You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Fox Searchlight on a tear in Sundance

Trio of pacts for distrib

Fox Searchlight emerged as a major dealmaker at the Sundance Film Festival, picking up “Homework” and “Martha Marcy May Marlene” and nabbing remake rights to “The Bengali Detective.”

The three deals added to an increasingly busy pace at the festival, which also saw pickups Monday for “Buck,” “The Ledge,” “Life in a Day,” “Page One,” “Silent House” and “Circumstance.”

Searchlight made a deal for “Homework,” from first-time director Gavin Wiesen and toplining Freddie Highmore and Emma Roberts, late Sunday, while a pact for “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” with this year’s Sundance darling Elizabeth Olsen, was finalized Monday afternoon with Searchlight beating other interested buyers like IFC Films. Sources suggest that Searchlight reportedly paid $3 million for “Homework” and nearly half that ($1.6 million) for “Martha.” The distrib plans to unspool both pics sometime this year. Olsen also stars in horror thriller “Silent House,” which was acquired by Mickey Liddell.

Searchlight has enjoyed a heightened presence at the fest so far this year — it came in with “Win Win” and “Cedar Rapids” — though other distribs have laid claim to their share of higher profile fest pics.

IFC landed two acquisitions Monday, one for sister division Sundance Selects, with Cindy Meehl’s docu “Buck.” The other title, Matthew Chapman’s U.S. feature competish entry “The Ledge,” will go through IFC with a late spring theatrical bow planned.

IFC generally releases films on VOD and in theaters at the same time. Chapman said, “I believe that with the help of IFC Films we will reach the widest audience possible, which was always my intention.”

Mike Cahill’s debut pic “Another Earth,” which preemed Monday afternoon, was welcomed by the crowd with an instant standing ovation. Festgoers murmured it was the breakout film of the fest, with some distribs extending their stay to catch later screenings of the sci-fi romance.

Graham Taylor, head of the WME indie wing that is repping the pic, said: “Sundance has proven we are entering a renaissance era for independent film,” citing talent like Cahill, Andrew Maclean, Dee Rees, Azazel Jacobs and Braden King as some of the fest standouts this year.

Sony Pictures Classics’ acquisition of Morgan Spurlock’s docu “Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Story Ever Sold” on day one of the fest set the tone for docu sales — and even the rights to remake docs as fiction films, as in the case of Searchlight’s buy of remake rights to “The Bengali Detective,” about an unusual Indian private eye.

There was also interest in remake rights for Irish docu “Knuckle,” about two families and their history of bare-knuckle fighting, with HBO nearing a deal for rights to adapt it as a drama series. Rough House Pictures, the shingle run by Jody Hill, Danny McBride and David Gordon Green, will steer the adaptation.

Halfway through the fest, the docus are selling fast despite a volatile theatrical market: National Geographic snapped up domestic rights to Kevin Macdonald’s YouTube experiment pic “Life in a Day” on Monday, days before the pic’s preem on Thursday at the Eccles Theater and on YouTube.

Magnolia Pictures and Participant Media joined forces to acquire domestic rights to “Page One,” the docu that takes a behind-the-scenes look at a year in the New York Times.

After acquiring all domestic rights to James Marsh’s docu “Project Nim,” a first-ever move for HBO Documentary, the cabler is nearing a U.S. theatrical deal with a handful of distributors circling.

A slew of other projects are nearing deals, namely, Irish buddy comedy “The Guard” and Miranda July’s “The Future.” Both premiered last week, emphasizing buyers’ patient approach.

Titles that screened Monday — including Channing Tatum starrer “The Son of No One” and “Salvation Boulevard,” with Pierce Brosnan and Jennifer Connelly — have sparked interest with potential buyers, and are likely to sell over the next few days.

Upcoming preems could motivate such buyers as Focus Features and FilmDistrict, which have been quiet so far.

More Film

  • Aladdin

    China Box Office: 'Aladdin' Opens on Top With $19 Million Weekend

    Disney’s “Aladdin” opened on top of the Chinese box office with a less than magical $18.7 million debut weekend. According to data from Artisan Gateway, the film beat previous chart winner “Detective Pikachu” which earned $7.5 million in its third weekend. That score advances the cumulative China total for “Pikachu” to $83.3 million. The Guy [...]

  • 'Nina Wu' Review: Stylish, Glitchy, Provocative

    Cannes Film Review: 'Nina Wu'

    “They don’t just want to take my body, they want to take my soul!” So runs the overripe line of dialogue that actress Nina Wu (Wu Kexi) has to repeat again and again in “Nina Wu,” the fascinating, glitchy, stylish, and troublesome new film from Taiwanese director Midi Z (“The Road to Mandalay”). Nina practices [...]

  • 'All About Yves" Review: Feeble French

    Cannes Film Review: 'All About Yves'

    Benoit Forgeard’s dorky “All About Yves,” bizarrely chosen as the closing film of 2019’s Directors’ Fortnight selection in Cannes, is literally about an intelligent refrigerator that ascends to Eurovision fame as a rapper. Imagine Spike Jonze’s “Her” played for the cheapest of laughs, shorn of atmosphere, and absent all melancholic insight into our relationship with [...]

  • 'The Bare Necessity' Review: Offbeat, Charming

    Cannes Film Review: 'The Bare Necessity'

    A perfectly charmant way to, as the song has it, forget about your worries and your strife for 100 airy minutes, writer-director Erwan le Duc’s “The Bare Necessity” is a breezy little sweetheart of a debut, that threatens to give the rather ominous description “quirky French romantic comedy” a good name. In its dappled countryside [...]

  • Adam

    Cannes Film Review: 'Adam'

    With her debut feature “Adam,” Maryam Touzani allows her audience to sit back and relax comfortably into a beautifully made, character-driven little gem that knows when and how to touch all the right buttons. Taking the stories of two women, both frozen in existential stasis, and bringing them together in a predictable yet deeply satisfying [...]

  • 'To Live to Sing' Review: A

    Cannes Film Review: 'To Live to Sing'

    After his taut, impressive debut “Old Stone” which tracked with nightmarish relentlessness the high cost of compassion in modern urban China, Canadian-Chinese director Johnny Ma loosens his grip a little to deliver a softer, if not necessarily less pessimistic examination of the failing fortunes of a regional Sichuan Opera troupe. “To Live to Sing” is [...]

  • Hugh Jackman Sings Happy Birthday to

    Hugh Jackman Leads Massive One-Man Show Crowd in 'Happy Birthday' for Ian McKellen

    Hugh Jackman may have had to skip Ian McKellen’s birthday party to perform his one-man show, “The Man, The Music, The Show,” but that didn’t mean he couldn’t celebrate his “X-Men” co-star’s 80th. Jackman took a moment at the Manchester Arena Saturday to lead the sold-out audience — some 50,000 strong — in a rendition [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content