×

Winners and Losers From Sundance 2017 (So Far)

Winter storms weren’t the only things causing headaches during the first week of the Sundance Film Festival. Buyers were griping that the movies being screened at this year’s gathering were aggressively uncommercial and that agents were pushing for wide releases and big paydays for films that will appeal only to small audiences.

Then there were the political issues. The inauguration overshadowed what was intended to be a celebration of artists, and inspired protestors to storm Main Street for the Women’s March. The events over the past few days also pointed to a political divide that has left many filmmakers feeling out of touch with the people who elected a president seen as being hostile to diversity, the environment, and free speech — touchstones for the Sundance faithful.

“Welcome to the bubble,” festival director John Cooper quipped at one film premiere.

But there is another kind of bubble in the mountains. Prices for movies continue to rise, fueled by Netflix, Amazon Studios, Apple, and other digital players who can pay top dollar without worrying about the need to make money at the box office. Even PepsiCo was at this year’s festival looking for content to help it sell soft drinks. That has left more traditional companies like Sony Pictures Classics and Fox Searchlight struggling to offer competitive bids while still trying to make a profit.

On screen, the gems are getting harder to find. One studio executive griped that there are too many films about eating disorders, unstable war veterans, and terrorism — topics that don’t exactly scream a fun night at the movies. “Nobody is going to see this stuff,” the exec said.

Here are the winners and losers from Sundance 2017 so far.

Winner
The Big Sick

This romantic comedy co-written by Kumail
Nanjiani of “Silicon Valley,” about a Pakistani-American who tends to his sick girlfriend (Zoe Kazan), scored big laughs and sold in a
massive $12 million deal to Amazon Studios.

Loser
‘The Yellow Birds’

Heading into Sundance, this Iraq War drama was on most buyers’ must-see lists. Then it screened. Critics shrugged, audiences were indifferent, and most of the cast — including Jennifer Aniston, Toni Collette, and Alden Ehrenreich — didn’t bother to show up.

Winner
Call Me by Your Name

This gay love story, starring Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer, was rapturously received. Sony Pictures Classics owns the rights to the film that drew comparisons to “Carol” and boasts stunning shots of the Italian countryside.

Loser
The market

Buyers are underwhelmed by this year’s batch of films so far, calling it one of the weakest festivals in recent memory. There is no “Manchester by the Sea” or “Brooklyn” in sight.

Winner
Netflix

The goliath continued to loom large at Sundance, arriving here with eight finished projects, including the opening night comedy “I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore,” and picking up several more, such as the documentary “Chasing Coral” and “Fun Mom Dinner.”

Loser
The weather

A torrent of snow left festivalgoers frustrated, Uber prices surging, and the roadways nearly impassable, causing scheduling headaches and lots of shivering, sniffling A-listers.

More Film

  • Above the Shadows

    Film Review: ‘Above the Shadows’

    Grief-fueled romantic fantasies can be tricky for filmmakers not named Wim Wenders. Everyone aspires to make “Wings of Desire” with its stirring immediacy, beautiful imagery and pressing poignancy, but most wind up delivering something closer to its decent but dreary American remake, “City of Angels” — which could also be said for writer-director Cynthia Myers’ [...]

  • Crawl Movie

    'Crawl' and Other Disaster Movies Pose Unique Obstacles for Production Designers

    The rampaging fires, earthquakes and storms of disaster movies present unusual challenges for a production: On top of the normal work of creating a film’s lived-in and realistic locations, designers must build sets that the forces of nature can batter, flood and ravage into something completely different. Take “Crawl,” in which a Category 5 hurricane [...]

  • The Lion King

    'The Lion King' Tops $130 Million Overseas

    Disney’s “The Lion King” has roared past $130 million in international ticket sales ahead of its domestic debut, led by $76.6 million in its first week in China. Other markets began launching Wednesday, led by France with $8.3 million in its first two days with the second-biggest opening day for a Disney movie after “Avengers: [...]

  • The Lion King The Gift

    Album Review: Beyoncé’s 'The Lion King: The Gift'

    Before touching down on what Beyoncé has called her “love letter to Africa,” it’s important to see what may have brought her to the mother of mankind, with its wide vistas and sonic planes, for “The Gift” in the first place — beyond, of course, voicing Nala in the film and whatever international marketing tie-ins [...]

  • The Lion King

    'The Lion King' Roars to $23 Million Opening on Thursday Night

    Disney’s “The Lion King” has pounced on a mighty $23 million in North American locations in Thursday night preview showings. It’s the biggest preview number since Disney-Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame” set the record on April 27 with $60 million. “The Lion King” is expected to debut with $150 million this weekend. Some forecasts estimate the tentpole [...]

  • Major Expansion Planned at Belfast Harbour

    Major Expansion Planned at Belfast Harbour Studios, Home of ‘Krypton’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Belfast Harbour Studios in Northern Ireland, where the Syfy series “Krypton” is shot, is set for a major expansion. The Warner Horizon-produced series has occupied the full site, which currently has two stages, since it opened in 2017. The landowners had signaled that they wanted to expand, and Variety has learned that plans for the [...]

  • Disney Movies

    Why Audiences Are Only Going to Disney Movies

    Julie Bikhman of Manhattan might buy the tickets, but when it comes to deciding what movie to see, her three young children are the ones calling the shots. “We pick them,” her 11-year-old daughter Annie declares before heading into a screening of Disney’s live-action “The Lion King.” “If it’s a Marvel movie, we know it’s [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content