Sundance Film Festival
The 2018 Sundance Film Festival is officially over with the annual awards handed out on Saturday night. Some will have you believe this was a weaker Sundance with no huge break-out hits ala last year’s The Big Sick. Others will want you to think that it was a slow festival for movie sales, but in fact, many of the hotter buzz-worthy films managed to get distribution while others will likely be picked-up in the months to come.
For those keeping track, here’s a running list of Sundance acquisitions that will be updated as new ones are announced.
In one of the biggest surprises of the fest, MoviePass Ventures teamed with The Orchard to distribute Bart Layton’s American Animals, a heist flick starring Evan Peters (American Horror Story) and Barry Keoghan (Dunkirk) as two long-time friends who try to stage an elaborate but fool-hardy robbery. One presumes that The Orchard will give the film a traditional theatrical release with MoviePass helping out on the marketing through its vast customer base.
Sam Levinson’s Midnight premiere was a very different film from his earlier one Another Happy Day (although he did have a character cite that film’s title). It takes place in the suburban town of East Salem where things get crazy when someone starts hacking the community’s phones and releasing private information, and a group of high school “mean girls” are blamed.
The film stars Odessa Young, Bella Thorne, Hari Nef, Suki Waterhouse, Joel McHale, Bill Skarsgard, Anika Noni Rose, Maude Apatow and Colman Domingo.
It eventually went to Neon and new player AGBO, launched by Avengers: Infinity War directors Joe and Anthony Russo, for a reported $10 million following a tough bidding war with a few other studios.
Lionsgate won the bid for this topical and controversial Oakland-based comedy co-written and starring Daveed Diggs from Hamilton as a young man released on parole who gets dragged into trouble by his friend and co-worker Miles (Rafael Casal). It’s the directorial debut by Carlos Lopez Estrada, and it was received with rapturous applause at its premiere but mixed reviews.
Also in the U.S. Dramatic competition, in which it won the Audience Award, Andrew Heckler’s drama stars Garret Hedlund as a Klansman trying to find solace and retribution in the arms of a woman, played by Andrea Riseborough. While the movie hasn’t been picked up for distribution proper yet, a book based on the same story was put on the fast track by Penguin Random House division Convergent. It’s unusual to have a book based on a movie, rather than the other way around.
Drew McWeeny reviewed the movie.
One of the first movies bought at the fest, the new movie from Wash Westmoreland (Still Alice) stars Keira Knightley as a woman who ghost writes romance novels for her husband (Dominic West), but when she has a huge hit with a character named Claudine, he wants to take credit for it. Bleecker Street and 30West must have been seeing a possible Oscar nomination for Knightley when they teamed up to pay $4 million for the North American rights.
The new film from the Zellner Brothers, David and Nathan, who previously helmed the quirky Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter, is a comedic Western starring Robert Pattinson and Mia Wakiskowska, which Drew McWeeny dug. It’s been picked up for distribution with a planned summer release by Magnolia and Green Point Media.
This Scandinavian thriller from director Gustav Möller about a emergency call center dispatcher who receives a frantic call from a kidnapped woman was bought by Magnolia Pictures. It later won the Audience Award in the World Cinema Dramatic category.
Hearts Beat Loud
Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions picked up the worldwide rights to the new movie from Brett Haley (The Hero) starring Nick Offerman and Kiersey Clemons from Dope as a father and daughter who decide to make music together. The crowd-pleasing musical-comedy was the festival’s Closing Night film, and Gunpowder and Sky came forward to distribute Haley’s latest domestically. The movie will get a summer release.
I Think We’re Alone Now
The Peter Dinklage-Elle Fanning post-apocalytic thriller directed by Reed Morano (The Handmaid’s Tale) based on Mike Makowsky’s Black List script was picked up by Momentum Pictures in late February.
The popular Sundance rom-com based on Nick Hornby’s novel, starring Rose Byrne, Ethan Hawke and Chris O’Dowd was picked up by Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions nearly two weeks after its World Premiere. Directed by Jesse Peretz (New Girl), it’s one of the more marketable films to play this year’s Sundance, and it should do well theatrically. Update: Lionsgate and Roadside have set an Aug. 17 limited release date and then the film will expand wide on Aug. 31 to take advantage of the Labor Day weekend.
A Kid Like Jake
Over a week after its Sundance premiere, IFC Films has picked up the North American rights to the Silas Howard-directed movie based on Daniel Pearle’s play. It stars Claire Danes and Jim Parsons as the parents of the 4-year-old Jake, who might be transgender, so they try to do right by him. The film co-stars Octavia Spencer, Priyanka Chopra, Ann Dowd and Amy Landecker
Leave No Trace
Winter’s Bone director Debra Granik returned to Sundance with a survival drama starring Ben Foster and newcomer Thomasin McKenzie as a father and daughter living in the woods outside Portland until they’re discovered and social services threatens to separate them. Its international distribution was picked up by Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions with Bleecker Street nabbing North American rights.
