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Sundance 2013 at the Box Office: The Biggest Grossers of Last Year's Festival

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire January 16, 2014 at 2:11PM

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.
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Scarlett Johnansson in "Don Jon"
"Don Jon"

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).

READ MORE: The 10 Films That Should Sell Big at This Year's Sundance Film Festival

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")
Distrubutor: Relativity
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.

Jobs Ashton Kutcher

3. Jobs
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.

6. The Spectacular Now
Distributor: A24
Theatrical Gross: $6.9 million
Verdict: While "Spring Breakers" was breakout distributor A24's 2013 gem when it came to the box office, teen drama "The Spectacular Now" was a not-too-shabby second place. Smartly counterprogramming late summer fare with a youth oriented film smarter than almost anything else saw the film slowly but surely near a $7 million final gross, besting A24's other summer film with young stars, Sofia Coppola's "The Bling Ring."  Hit.

"Twenty Feet From Stardom"
"Twenty Feet From Stardom"

7. 20 Feet From Stardom
Distributor: RADiUS-TWC
Theatrical Gross: $4.8 million
Verdict: Upstart RADiUS-TWC found its first major theatrical hit in Morgan Neville's "20 Feet From Stardom," which was far and away the highest grossing documentary of 2013 (and among the 40 highest grossing of all time). Things started out strong but unspectacular for the backup singer doc, which averaged $18,199 from three theaters in its first weekend. But then the film rather remarkably held up in theaters for 30 weeks (it's actually still playing in five), taking its total to $4.8 million. That made it the highest grosser ever for RADiUS, which typically puts focus on digital releases, but made "20 Feet" its first exclusively theatrical film. It definitely paid off.  Big Hit.

8. In a World...
Distributor: Roadside Attractions
Theatrical Gross: $3.0 million
Verdict: Lake Bell's well received directorial debut was another late summer specialty success story, giving Roadside Attractions its highest grossing pickup out of Sundance while hopefully also giving Bell some money to make her follow-up.  Hit.

9. The East
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Theatrical Gross: $2.3 million
Verdict: Already picked up by Fox Searchlight ahead of last year's fest, Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling's collaboration grossed 5 times as much as their previous Sundance entry "Sound of My Voice," though that still made for just over $2 million, which though unspectacular is definitely respectable.

10. Austenland
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Theatrical Gross: $2.2 million
Verdict: Late summer indie romantic comedies often to do a little better than "Austenland" (see "The Spectacular Now"), but the haul Sony Classics managed out of this Keri Russell-starrer was within expectation. Respectable.

And then here's the rest:

11. Blackfish
Distributor: Magnolia
Theatrical Gross: $2.1 million
Verdict: Hit.

"Blackfish"
Magnolia Pictures "Blackfish"

12. Stoker
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Gross: $1.7 million
Verdict: Disappointment.

13. The Kings of Summer (then known as "Toy's House")
Distributor: CBS Films
Theatrical Gross: $1.3 million
Verdict: Respectable.

14. Inequality for All
Distributor: RADiUS-TWC
Theatrical Gross: $1.2 million
Verdict: Hit

15. Kill Your Darlings
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Theatrical Gross: $1.0 million
Verdict: Disappointment.

'Muscle Shoals'
'Muscle Shoals'

16. Muscle Shoals
Distributor: Magnolia
Theatrical Gross: $674K
Verdict: Hit.

17. The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete
Distributor: Lionsgate
Theatrical Gross: $495K
Verdict: Respectable.

18. The Act of Killing
Distributor: Drafthouse
Theatrical Gross: $464K
Verdict: Respectable.

19. Upstream Color
Distributor: self-distributed
Theatrical Gross: $444K
Verdict: Respectable.

20. Sound City
Distributor: Variance
Theatrical Gross: $423K
Verdict: Respectable.

21. Ain't Them Bodies Saints
Distributor: IFC Films
Theatrical Gross: $391K
Verdict: Disappointment.

Lovelace
"Lovelace"

22. Dirty Wars
Distributor: IFC Films
Theatrical Gross: $371K
Verdict: Respectable.

23. Lovelace
Distributor: RADiUS-TWC
Gross: $357K
Verdict: Disappointment.

24. Adore (then known as "Two Mothers")
Distributor: Exclusive Media
Theatrical Gross: $319K
Verdict: Disappointment.

25. Linsanity
Distributor: Ketchup
Theatrical Gross: $299K
Verdict: Respectable.

26. Prince Avalanche
Distributor: Magnolia
Theatrical Gross: $205K
Verdict: Disappointment.

Prince Avalanche

27. Free Angela and All Political Prisoners
Distributor: Code Black
Theatrical Gross: $194K
Verdict:  Respectable.

28. Crystal Fairy
Distributor: IFC Films
Theatrical Gross: $192K
Verdict: Disappointment.

29. A.C.O.D.
Distributor: Film Arcade
Theatrical Gross: $179K
Verdict: Disappointment.

30. Afternoon Delight
Distributor: Film Arcade
Theatrical Gross: $184K
Verdict: Disappointment.

31. Escape From Tomorrow
Distributor: PDA
Theatrical Gross: $171K
Verdict: Disappointment.

32. Cutie and the Boxer
Distributor: RADiUS-TWC
Theatrical Gross: $170K
Verdict: Respectable.

33. We Steal Secrets
Distributor: Focus
Gross: $166K
Verdict: Disappointment.

34. Mother of George
Distributor: Oscilloscope
Theatrical Gross: $158K
Verdict: Disappointment.

35. Narco Cultura
Distributor: Cinedigm
Theatrical Gross: $145K
Verdict: Respectable.

36. American Promise
Distributor: RFG
Theatrical Gross: $138K
Verdict: Respectable.

37. Computer Chess
Distributor: Kino Lorber
Theatrical Gross: $102K
Verdict:  Disappointment.

38. Blue Caprice
Distributor: IFC Films
Theatrical Gross: $92K
Verdict: Disappointment.

39. We Are What We Are
Distributor: EOne
Theatrical Gross: $81K
Verdict: Disappointment.

40. After Tiller
Distributor: Oscilloscope
Theatrical Gross: $67K
Verdict: Disappointment.



This article is related to: Box Office, Sundance Film Festival, Sundance 2014, 20 Feet from Stardom, Fruitvale Station, The Way, Way Back, Don Jon, Before Midnight