Sundance buys heat up

'Margin Call,' 'Like Crazy' close deals at fest

Most festgoers know that the first Sunday is no “lazy Sunday,” and this year’s Sundance, with buyers bidding and agents fielding offers until the wee hours, proved no exception.

The mood on Main Street was a confident but patient one. Sellers were seeing action from all angles on titles, representing a notable increase in activity from the past two editions of the fest, but deals have so far taken 24-72 hours to complete — a pace bizzers expect to continue throughout the fest.

The first two major pacts of the fest unfolded early Sunday as Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions partnered for rights to J.C. Chandor’s “Margin Call,” while Paramount teamed with billionaire Steven Rales’ film financing-production arm Indian Paintbrush for rights to Drake Doremus’ “Like Crazy” for a reported $4 million with a P&A commitment of under $10 million.

“Margin Call” first screened at a press and industry screening Friday while buyers moved faster on “Like Crazy,” wasting no time vying for the project following its world preem Saturday.

Par took worldwide rights to the love story, starring Brit thesp Felicity Jones, indie “it” girl Jennifer Lawrence and Anton Yelchin.

The Lionsgate/Roadside deal for “Margin Call,” toplining Kevin Spacey and Paul Bettany, surfaced after a series of latenight/early morning negotiations that kept taking various turns. Reps expected the deal to close some time Saturday, but with new offers creeping in late that night, a final deal wasn’t announced until Sunday morning.

As weather conditions in Park City began to warm Sunday, so too did the biz as buyers feverishly put up offers for a slew of top projects that had already screened.

UTA agents were especially busy advancing deals for a raft of fest titles: Opening-night pic “The Guard,” a favorite of many industryites in Park City, was getting closer to sealing a deal, with Sony Pictures Classics, Summit, ATO/Goldwyn and Magnolia all hot for the laffer. Sources say SPC was showing particular strong interest in the Irish buddy comedy with Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle.

The Jesse Peretz-helmed “My Idiot Brother,” which was expected to be one of the most commercial prospects of the fest, saw bidding begin right after the film’s preem Saturday.

The Weinstein Co., in partnership with Ron Burkle, closed a deal Sunday for a reported $6 million to $7 million for the UTA-repped project.

WME had seen action on several of its docus already screened: “Rebirth,” “Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel” (A&E took the TV rights before the fest) and “On the Ice” all played Friday night with deals expected to unfold later in the week. The agency is set to see an even busier few days ahead as it’s repping Kevin Smith’s “Red State,” which preemed Sunday night at the Eccles Center, followed by a “live auction” for the $4 million pic in front of its first public aud. And Monday sees preems of buzz titles “Perfect Sense,” starring Ewan McGregor; competish title “Another Earth”; and “Son of No One,” which it is co-repping with UTA.

According to some insiders, a slew of docu titles, including Ken Kesey’s “Magic Trip” and “Bobby Fischer Against the World,” already have TV deals in place that could limit appeal for buyers interested in theatrical rights.

Helmer Cindy Meehl’s docu “Buck,” about the famed horse whisperer, could land a distributor soon with offers on the table, sources say.

CAA is in the works for a domestic deal on docu “Knuckle,” produced by Teddy Leifer. U.K. buyers are circling the project and pic is still negotiating the remake rights, which has many bizzers interested.

Other titles with steady buzz include thesp Elizabeth Olsen’s Sundance pair “Martha Marcy May Marlene” and “Silent House,” the second pic from “Open Water” helmers Chris Kentis and Laura Lau.

Miranda July’s second directorial effort, “The Future,” screened Friday evening with mixed reactions for its commercial prospects, yet was unilaterally deemed a “perfect Sundance picture.”