Craig William McNeill’s portrait of notorious axe murderer Lizzie Borden (as played by Chloë Sevigny) was picked up in a partnership between Roadside Attractions and Saban Films almost a week after its premiere. Written by Bryce Kass, the film also stars Kristen Stewart as the Borden family’s live-in maid.
Josephine Decker’s critically-acclaimed drama starring Helena Howard was picked up by Oscilloscope on March 2 with plans to release later in 2018.
After receiving mostly-positive reviews out of its Midnight premiere, the new film from Panos Cosmatos (Beyond the Black Rainbow), starring Nicolas Cage and Andrea Riseborough as a couple seeking revenge against a sadistic cult leader (Linus Roche), was picked up by RLJE Films for a theatrical release this summer.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post
Desiree Akhavan’s adaptation of Emily M. Danforth’s novel (co-written with Cecilia Frugiuele) was picked up by FilmRise nearly two months after the movie starring Chloe Grace Moretz, Sasha Lane and John Gallagher Jr. won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2018 festival.
Monsters and Men
Reinaldo Marcus Green’s directorial debut revolves around a police shooting and three individuals in the Brooklyn community who are affected by it, and it was hard not to think of this as this year’s Fruitvale Station. Neon founders Tom Quinn and Tim League must have felt the same way as they picked up the North American rights to the film for an undisclosed amount.
Almost a month after Sundance, Samuel Goldwyn Films picked up Christina Choe’s psychological thriller starring Andrea Riseborough in another memorable performance. It also stars Steve Buscemi, J. Smith-Cameron, Ann Dowd and John Leguizamo.
Marc Turtletaub’s drama stars Kelly Macdonald as a middle-aged woman who tries to escape from her boring domestic life by solving complex jigsaw puzzles, teaming with a puzzle champ played by Irrfan Khan. It was picked up by Sony Pictures Classics a few days after its Sundance premiere.
The documentary about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, directed and produced by Storyville Films’ Betsy West and Julie Cohen was picked up by Magnolia Pictures and Participant Media.
Aneesh Chaganty’s innovative thriller stars John Cho as a father whose teen daughter goes missing, the entire film told/shown on a computer screen using various apps that he uses to find out what happened to her. The film received the Alfred P. Sloan Award, as well as the Audience Award in the NEXT category, but it had already been picked up by Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisions for a cool $5 million.
The film in the World Cinema Documentary competition was picked up by Netflix on Feb. 28 after Sandi Tan won the Directing Award in her section. The film is about Tan and her zine-making friends whose film-making dreams were thwarted by the theft of their 16mm film.
Sorry to Bother You
Boots Riley’s directorial debut starring Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson and Armie Hammer was picked up by Annapurna late in the festival.
One of the festival’s more acclaimed films, Jennifer Fox’s competition film got a lot of attention for the performance by Laura Dern, as a woman who finds a story she wrote at 13 years old that might point to an improper relationship with two coaches. It was picked up by HBO Films for $7 million, adding another player to the acquisitions market since HBO has mainly focused at docs in previous years. One presumes The Tale will get a theatrical release and that HBO will partner with a traditional distributor. You can read Drew McWeeny’s review here.
We the Animals
It may have taken several days after the festival wrapped, but The Orchard purchased North American rights to Jeremiah Zagar’s directorial debut We the Animals, which fllows three boys growing up in rural New York. Drawing comparisons to Moonlight from some corners of the critical community, the coming-of-age story will get a theatrical release in 2018. It marked The Orchard’s second Sundance acquisition following its deal with MoviePass for the heist film American Animals. We the Animals won the NEXT Innovator Award in a tie with Night Comes On.
Netflix’s first purchase from the Sundance Film Festival took place nearly a month after it was over, as they picked up Alexandre Espigares‘s animated film, based on Jack London’s novel and featuring the voices of Nick Offerman, Rashida Jones, Paul Giamatti and Eddie Spears for a reported seven figures with plans to release throughout the world sometime later this year.
That leaves well over a hundred movies that didn’t find distribution during the festival but will likely do so sometime in the next few months. Some of the hotter and more marketable titles still seeking distribution include the Nick Hornby adaptation Juliet, Naked, starring Rose Byrne, Ethan Hawke and Chris O’Dowd, and Hannah Fidell’s The Long Dumb Road, a buddy comedy starring Jason Mantzoukas and Tony Revolori.
Edward Douglas | East Coast Editor