentioning. Ilka Jarvilaturi and Paul Kolsby won the Guerrilla Marketing prize for unbridled creativity promoting the Estonian pic “Darkness in Talinn.” Their tongue-in-cheek handouts and posters promised such things as “starring Sly Estallone and Sharon Estone” in the cast.

And let’s not forget actress Alicia Witt, who won a special acting citation for her work in “Fun.” She ascended the stage and frantically proceeded to thank, among others, her agent and publicist. Producer/director Rafal Zielinski and the screenwriter somehow got ignored. Oh, well, movies just happen out of the ether.

And while others were proving the Newtonian theory that it’s impossible to cram 750 people into a condo for a party, one host was worthy of double honors. RHH/Albert G. Ruben & Film Finances Ltd., along with Fred Milstein and Tulchin/Ades Entertainment, not only received best credited party honors, the consortium also had the best assist to indies. In addition to the usual refreshment, one could wander up to the top floor and receive a professional massage for those weary bones.

SOMETHING IN DISGUISE: Paul Zehrer, writer/director of the in-competition “Blessing,” was just one of many who received their first brush with industry flattery. His heart-rending coming-of-age, rural-set debut drama not only got distribution nibbles but had Zehrer dodging and hob-nobbing with agents, managers and producers.

“I was really taken aback when people came up to me, obviously emotionally moved by the picture,” Zehrer said. “Then some said, we’d like to rep you or could we talk about making your next film. I’ve never had that before and it’s putting a lot of unexpected pressure on me. It’s taking a lot to just hold back and consider options.”

However, he’s already proved himself a shrewd strategist. He first screened the film last fall at New York’s Independent Feature Market. He said the sole purpose was to get it seen by Sundance organizers and into the festival. Then he sat on the hit of that market. Acquisitors wanted to screen it and fest directors wanted it in their program. But he turned aside all offers so “Blessing” could receive its first major exposure at Park City.

The rest is yet to be written.

ONE HECK OF A MOLEHILL: If you believe Sundance is all high art, guess again. One of the most talked about entries was the sexually provocative “Sirens” from Australia, which features Sam Neill and Elle Macpherson and, appropriately, is on Miramax’s upcoming release sked.

Following its premiere, the town was abuzz with decidedly un-Kaelish commentary, such as, “Did you ever expect her (Macpherson) to have such large breasts?” Elle just wrinkled her nose, but director John Duigan responded to questions about a male masturbation scene with, “He’s only playing with himself and there’s a world of difference.”

FIRING BLANKS: One joke eliciting a tremor of laughs notes how Disney got so shook up in the quake that its new telephone prefix was changed to 911. That may account for last weekend’s jostling in box office reporting. The company low-balled such entries as “Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit” and “Tombstone.”

Buena Vista had the Western, for instance, with a three-day gross of slightly more than $ 2.9 million. When queried about the number, an exec insisted the pic fell flat on Sunday.

However, one tracking agency — monitoring about 1,300 of its 1,817 playdates — reckoned on more than $ 3 million from the sampled theaters alone. But profit participants need not tremble. On Friday, Disney recalculated and “Tombstone” was resurrected to $ 3.3 million.

More Film

  • 'Captain Marvel' Lands Day-and-Date China Release

    'Captain Marvel' Lands Day-And-Date China Release

    Marvel Studios’ hotly-anticipated Brie Larson-starring blockbuster “Captain Marvel” will hit Chinese theaters on the same day as it debuts in North America. The female-led picture will release on March 8, 2019, International Women’s Day. Written and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, the film tells the story of Carol Danvers, a former fighter pilot who joins [...]

  • Peter Rabbit trailer

    Australia Box Office Recovers, Grows 3.8% in 2018

    Gross theatrical box office in Australia grew by 3.6% in 2018, to $890 million (A$1.25 billion). The score was propelled by a rebound in the performance of the top local films. Data from the Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia published Tuesday showed aggregate cinema revenues recovering after a dip in 2017. While the 2018 [...]

  • Why Megan Mullally Won't Talk Politics

    Q&A: Why Megan Mullally Won't Talk Politics While Hosting the SAG Awards

    Megan Mullally is funny. The “Will & Grace” star can also sing and dance. While she’s not picking up the Oscar hosting gig after the Kevin Hart fiasco, Mullally will take center stage on Sunday, Jan. 27 when she makes her debut as the host of the 25th annual SAG Awards. Variety caught up with [...]

  • Glass trailer

    'Glass': Five Box Office Takeaways From M. Night Shyamalan's Thriller

    With his fifth No. 1 box office opening, M. Night Shyamalan has plenty to celebrate. “Glass,” the conclusion to a trilogy that consists of the 2000 cult hit “Unbreakable” and 2016’s box office sensation “Split,” topped the box office last weekend — though its win comes with a few caveats. James McAvoy reprised his role [...]

  • Berlin: Patra Spanou Picks Up Panorama

    Berlin: Patra Spanou Picks Up Panorama Title 'Family Members' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Patra Spanou has picked up world sales rights to “Los miembros de la familia” (Family Members), which will world premiere in the Berlin Film Festival’s Panorama section. Variety has been given an exclusive first look of the film’s trailer. The film is the second feature from writer/director Mateo Bendesky, and is produced by Agustina Costa [...]

  • Great Point Media, The Development Partnership

    Great Point Media, Development Partnership Join Forces on Slate of Movies

    Great Point Media and The Development Partnership, the development and production arm of the talent agency the Artists Partnership, are joining forces to develop, package, and co-produce multiple films, kicking off with three projects, including “Chasing Agent Freegard,” starring James Norton (“War & Peace”). “Chasing Agent Freegard,” which is being produced by “Captain Phillips” co-producer [...]

  • Berlin: FiGa Acquires ‘Landless,’ Drops ‘Hormigas’

    Berlin: FiGa Acquires ‘Landless,’ Drops ‘Hormigas’ Trailer (EXCLUSIVE)

    Sandro Fiorin’s Miami-based FiGa Films, a leading sales agent on the independent Latin American scene, has announced the acquisition of Brazilian doc “Landless,” and released a trailer for the Costa Rican-Spanish drama “El despertar de las hormigas.” Both features will play at this year’s Berlinale Forum and come from young Latin American filmmakers making their [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content