Update 5 (02.03.17 – 3pm): IFC Films has closed a deal to acquire North American rights to Zoe Lister-Jones’ feature directorial debut Band Aid, with Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions taking international rights. Lister-Jones wrote the script and also stars alongside Adam Pally as a feuding married couple whose shared love of music makes for unconventional therapy. They transform their arguments into music — and ultimately a band — with the help of their neighbor, a former drummer played by Fred Armisen. The deals were negotiated by WME Global and QC Entertainment.
Update 4 (01.30.17 – 12pm): Dee Rees’ well-received drama Mudbound scored the biggest deal of the festival over the weekend, selling to Netflix for $12.5 million. For more details on that deal, click here.
Update 3 (01.27.17 – 6pm): Down the home stretch they come! Tom Quinn and Tim League’s new label Neon continued making waves at Sundance with its $3 million acquisition of Michael Larnell’s Roxanne Roxanne, which is said to feature a star-making turn from Chanté Adams. After missing out on that film, Amazon moved quickly to seal a $2 million deal for writer-director Matt Ruskin’s prison drama Crown Heights starring Lakeith Stanfield of Atlanta fame. Meanwhile, Miguel Arteta and Mike White’s Beatriz at Dinner, starring Salma Hayek and John Lithgow, sold to Roadside Attractions and FilmNation. Finally, IFC Midnight picked up the documentary 78/52, which examines the iconic shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, as well as Damien Power’s survival thriller The Killing Ground, which debuted in the festival’s midnight section.
Update 2 (01.26.17 – 6pm): Sales agents are still wheeling and dealing in Park City, where Sony Pictures Classics ponied up $5 million for Brigsby Bear, which stars Kyle Mooney of Saturday Night Live fame. Van Toffler’s Gunpowder + Sky made a statement buy with a low-seven figure deal for Jeff Baena’s The Little Hours, starring Aubrey Plaza as a nun. Meanwhile, Amazon picked up another documentary, striking a $2 million deal for the ISIS-themed City of Ghosts, which hails from Cartel Land filmmaker Matthew Heineman. And finally, there are bidding wars brewing for Dee Rees’ Mudbound, with A24 and Annapurna in pole position, as well as Roxanne Roxanne, which has Amazon, Lionsgate, Miramax and Neon circling as of Thursday afternoon. Stay tuned…
Update 1 (01.24.17 – 6:35 pm): The Oscar nominations didn’t slow down Sundance sales on Tuesday, as Fox Searchlight finally jumped into the fray in a big way. The prestige distributor shelled out $10.5 million to win a bidding war for Geremy Jasper’s crowdpleaser Patti Cake$ before spending north of $4 million to acquire the dance documentary Step. Of course, streaming giants Amazon and Netflix are still going at it in Park City, with Amazon acquiring Gillian Robespierre’s coming-of-age movie Landline (starring Jenny Slate) for $3 million and Netflix nabbing Marti Noxon’s anorexia drama To the Bone (starring Lily Collins and Keanu Reeves) for a whopping $8 million. That film came on the heels of Netflix’s deal for Bryan Fogel’s Russian doping documentary Icarus for a reported $5 million. PR reps for Icarus suggest it starts out with a light tone a la Super Size Me, but ends on a darker note that’s closer to Citizenfour. Color me intrigued as I wait for Mudbound to find a home.
The original story is below.
The Sundance Film Festival has reached its halfway point and the sales market has been brisk thanks to streaming giants like Amazon and Netflix, who as expected, have been as active as anyone in Park City. This despite a barrage of snow and a cyberattack that crippled the festival’s box office and caused the cancellation of several screenings.
After winning a bidding war for last year’s crown jewel Manchester By the Sea (by far the highest-grossing film of the 2016 festival), Amazon Studios made another statement buy with Michael Showalter’s comedy The Big Sick starring Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan (pictured above).
The Big Sick had several suitors but in the end, Showalter and producer Judd Apatow went with Amazon because they were enthusiastic about the film and committed to a theatrical release. “We were also very impressed with the campaign for Manchester By the Sea. That is a complex film and their marketing and distribution has been really impressive. Being Amazon, they have many innovative ways to tell people about our movie and we are excited to collaborate with them on the campaign,” Apatow told IndieWire’s Anne Thompson.
