Harvey Weinstein is in town. Let the dealmaking begin! Weinstein arrived in Park City Sunday from various confabs in Washington, D.C., and as Barack Obama gave his inaugural speech Monday morning, the mogul was engaged in a loose breakfast conversation with producer Mark Gordon hosted by the Producer's Guild of America. The Weinstein Co. has no films in the festival this year, but reportedly placed a bid on U.S. rights to Joseph Gordon-Levitt's directorial debut "Don Jon's Addiction," which has ignited a heated bidding war since its debut Saturday. (TOH! review here.)
In the biggest sale of the fest so far, Sundance newbie Relativity Media is closing a deal to acquire U.S. rights for $4 million, according to sources close to the sale. CAA and WME (who rep Gordon-Levitt and packaged the film) brokered the deal. Relativity committed to a wide release. Companies wanting to make a splash at Sundance often overpay, but clearly Relativity was not the only buyer convinced that this portrait of a sex-addicted bartender (JGL) trying to give up porn for his first love (Scarlett Johannson) was commercial. TWC offered an early bid of $2 million, reports Variety; CBS Films and Lionsgate/Roadside were also in the hunt.
Distributors are also chasing U.S. rights to Ryan Coogler's true story "Fruitvale," which was backed by Sundance workshops and San Francisco Film Society filmmaker grants. Weinstein Co. grabbed the title for $2.5 million just after Fox Searchlight stopped bidding. Paramount Vantage and CBS were reportedly also interested.
Weinstein Co. already owns foreign rights to "Ain't Them Bodies Saints," and may pick up its domestic option as well. The movie is the critical smash of the festival, a gorgeous magic-hour classic neo-western in the Terrence Malick tradition from another Austin filmmaker, jack-of-all-trades David Lowery. The noir stars Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck as an ill-fated couple, with terrific supporting performances from Ben Foster, Keith Carradine and Nate Parker.
Other deals so far have been much smaller, from docs "The Summit" and "Dirty Wars" (Sundance Selects) to coming-of-age romance "Spectacular Now" (rookie distrib A24) and "Austenland," which was sold to Film District and Exclusive Releasing.
Likely to outpace "Don Jon's Addiction" is Richard Linklater's "Before Midnight," the third in the series created by Linklater and his stars Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. The movie played Sunday night to rapturous reception–it's smart, sharp and digs into the married couple 18 years after their romantic first encounter in "Before Sunrise," and nine years since their reconnection in "Before Sunset." Cinetic Media's John Sloss is handling the sale–many distributors were prepared to bid before the festival, but he insisted on showing it first here. He had reason for that confidence.
The fest hits "Kill Your Darlings" and David Gordon Green's "Prince Avalanche," NEXT sniper pic "Blue Caprice" and doc "Anita" are also heating up interest, along with well-made genre remake "We Are What We Are" and "S-VHS," which this year's reviewers liked better than the previous Sundance horror omnibus entry "V/H/S," which was released by Magnolia, which is expected to chase this as well.