Fest slows pace, but expects to pick up
PARK CITY — And on the fifth day, Sundance rested.
The Sundance Film Festival took a much-deserved breather Monday, following an unprecedented six acquisitions the day before.
Festival vets couldn’t remember a January in which so many films sold so soon. However, there was fair warning when the festival released its programming schedule earlier this month. Buyers immediately noted the festival seemed to be front-loaded, with almost all of the buzz titles slated for opening weekend.
There’s a few more to come, including Monday’s premieres of competition entries “The Woodsman,” which stars Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick, as well as “We Don’t Live Here Anymore,” starring Naomi Watts, Laura Dern and Mark Ruffalo. After that, however, every film in the dramatic and documentary competitions will have screened at least once.
A handful of American Spectrum selections will bow later in the week, including “Lbs.,” “Control Room,” “Metallica: Some Kind of Monster,” “MVP,” “September Tapes” and “Speak.”
This year’s wham-bam deals also stem from increasingly deal-savvy filmmakers. While Sundance once was renowned for its extended bidding wars, the current trend has both sides coming to the table with specific goals in mind. Once those are met, the deal is done.
In the current climate, a well-prepared and passionate buyer can be more appealing than a slower-moving competitor who might write a bigger check.
Jared Hess’ “Napoleon Dynamite” won the interest of virtually every buyer, with some saying the bids went as high as $4.75 million. In a previous year, it might have sold for more, but the filmmakers liked Fox Searchlight’s $3 million, rapid-fire response — as well as its 1,200-screen commitment.
Walter Salles’ “The Motorcycle Diaries” was another speed demon. The deal with Focus Features closed in less than 24 hours, a rapid trajectory even by Sundance standards.
“Motorcycle Diaries’ ” reps “Alison Thompson with Pathe and Graeme Mason with FilmFour are great,” said Endeavor’s John Lesher, who repped Salles in the deal. “Focus had been following this film for a long time, they didn’t have too many movies this year, and we knew they’d handle it right.”
Zach Braff’s “Garden State” was slow-moving by comparison, with a whopping 36 hours passing between its Friday afternoon screening and Miramax and Fox Searchlight closing its deal in the wee hours of Sunday morning. However, observers remain baffled by the strange bedfellows and will be watching closely to see how the competitors cooperate once the festival ends.
Films expected to find a distributor by the fest’s end include documentaries “Dig!” and “Super Size Me,” with Brad Anderson’s dark and disturbing “The Machinist” starring Christian Bale also drawing early interest.