Amazon didn’t stop there, as it also plunked down roughly $6 million for the Grateful Dead documentary Long Strange Trip. The four-hour film from executive producer Martin Scorsese and director Amir Bar-Lev (The Tillman Story) will debut as a six-part documentary on May 26 via Amazon Prime Video in the U.S. and UK.
Not to be outdone, Netflix has been on a buying spree, snapping up hot documentaries such as Casting JonBenet, the global warming film Chasing Coral and the timely media tale Nobody Speak: Hulk Hogan, Gawker and Trials of a Free Press, the latter of which sold for around $2 million. The company also spent low-seven figures on the China-themed documentary Joshua: Teenager Vs. Superpower.
Netflix also teamed with Momentum Pictures on a $5 million bid for Fun Mom Dinner, which stars Katie Aselton, Toni Collette and Molly Shannon. That wasn’t Netflix’s only joint acquisition, as the company also partnered with Vertical Entertainment on Cate Shortland’s Berlin Syndrome starring Teresa Palmer.
Finally, Netflix bought the festival’s closing night film once again (after last year’s Paul Rudd-starrer The Fundamentals of Caring), acquiring worldwide rights to Jim Strouse’s comedy The Incredible Jessica James starring Jessica Williams and Chris O’Dowd.
Netflix’s buying spree doesn’t mean that traditional buyers haven’t flexed their own muscles and opened up their checkbooks. Sony Pictures Classics paid close to $6 million for two well-received dramas featuring gay themes — Call Me By Your Name with Armie Hammer and Timothy Chalamet, and mid-seven figures for Novitiate, a nun movie starring Margaret Qualley, Dianna Agron and Melissa Leo.
Elsewhere, Focus Features ponied up $5 million for Thoroughbred, a psychological thriller starring Olivia Cooke, Anya Taylor-Joy and the late Anton Yelchin, while A24 took David Lowery’s A Ghost Story off the board sight unseen before the festival. The film reunites the director with his Ain’t Them Bodies Saints co-stars Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara.
As for The Orchard, which released last year’s Sundance darling Hunt for the Wilderpeople to the tune of $5.2 million, the company is once again staying active, acquiring North American rights to the Sam Elliot movie The Hero for $3 million and teaming with CNN Films to acquire Trophy for $2 million.
Meanwhile, Tom Quinn and Tim League’s new distribution venture announced its awesome new name — Neon — and promptly acquired the Aubrey Plaza-Elizabeth Olsen movie Ingrid Goes West in a mid-seven figure deal. Last fall, before it unveiled its name, Neon acquired the Anne Hathaway monster movie Colossal at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Also of note is FilmRise’s acquisition of Supergirl out of Slamdance, the sister festival to Sundance. That coming-of-age documentary follows an Orthodox Jewish pre-teen who became a world champion powerlifter at the age of 9 as she fights to retain her title while dealing with adolescent distractions, religious obligations, cyber-bullying and health issues.
Independent films aren’t alone in seeking buyers, as two TV shows are hoping to use Sundance to find them new homes. Brett Morgen brought his pilot When the Street Lights Go On, which wasn’t picked up by Hulu, while ABC’s Downward Dog (starring Fargo‘s Allison Tolman and a talking dog) also screened a handful of episodes, and could very well wind up at Hulu.
Several buyers appear to be remaining cautious such the Weinstein Company, Open Road Films (burned by Dope at the 2015 festival) and Fox Searchlight, which not only struggled to launch festival sensation Me, Earl and the Dying Girl, but also took a hit on The Birth of a Nation after failing to do their due diligence regarding Nate Parker’s sordid past.
Rest assured, there are still plenty of hot sales titles available including Dee Rees’ acclaimed period piece Mudbound starring Jason Clarke, Carey Mulligan and Garrett Hedlund; Alexandre Moors’ war drama The Yellow Birds with Alden Ehrenreich, Tye Sheridan, Jack Huston and Jennifer Aniston and the Jack Black movie The Polka King. Stay tuned…
Jeff Sneider | Editor in Chief