Last year's Sundance Film Festival -- like the year before it -- saw a remarkable amount of deals go down that continued to make clear the sales drought of the end of the last decade is no longer. Over 50 films were picked up for release, and most of them made their way to theaters in the past year. While there certainly were some very notable hits in films like "The Way, Way Back," "Fruitvale Station," "Before Midnight" and "20 Feet From Stardom," for every hit there seemed to be a handful of disappointments, at least in terms of theatrical gross (a lot of them likely made up for it on VOD and digital -- though those numbers remain largely unavailable).
Overall, though, the 2013 crop was looking good relative to the year before it. So far, we've seen six films gross over $6 million, which doubles the amount of films to do so in the previous two years (2011 and 2012 Sundance alums saw only three films gross that each year). That's on par with below the six films to gross $6 million from 2010's lineup ("The Kids Are All Right," "Blue Valentine," "Get Low," "Winter's Bone," "Cyrus" and "Waiting For 'Superman'"). More over, a total of 15 films grossed over $1 million -- up from 11 last year. So there's definitely good news to be found in the following recap, which goes over the top 10 grossing films that were released theatrically out of Sundance last year in detail, and then lists -- sans commentary -- the next 30 of them as well (one again, please note the "verdicts" are based only on theatrical numbers, and in many cases they were made up for considering in VOD).
Here's the big list:
1. Don Jon (then known as "Don Jon's Addiction")
Theatrical Gross: $24.5 million
Verdict: Even though "Don Jon" is indeed the highest grossing acquisition title of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, it's also one of only two to go wide on initial release, setting up a whole different level of expectation. And it's one that "Don Jon" unfortunately failed to meet, especially considering Relativity picked up U.S. rights to the film for $4 million at Sundance, agreeing to a marketing spend in the $25 million range. The $24.5 million that resulted is by no means a disaster, but it's definitely a Disappointment.
2. The Way, Way Back
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Theatrical Gross: $21.5 million
Verdict: The most expensive buy at the festival at just under $10 million, Fox Searchlight took a big risk on coming of age dramedy "The Way, Way Back," and it mostly paid off. Not to the tune of "Little Miss Sunshine" numbers (a film that also was a Searchlight Sundance pickup, and one that shared "Way Back" cast members Toni Collette and Steve Carell), but to a strong enough $21.5 million -- one of the 5 best grosses of the year for a limited release film. Hit.
Distributor: Open Road
Theatrical Gross: $16.1 million
Verdict: No one really expected the tepidly received Steve Jobs' biopic -- picked up by Open Road just before Sundance -- to do particularly well, especially after multiple release date delays that eventually led to a mid-August berth against some late summer heavyweights. When it finally came out, it managed take in $6.7 million in wide release from its first weekend, before going on to gross $16.1 million. For a $12 million budgeted film that not a lot of folks seemed to have much faith in? Respectable.
4. Fruitvale Station (then known as "Fruitvale")
Distributor: The Weinstein Company
Theatrical Gross: $16.1 million
Verdict: Though it didn't end up repeating the best picture nomination its Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winning predecessor "Beasts of the Southern Wild" managed, it's notable that even without that accolade, Ryan Coogler's "Fruitvale Station" has already outgrossed "Beasts." Taking in $16.1 million since its summer release (compared to the $12.8 million "Beasts" grossed, even with a Oscar-timed re-release), "Fruitvale Station" is the second highest grossing winner of Sundance's top prize, after "Precious." Even if it doesn't end up getting the love from Oscar both that film and "Beasts" did, "Fruitvale" is already a winner. Big Hit.
5. Before Midnight
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Theatrical Gross: $8.1 million
Verdict: The culmination of an extremely rare (unheard of?) indie relationship drama trilogy, Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke's "Before Midnight" -- picked up out of Sundance by Sony Pictures Classics -- got arguably the best reviews of the series and absolutely the best box office. The first two films each grossed just under $6 million, while this one took in just over $8 million. Hit.