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Optimism rains at SXSW

Buyers see hopeful future for fest slate

Austin– Steady, heavy rain may have dampened the typically festive vibe on Austin’s 6th street this weekend, but as the clouds parted Sunday around noon, it was clear the larger roster of top, medium and boutique buyers attending SXSW’s 2012 edition see a hopeful future for many titles on this year’s slate.

Friday’s hotly-anticipated world preem of Drew Goddard’s “The Cabin in the Woods” (Lionsgate) went through the roof, the pic’s mix of humor, smarts and chills generating fan and crit raves for the April 16 release. Over at the Alamo Ritz, Jeff Orlowski’s Sundance cinematography award-winning docu “Chasing Ice” was still screening as Submarine announced it had sold all U.S. rights, minus TV, to Oscilloscope Laboratories.

SXSW’s importance as a crucial post-Sundance destination for discovery and pickups is certainly sealed this year. A strong weekend program with many acquisition title screenings overlapping has some murmuring from bizzers, most of whom rarely stay past Monday, that at least a limited offering of press and industry badges should be considered — something SX film conference and festival producer Janet Pierson has steadfastly resisted to preserve the event’s audience focus.

Many SX veterans also note an uptick in the number of L.A. and Gotham publicity firms on the ground working acquisition titles this year, mobilizing the significant regional and national media presence and adding to social media buzz from auds.

Saturday morning, a full complement of U.S. buyers (TWC, SPC, Lionsgate, IFC, Phase 4, Magnolia and more) were energized by world-preeming “Waiting for Lightning,” Bandito Brothers CTO Jacob Rosenberg’s docu about skateboard superstar Danny Way and his attempt to jump the Great Wall of China. With offers now on the table, the seller is nevertheless moving with caution to put together the right deal.

Several more world-preeming SXSW docus are also seeing heat. Ben Shapiro’s well–received “Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters” is in play with an offer and buyers circling; “Charles Bradley: Soul of America,” Poull Brien’s look at the late-in-life rise of the singer (who played SX last year), world-preemed Friday and an array of major buyers sang its praises after Saturday’s screening. Both titles could sell before the fest closes.

Even less-conventional docus — Chris James Thompson’s “Jeff” and SXSW 2009 Grand Jury docu award-winners (“45365”) Bill and Turner Ross’ “Tchoupitoulas” — played to positive response, as did Kahil Hudson and Tyler Hughen’s fly-fishing friendship doc “Low and Clear.”

On the narrative front, Friday’s world preem of “Super Troopers” helmer Jay Chandrasekhar’s “The Babymakers,” starring Paul Schneider and Olivia Mann, made auds and buyers smile, while Rebecca Thomas’ “Electrick Children” and Tim Sutton’s “Pavilion” gained discovery potential.

Adam Leon’s Saturday world-preeming shaggy dog tale about a pair of Bronx graffiti artists “Gimme The Loot,” also a New Directors fest title, was screened for some buyers last week in New York and saw colleagues and a wider roster in the house.

Brian Savelson’s unorthodox father-son tale “In Our Nature” enjoyed a solid Saturday preem, drawing buyers to its Sunday showing.

Saturday also saw buyer buzz for Jordan Roberts’ “frankie go boom” and Austin Chick’s midnighter “Girls Against Boys.”

On Sunday auds were looking forward to “Prince of Broadway” helmer Sean Baker’s world-preeming “Starlet,” Tom Kingsley and Will Sharpe’s edgy U.K. chiller “Black Pond” and Irish helmer Ciaran Foy’s world-preeming midnighter “Citadel.”

With several acquisition titles world preeming Monday, and an array of second screening ops, negotiations several SXSW titles should be well under way.

The South By Southwest festival runs to March 17, with several music-related pics and special events, such as Thursday’s work-in-progress screening Drew DeNicola’s “Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me, unspooling during SXSW Music, which runs March 13-18.

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