Dealmaking and Partygoing at Sundance 2003
by Eugene Hernandez
Acquisitions buzz hit Park City on Saturday and Sunday, the first weekend of the 2003 Sundance Film Festival. "The Cooler", "The United States of Leland," and "thirteen" were in buyers' sights along with other dramatic competition films.
Lions Gate made the first acquisitions announcement of Sundance yesterday, nabbing North American rights to Wayne Cramer's "The Cooler." The ContentFilm feature was produced by Sean Furst and Michael Pierce. It stars William H. Macy, Maria Bello, Alec Baldwin, Ron Livingston, Joey Fatone, Shawn Hatosy, and Estella Warren. "The Cooler" is described as "the story of an Ivy League-educated man who is sent in by the mob to revamp the old-school approach to running a casino."
Two deals were in negotiations on Sunday evening as indieWIRE went to press -- pacts for "The United States of Leland" and "thirteen." Paramount Classics was negotiating to acquire Matthew Ryan Hoge's "The United States of Leland," which stars Ryan Gosling, Kevin Spacey, Jena Malone, Don Cheadle, and Michelle Williams. It is the story of a troubled teen, whose prison teacher and family are left to unravel the meaning of a crime.
Meanwhile, Fox Searchlight was negotiating a deal to acquire Catherine Hardwicke's "thirteen" yesterday. That feature is co-written by Hardwicke and Nikki Reed, the 13-year-old girl who co-stars in the movie. The movie also stars Holly Hunter and was executive produced by Hunter, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, and Liza Chasin. It features music by Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh.
Other films considered titles for potential immediate acquisition are Peter Hedges' InDigEnt film "Pieces of April" and Tom McCarthy's "The Station Agent."
SUNDANCE UNVEILS FILM TOUR
Robert Redford took centerstage at a Sundance Channel press conference on Sunday morning to announce the launch of a Sundance Film Series, which will debut in Loews movie theaters later this year.
The Sundance Film Series, sponsored by Loews, Coca-Cola, Kenneth Cole Productions, and Volkswagen, will bring four films to 10 cities during a four-month period from August to November 2003. The films, which will be acquired by Sundance Channel's Paola Freccero and Chris Vesper, will be released on video and DVD by Sundance Channel Home Entertainment following the theatrical release, and later will have a TV premiere on Sundance Channel. Proceeds from this program will go to the filmmakers and to the programs of the Sundance Institute.
In a conversation with indieWIRE yesterday afternoon, Sundance Channel Senior VP of Film Programming Freccero indicated that, as with previous Channel acquisitions, she is looking for feature films (fiction and non-fiction) that have had the traditional distribution opportunities closed to them. As an example, Sundance Channel has recently acquired "The Slaughter Rule" and "Sleepy Time Gal" for distribution via its on-air or home video outlets.
Cities to host the series, which has a first-year commitment from all of the partners, include New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Boston.
CROWDED WEEKEND OF STARS
The crowds in Park City on Saturday night were reminiscent of the busy nights at Sundance during the dotcom heyday of 2000. Large crowds were gathered up and down Main Street, with cheering fans lining the curbs in the hopes of catching a glimpse of Ben and J-Lo at the Project Greenlight party at Harry O's, while others were trying to get into the Phantom Planet concert at the Chrysler Lounge, and still other crowds were trying to find a way into the "United States of Leland" celebration at the Riverhorse. Traffic was at a virtual standstill throughout the area as partygoers (a mix of festivalgoers, locals, and seemingly unaffiliated others) tried to find places to park their SUVs. Warm weather and sightings of Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, Britney Spears, Tom & Penelope, and other celebs didn't help dissuade the masses from crowding the sidewalks and streets throughout Park City.