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Sundance 2017 Market Takes Flight: 7 Hot Acquisition Titles at the Festival

Here are seven hot titles from the Sundance lineup that could be prime targets for distributors.

Jenny Slate Abby Quinn Landline

“Landline”

OddLot Entertainment

Few film festivals in the world create bidding wars for titles quite like the Sundance Film Festival. Last year, Sundance saw the biggest deal in its history when Fox Searchlight bought “The Birth of a Nation” for $17.5 million. Though some of the films in the upcoming slate have already been acquired, many are looking to find a home during the 2017 festival, which takes place between January 19 and January 29 in Park City, Utah.

READ MORE: Sundance 2017 Announces Competition and NEXT Lineups, Including Returning Favorites and Major Contenders

Which movies are likely to have buyers lining up in the cold this year? Here are seven hot titles from the lineup that could be prime targets for acquisition execs.

“The Big Sick” 

Section: Premieres

Directed by Michael Showalter, this comedy written by actor-writer Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily Gordon is based on their real-life courtship. The film stars Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano and Anupam Kher. “That is the film that everyone feels is the most obvious of all the titles in the whole lineup,” said one sales agent. “It’s the one that everyone thinks is going to be funny, crowdpleasing, commercial, marketable, well made, and it has a good cast. There’s no distributor that wouldn’t want to consider that.” Showalter’s previous film “Hello My Name Is Doris” led to a rare South by Southwest bidding war before bringing in nearly $29 million at the worldwide box office.

Sales contact: UTA

“Nobody Speak: Hulk Hogan, Gawker and Trials of a Free Press” 

Section: U.S. Documentary Competition

Most people are familiar with well-publicized legal battle between Hulk Hogan and Gawker Media, but this doc is more than just an inside take on that fascinating story. It raises important questions about freedom of speech and freedom of the press. “It’s definitely among the strongest docs in the whole lineup,” said one source. Director Brian Knappenberger previously directed 2014’s “The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz,” about the programming prodigy and information activist who took his own life at the age of 26.

Sales contact: Submarine

“Landline”  

Section: U.S Dramatic Competition

Writer-director Gillian Robespierre’s follow-up to 2014’s “Obvious Child” is another starring vehicle for comedy it-girl Jenny Slate, and has a strong cast in John Turturo, Edie Falco and indie film multi-hyphenate Jay Duplass. The story focuses on two sisters in ’90s New York who discover their father’s affair at a time when cell phones don’t yet exist. “The movie is going to have a lot of buyers around it just because of how well ‘Obvious Child’ did,” said one distributor. Made for around $500,000, “Obvious Child” took in more than $3 million at the box office.

Sales contact: UTA

“Mudbound”

Section: Premieres

The second feature from “Pariah” writer-director Dee Rees follows two men who return home from World War II to work on a farm in rural Mississippi and struggle to deal with racism. One source described the film as “phenomenal” and a major step forward in Rees’s career as a filmmaker. The movie stars Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund (“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk”), Mary J. Blige, Jason Clarke and Jonathan Banks (“Breaking Bad”). The cast, coupled with a topical theme and a director on the rise, will generate a lot of interest among buyers at the festival.

Sales contact: WME

“The Hero”

Section: U.S. Dramatic Competition

Writer-director Brett Haley’s previous film “I’ll See You In My Dreams” entered last year’s Sundance very quietly before emerging as one of the most commercially successful films from the festival, taking in $7.5 million at the box office. His entry this year, “The Hero” is generating much more buzz, thanks in part to early word of mouth. “People who have seen it have spoken very highly of it and the cast looks good,” said one sales agent. The legendary Sam Elliot has a rare late-career starring role in the movie, alongside Nick Offerman, Krysten Ritter and Laura Prepon.

Sales contact: WME/Gersh

“Call Me By Your Name” 

Section: Premieres

Italian director Luca Guadagnino is generating buzz for his latest film in part due to its similar subject matter to his 2009 film “I Am Love.” “Call Me By Your Name” stars Armie Hammer in a dramatic story of a romance between an adolescent boy and a summer guest (Hammer) at his parents’ mansion on the Italian Riviera. Guadagnino wrote the screenplay with James Ivory and “I Am Love” co-writer Walter Fasano. “I think the film will go pretty big,” said one distributor. “Call Me By Your Name” co-star Michael Stuhlbarg recently appeared in “Arrival” and “Doctor Strange.”

Sales contact: UTA/WME

READ MORE: Sundance Wish List: 53 Films We Hope Will Head to Park City in 2017

“City of Ghosts” 

Section: U.S. Documentary Competition

Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker Matt Heineman is a Sundance regular who won the festival’s Directing Award last year for “Cartel Land,” about the drug problem on the U.S.-Mexico border. (“Cartel Land” later landed an Oscar nomination for best documentary.) His new documentary “City of Ghosts” is generating buzz for focusing on an even more dangerous subject: a group of anonymous citizen journalists who banded together after their homeland was overtaken by ISIS. “I’m definitely interested,” said one distributor who made an offer for “Cartel Land” at last year’s festival.

Sales contact: Cinetic Media

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