buzzy biz at sxsw fest

Austin — The 20th annual South by Southwest festival may have opened with cloudy skies but solidified its rep as a buzz-generating powerhouse as the film portion of the fest kicked off this weekend.

Friday’s Midnighter opening film E.L. Katz’s “Cheap Thrills” more than lived up to its billing, as fest organizers responded to the massive turnout by adding an extra screening Sunday morning. After entertaining several buyer offers, seller Submarine finalized a deal with Drafthouse Films and Snoot Entertainment.

The overall impression from fest veterans is that there are more acquisition titles in this year’s mix with early deal momentum than previous years.

On Friday night, the fest’s flagship venue, the Paramount, screened studio spring releases “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” and the remake of 1981’s “Evil Dead,” with auds responding warmly to the former — described in the Variety review as a “brightly sentimental comedy with slightly edgier funny business” — and with squeamish joy to the latter, which Variety dubbed a “cinematic equivalent of a cover-band concert tribute to a supergroup’s greatest hits — albeit with more gore.”

On Saturday morning at conference central, Danny Boyle “opened up the kimono” (as his onstage interlocutor New York Times reporter David Carr put it) of his upcoming noir thriller “Trance,” offering a generous action-packed teaser clip to the riveted crowd. Pic preems in Europe before its April 5 U.S. release.

Austin filmgoers filled the Paramount for a double of dose of local heroes on Saturday, with Richard Linklater’s “Before Midnight” charming the evening aud and Bryan Poyser’s world-preeming “The Bounceback” receiving an over-the-top aud reaction not to mention a enthusiastic buyer response.

Joe Swanberg’s “Drinking Buddies,” which world preemed Saturday, felt like a date movie tailor-made for SXSW auds, its appealing cast and story going down smoothly with auds and buyers.

Submarine also confirmed there are offers on the table for two world-preem docus: Penny Lane’s Super 8-powered “Our Nixon” and Ryan White’s “Good Ol’ Freda,” in which the Beatles’ loyal secretary Freda Kelly tells her story for the first time.

Vincenzo Natali’s subtle reverse ghost story “Haunter,” which world preemed at midnight Saturday, is strongly rumored to have offers on the table, while Destin Daniel Cretton’s heartwarmer “Short Term 12” saw a healthy buyer turnout and enthusiastic response.

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