×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Blogosphere taps festival buzz

Do buyers take note of flood of film websites?

If a film makes a fest splash but no one’s there to blog it, does it count as buzzworthy?

At Sundance, nail-biting distribs, publicists and filmmakers used to anxiously await the first published reviews, knowing that a positive notice from a major critic could stir or stoke a bidding war for a pic.

This year, it’s the ever-proliferating bloggers — Spout, Cinematical, Movie City News and Hollywood Elsewhere — that have become the instant barometers for how a film plays.

After more than five days of ho-hum acquisitions activity, Focus Features took the first major plunge of the fest, plunking down $10 million on Jan. 22 for “Hamlet 2,” after an all-night bidding war. Pic stars Steve Coogan as a high school drama teacher who tries to save his department by writing a sequel to Shakespeare’s play.

The vibe at the pic’s Jan. 21, 5:30 p.m. screening was excited, but when the first reaction posts hit the blogosphere, Focus execs knew they had something.

“Within minutes, we were seeing the response on the Internet to the screening — it was outrageous,” says Focus prexy James Schamus.

Even before the screening, bloggers had primed the pump. Ain’t It Cool News had been tracking the film, and EW’s Popwatch Blog gushed, calling it “the greatest idea in the history of independent cinema.”

Seven hours later, indieWIRE put up a time-stamped post at 2:25am: “Attendees buzzed about Andrew Fleming’s late Sundance premiere section title, ‘Hamlet 2,’ which insiders agreed should score a deal quickly. It had what by all accounts was a good screening on Tuesday night.”

 Staff members in the Sundance press office say they don’t keep a tally of the number of bloggers attending, but a glance online shows that dozens swarmed to the fest, all posting several times a day.

Bloggers are proud of their outsider image, and their reporting is defined as much by their personalities as their beats. Execs at the fest flip between catch-all blogs like Jeff Well’s Hollywood Elsewhere, which posts his impressions on just about everything concerning movies, including the deals, to GreenCine, which is primarily a cineaste site.

But it’s the bloggers’ quickie assessments of individual films that generates heat — or anger and frustration — these days.

Robert De Niro starrer “What Just Happened?” was initially expected to sell for big bucks. But lukewarm blogger reaction may have had a hand in why a deal hadn’t yet emerged late last week. Premiere film critic Glenn Kenny quickly posted on his blog that the film “isn’t perfect, but it doesn’t trifle.” The Onion’s AV Club blog posted five hours after the Jan 20, 8:30 p.m. screening: “The biggest problem with ‘What Just Happened?’ is that not much actually does happen.”

With new weight being given to the bloggers’ insights, Cinematical’s Kim Voynar says publicists are now hounding the bloggers: “They want your thoughts, and they want it up on the site now.”

Voynar says she and her colleagues felt more pressure this year to make more instant posts on their AOL-owned blog. “We changed up our coverage this year,” she says. “You’re not always able to pump out big reviews, (but) if I feel strongly about a film, I’ll want to post something quickly.”

The value of all this instant buzz remains to be seen. In past years, many a distrib suffered buyer’s remorse after ponying up big bucks for pics that generated enthusiastic responses at a Sundance screening but couldn’t bring that spark to the box office.

The bloggers believe their posts resonate. But at least some in the biz remain wary of the blog fog.

UTA’s Rich Klubeck is skeptical of the bloggers’ ultimate impact.

“At this point, what buyers are really focused on is audience reaction and the type of critical reaction they can use for the marketing of the film,” Klubeck says. “I’ve been in the middle of negotiations, and while bloggers have caused some eye-rolling, it hasn’t seemed to change the course of the sale.”

More Film

  • Kalank

    Film Review: ‘Kalank’

    Events leading to the 1947 Partition of India serve as the forebodingly serious backdrop for the exhaustingly overextended razzmatazz of “Kalank,” writer-director Abhishek Varman’s lavish but ponderous Bollywood extravaganza, which opened in the U.S. on more than 300 screens the same day as its Indian release. Despite the preponderance of sets and costumes spectacular enough [...]

  • WGA Agency Packaging Fight Placeholder Writer

    WGA: 92 Percent of Writers Who Signed Statement of Support Have Fired Agents

    The Writers Guild of America estimated that over 92 percent of their members who support a new code of conduct for talent agencies have fired those representatives. Letters announcing formal termination will be delivered on Monday, the guild said in a late-hitting memo on Thursday, as most agencies will be closed tomorrow in observance of [...]

  • Jimmie Fails Signs With CAA

    'Last Black Man in San Francisco' Star Jimmie Fails Signs With CAA

    Jimmie Fails, co-writer and star of “The Last Black Man in San Francisco,” has signed with CAA for representation. The drama, inspired by Fails’ own life, had its world premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. In his review for Variety, chief film critic Peter Debruge described the film as “a gorgeous and touchingly idealistic [...]

  • Stuck

    Film Review: 'Stuck'

    A stalled New York City subway carriage serves as a toe-tapping musical Petri dish for six socioeconomically diverse souls in the unique stage-to-screen musical adaptation “Stuck.” Sharing a stylistic template with its 2016 left-coast cousin “La La Land” (which it predated Off-Broadway by a good four years), the film’s 2017 copyright suggests a missed opportunity [...]

  • Gay Chorus Deep South

    Why Airbnb Produced Documentary 'Gay Chorus Deep South,' Its First-Ever Film (EXCLUSIVE)

    The latest player to hit the film-festival circuit may be a bit unexpected: Airbnb, the travel-accommodations booking marketplace, developed, financed and produced documentary film “Gay Chorus Deep South,” set to premiere at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival on April 29. It’s the company’s very first feature film. Directed by David Charles Rodrigues, “Gay Chorus Deep [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content