No biz like snow biz

As Sundance fest winds down, big deals heat up

PARK CITY — Execs began packing their bags — many of them stuffed with pics — at Sundance on Wednesday as the fest began to wind down and further deals closed behind condo doors.

Universal specialty arm Focus Features, headed by David Linde and James Schamus, made its first acquisition of the fest, picking up North American rights to dramatic competition entry “On a Clear Day” for around $2 million from Cinetic Media and sales agent Icon Entertainment Intl. Icon Film Distribution is releasing pic in the U.K. and Australia.

Focus had been in the mix on the bidding for a number of high-profile films.

On the heels of grabbing this year’s biggest headlines so far at Sundance — by acquiring the John Singleton-produced “Hustle & Flow” with MTV Films — Paramount was said to be one of several buyers, along with Lions Gate and Focus, interested in Slamdance opener “Mad Hot Ballroom.”

Being sold here by Cinetic, the dance docu “Mad Hot” had its second Park City screening Tuesday and unexpectedly kicked up a bidding war.

Popular on Variety

Focus’ “Clear Day” is Gaby Dellal’s feature debut. Starring Peter Mullan and Brenda Blethyn, pic centers on a 55-year-old man, laid off from his job in a Glasgow shipyard, who seeks to soothe his strained familial relations and shore up his self-confidence by swimming the English Channel. Pic opened the fest for Sundance in Salt Lake City, while Don Roos’ “Happy Endings” unspooled in Park City.

“Clear Day” is the only British feature in competition at this year’s fest.

After “Hustle,” Noah Baumbach’s “The Squid and the Whale” was perhaps the pic most hotly tipped for a Park City pickup. But while “Hustle” closed mere hours after it made its Park City preem over the weekend, “Squid” was taking a bit longer to close; a bevy of buyers are interested.

Meanwhile, several buyers including Warner Independent were interested in Amy Sedaris pic “Strangers With Candy,” though there was no deal in place Wednesday. Likewise, Sony Pictures Classics and others were said to be looking at “Brick,” but no one has picked it up.

Other pics were in play: There were numerous offers in on “The Devil and Daniel Johnston,” Jeff Feuerzeig’s docu portrait of a musical genius; Phil Morrison’s “Junebug,” starring Embeth Davidtz and Alessandro Nivola; and Jenny McCarthy starrer “Dirty Love.”

Studio execs in Los Angeles were understood to be taking a look at “Thumbsucker,” being sold at the fest by UTA.

Rupert Murray docu “Unknown White Male,” comedy doc “The Aristocrats” and doc “The Education of Shelby Knox” also were likely to sell by the end of the festival. “Male,” the story of an amnesia victim who is piecing his life back together, has a raft of offers so far from film distribs and TV nets alike. Two studios are vying for remake rights.

More Film

  • Jumbo

    'Jumbo': Film Review

    Tall, dark and handsome? The crush that Noémie Merlant’s character, Jeanne, explores in “Jumbo” is one out of three: a 25-foot-tall carnival ride who seduces the amusement park janitor as she spit-cleans his bulbs. During the night shift, Jumbo literally lights up Jeanne’s life, and while he’s not handsome in the traditional sense — especially [...]

  • Ironbark

    'Ironbark': Film Review

    Movie spies typically fall into one of two categories. There are the butterflies — flamboyant secret agents like James Bond or “Atomic Blonde” who behave as conspicuously as possible. And then there are the moth-like kind, who do their best to blend in. The character Benedict Cumberbatch plays in “Ironbark” belongs to the latter variety, [...]

  • Miss Juneteenth review

    'Miss Juneteenth': Film Review

    “Miss Juneteenth” richly captures the slow pace of ebbing small-town Texas life, even if you might wish there were a bit more narrative momentum to pick up the slack in writer-director Channing Godfrey Peoples’ first feature. She’s got a very relatable heroine in Nicole Beharie’s Turquoise, an erstwhile local beauty queen whose crown proved the [...]

  • Never Rarely Sometimes Always

    'Never Rarely Sometimes Always': Film Review

    The basic plot of “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” is easy enough to describe. A 17-year-old girl named Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) winds up pregnant in a small Pennsylvania town. Prevented from seeking an abortion by the state’s parental consent laws, she takes off for New York City with her cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder), where what they’d [...]

  • Kathy Valentine, Belinda Carlisle, Jane Wiedlin,

    The Go-Go's on Sundance Doc: Neither 'America's Sweethearts' Nor 'Drug-Crazed Demons'

    Some people might come to a Go-Go’s documentary wanting a purely fun, bubbly experience, based on the effervescence the group projected at its breakthrough peak in the early ’80s. Others might want a sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll tell-all, if they’re aware of the tensions and bad habits that led the all-female band to [...]

  • 'The Dissident' Review: Powerful Look at

    'The Dissident': Film Review

    It’s become common, if not cliché, for a critic reviewing a documentary about a turbulent real-world event to write something like, “It exerts the power of a true-life thriller!” Well, make no mistake: “The Dissident” does. Directed by Bryan Fogel, who in 2017 made the Oscar-winning “Icarus” (about the Russian doping of Olympic athletes), the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content