By Peter Knegt and Nigel M. Smith | Indiewire February 11, 2014 at 1:30PM
[Editor's Note: The 'sales' section of this article has been updated with the buys made post-Sundance.]
The 2014 Sundance Film Festival has officially come and gone, and with it comes a considerable talking point: Why was it such a slow sales year? Or, perhaps it should be worded this way: Was it a slow sales year?
The previous two festivals saw pretty epic sales (last year there were over 50), and by comparison, this year was definitely more conservative. We counted 21 buys, but surely that number will increase considerably in the weeks after the festival. A lot of big titles -- "Infinitely Polar Bear," "Camp X-Ray" "Dear White People," "Song One," "White Bird in Blizzard" -- are almost certain to get picked up sooner or later. So perhaps it's simply too early to judge.
What we can definitely say is that there indeed was not a singular breakout title this year. No "Fruitvale Station" or "Beasts of the Southern Wild." Nor was there a massive sale a la last year's nearly $10 million buy of "The Way, Way Back" (the biggest sale was "The Skeleton Twins" for $3.5 million). But as Eric Kohn notes in this critics notebook, these are not necessarily bad things:
"The extraction of a disappointing picture from this phenomenon points to a blatant lack of sophistication in the understanding of both the festival's overall function and the nature of this year's selection. It's safe to say that a lot of the journalists attending the festival didn't see enough movies to assess the overall artistic value of the program; furthermore, they turned to buyers with narrow goals to provide a questionable voice of authority. "
But back to those buyers with narrow goals. Many distributors definitely fulfilled them, with A24 (proving it can play with the big guys this year), Sony Pictures Classics, IFC Films and Lionsgate each adding a trio of films to their slates out of the Sundance lineup, while Magnolia, RADiUS and Fox Searchlight each added 2. Perhaps the oddest thing about this year's Sundance when it came to buys was the lack of them by The Weinstein Company. While -- as noted -- their offshoot label RADiUS made two, TWC itself has yet to purchase any. Perhaps that will change, but in the meantime, here's a rundown of the 21 films purchased (so far) out of this year's festival.
IFC Films: 4 Buys [UPDATED]
- "Camp X-Ray" - IFC Films will distribute Peter Sattler's "Camp X-Ray" throughout North America. The film, which stars Kristen Stewart as a rookie guard at Guantanamo Bay and Peyman Moaadi ("A Separation") as a detainee she develops a friendship with, debuted at Sundance this year in the U.S. Dramatic Competition.
- “Cold in July” - North American rights to Jim Mickle's Sundance thriller "Cold in July," starring Michael C. Hall, Don Johnson and Sam Shepard. The Dramatic Competition contender will open in theaters and on VOD this summer.
- “God’s Pocket”
- U.S. rights to John Slattery’s feature directorial debut (Electric
Entertainment has acquired the foreign rights to the film).
- “The Babadook” - IFC Films’ sister label, IFC Midnight, acquired U.S. and Latin American rights to the horror breakout.
Sony Pictures Classics: 4 Buys [UPDATED]
- "Infinitely Polar Bear" - Sony Pictures Classics acquired all North American, German, UK,
Scandinavian, Eastern European and Russian rights to Maya Forbes’
directorial debut, starring Mark Ruffalo and Zoe Saldana.
- “Whiplash” - Following Sony Pictures Worldwide' international rights buy of this year's Sundance opener "Whiplash," Sony Pictures Classics netted domestic rights to Damien Chazelle's well-received film. The deal was reported to have been made for around $3 million.
- “Love is Strange” - Sony Pictures Classics previously distributed Sachs' "Married Life" in 2007.
- “Land Ho!” - SPC plans to release the film nationwide in 2014. They acquired worldwide rights.
A24: 3 Buys***
- “Obvious Child” -The distributor acquired the North American rights to Gillian Robespierre’s comedy "Obvious Child," starring "Saturday Night Live" alum Jenny Slate.
- “Life After Beth” - A24 teamed with DirecTV to acquire the US rights to the zombie comedy. The buy includes a 30-day exclusive window for DirecTV prior to its theatrical release that A24 is handling. The joint venture is part of an overall deal announced in September by the two companies. Dennis Villeneuve's thriller "Enemy," starring Jake Gyllenhaal, was the first film covered in the alliance.
- “Laggies” - Domestic rights. The company is planning a summer theatrical release for the film.
- ** A24 announced during the festival that they acquired rights to “A Most Violent Year," J.C. Chandor’s follow-up to “All Is Lost." The film, starring Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac, is going into production shortly. They plan to go wide with it.
Lionsgate: 3 Buys
- “The Skeleton Twins” (with Roadside) - Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions are handling US rights. Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions Group also has acquired all territories outside of the U.S. Sale made for a reported $3.5 million, making it highest of the festival.
- “Dinosaur 13” (with CNN)
- “Cooties” - Handling North American rights to the horror-comedy, starring Elijah Wood.
Magnolia: 3 Buys [UPDATED]
- "Life Itself" - Magnolia Pictures has acquired U.S. distribution rights, VOD and home entertainment rights to "Life Itself," the documentary based on Roger Ebert's autobiography.
- “Happy Christmas” (with Paramount worldwide) - Magnolia will handle US theatrical and VOD distribution, while Paramount will handle US DVD/Blu-ray distribution and all international rights. Magnolia distributed Swanberg's "Drinking Buddies," which premiered at SXSW last year.
- “Frank” - North American rights to Lenny Abrahamson's offbeat comedy that stars Michael Fassbender as a musician who wears a giant fake head at all times.
Fox Searchlight: 2 Buys
- “I Origins” - Worldwide rights to Mike Cahill’s follow-up to “Another Earth,” that the company also distributed.
- “Calvary” - U.S. and select international rights to John Michael McDonagh's well-received follow-up to "The Guard," "Calvary."
RADiUS-TWC: 1 Buy**
- “The One I Love” - RADiUS-TWC acquired worldwide rights to Charlie McDowell's debut feature, the romantic comedy "The One I Love, starring Mark Duplass, Elisabeth Moss and Ted Danson.
- "Fed Up" - RADiUS also took Katie Couric-narrated doc "Fed Up," which takes on the alarming and rising rate of obese children in America.
- ** With "The Raid 2" screening at the festival, RADiUS announced that they had paid low seven figured for North American rights to the upcoming film from the team behind the two "Raid" films, "The Night Comes for Us." Doesn't quite count as a Sundance pick-up, but notable. 2015 release is planned.
Focus Features: 1 Buy
- “Wish I Was Here” - The reported $2.75 million deal marks the first major acquisition since Peter Schlessel took over Focus from James Schamus.
Participant Media, Univision: 1 Buy
- “Cesar’s Last Fast” - In a six figure deal, Participant Media’s TV network Pivot teamed with Univision to acquire the documentary.
Well Go USA: 1 Buy
- “Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead” - The company nabbed US rights to Tommy Wirkola’s Norweigan Nazi zombie sequel. A full English-language version of the film will get a theatrical release later this year.
Gravitas: 1 Buy [UPDATED]
- "Ping Pong Summer" - Gravitas Ventures has acquired rights to Michael Tully's "Ping Pong Summer," which recently premiered in the NEXT section. Gravitas will roll the film out theatrically and digitally early this summer.
Amplify: 1 Buy [UPDATED]
- "God Help the Girl" - Amplify, the all-rights distribution company formed in a merger between Variance Films and GoDigital, will distribute "God Help the Girl" in the U.S.
Music Box Films: 1 Buy [UPDATED]
- "Watchers of the Sky" - Submarine Entertainment sold the rights for "Watchers of the Sky" to Music Box Films. Edet Belzberg's documentary about the life of lawyer Raphael Lemkin premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.
Drafthouse Films: 1 Buy [UPDATED]
- "20,000 Days on Earth" - Drafthouse Films has acquired North American rights to Ian Forsyth and Jane Pollard's Nick Cave documentary "20,000 Days on Earth." The film made its world premiere at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival where it won Best Directing and Best Editing in the World Cinema Documentary category.