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by Peter Knegt
January 18, 2012 10:43 AM
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Sundance 2011 at the Box Office: Charting a (Mostly) Disappointing Crop

Drake Doremus' "Like Crazy."
The big story of the 2011 Sundance Film Festival was the remarkable amount of deals that went down. But one by one -- from "The Future" and "The Art of Getting By" to "Martha Marcy May Marlene" and "Like Crazy" to "Bellflower" and "Another Earth" -- the films disappointed.

As the chart below shows, the 2011 crop has only seen 3 films gross over $6 million ("Our Idiot Brother," "Win Win" and "Cedar Rapids" - two of which were not acqusition titles), while 2010's slate saw six ("The Kids Are All Right," "Blue Valentine," "Get Low," "Winter's Bone," "Cyrus" and "Waiting For 'Superman'"). That's despite the fact that a lot more films from 2011's slate actually got released. Thirty-five in fact, with six more on the way.

That's not to say there weren't multiple success stories that weren't exemplified by the aforementioned likes of "Brother," "Win Win" or "Cedar Rapids."

"Brother" was actually something of a disappointment. The Weinstein Company bought the film for $6 million plus a $15 million P&A commitment (one of the most expensive purchases at the fest), but despite a wide release the film only grossed $24.8 million. When all is said and done, it's no "Happy, Texas" -- the Weinsteins should find themselves close to being in the black. But it was no success story, either.

The real successes came a bit more under the radar. Three films that collectively cost $1.8 million to purchase surprised many by becoming essentially the only Sundance acquisitions to perform well beyond expectation: Sony Classics' "The Guard," Roadside Attractions' "Margin Call" and Sundance Selects' "Buck." Each became hugely profitable ventures, overshadowing the films most expected to be Sundance's MVPs.

Paramount Vantage buy "Like Crazy" and Roadside Attractions grab "Project Nim" arguably came out of the festival with the biggest buzz. The former won the Grand Jury Prize and had a seemingly marketable long-distance love story plot. But the $4 million purchase (plus a $10 million P&A commitment) only ended up taking in $3.4 million.

"Nim" fared even worse. Despite great reviews, the cautionary doc about a chimpanzee being raised as a human managed only $411,184 this summer, well under the $2.9 million Marsh's "Man on Wire" made in 2008. It was an oddly similar situation to dolphin-related "The Cove," which Roadside Attractions also released back in 2009 after it won accolades in Park City. Great reviews, big buzz out of Sundance... but the semi-tragic animal stories were both disappointing at the box office.

But beyond those two, most of the disappointments to come out the 2011 Sundance Film Festival were rather slight. Most films simply failed perform beyond expectation and were not costly purchases, so the distributors are unlikely to be coming into this festival in dire financial straights. They might, however, be a little more careful in buying just so many films. An overcrowded field might be one reason why the films collectively underwhelmed, or perhaps they just weren't all worth the effort.

Here's all the top 25 grossing films to be theatrically released from the Sundance Film Festival, followed by a list of lower grossing films, television purchases and a few that are awaiting release.

1. Our Idiot Brother
Distributor: The Weinstein Company
Gross: $24.81 million
Reported Deal: $6 million + $15 million P&A
Verdict: Slight Disappointment

2. Win Win
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Gross: $10.79 million
Reported Deal: Not an acquisition; came to festival with distribution.
Verdict: Hit

3. Cedar Rapids
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Gross: $6.86 million
Reported Deal: Not an acquisition; came to festival with distribution.
Verdict: Hit

4. The Guard
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Gross: $5.34 million
Reported Deal: $1 million
Verdict: Big Hit

5. Margin Call
Distributor: Roadside Attractions
Gross: $5.32 million (plus VOD)
Reported Deal: $100K
Verdict: Big (The Biggest?) Hit

6. Buck
Distributor: Sundance Selects
Gross: $4.04 million
Reported Deal: $700K
Verdict: Big Hit

7. Like Crazy
Distributor: Paramount Vantage
Gross: $3.39 million
Reported Deal: $4 million + $10 million P&A
Verdict: Big Disappointment

8. Martha Marcy May Marlene
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Gross: $2.9 million
Reported Deal: $2 million
Verdict: Slight Disappointment

9. Take Shelter
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Gross: $1.7 million
Reported Deal: $1 million
Verdict: Slight Disappointment

10. Senna
Distributor: Producers Distribution Agency
Gross: $1.61 million
Reported Deal: $0 (Income split with distributor)
Verdict: Big Hit

11.The Art of Getting By (then known as Homework)
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Gross: $1.43 million
Reported Deal: $4 million
Verdict: Big Disappointment

12. The Devil's Double
Distributor: Lionsgate
Gross: $1.36 million
Reported Deal: $4 million
Verdict: Disappointment

13. Another Earth
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Gross: $1.32 million
Reported Deal: $1 million
Verdict: Slight Disappointment

14. Beats, Rhymes & Life
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Gross: $1.2 million
Reported Deal: Not reported, but likely well under $1 million
Verdict: Hit

15. Red State
Distributor: SModcast
Gross: $1.1 million
Reported Deal: Self-distributed, though the budget was reportedly $4 million
Verdict: Slight Disappointment

16. Page One: A Year Inside The New York Times
Distributor: Participant (Magnolia distributed on fee-for-services basis)
Gross: $1.07 million
Reported Deal: $500,000
Verdict: Slight Disappointment

17. Higher Ground
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Gross: $841,733
Reported Deal: $250,000
Verdict: Respectable

18. Hobo With a Shotgun*
Distributor: Magnolia
Gross: $703,372 + reported $1.9 million in DVD sales*
Reported Deal: Less than $500K (the month before Sundance)
Verdict: Hit

19. Terri
Distributor: ATO Pictures
Gross: $655,802
Reported Deal: Not an acquisition; came to festival with distribution.
Verdict: Slight Disappointment

20. POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Gross: $638,476
Reported Deal: $1 million
Verdict: Disappointment

21. The Future
Distributor: Roadside Attractions
Gross: $568,662
Reported Deal: $250,000
Verdict: Slight Disappointment

22. Circumstance
Distributor: Participant (Roadside distributed on fee-for-services basis)
Gross: $454,121
Reported Deal: Under $500,000
Verdict: Disappointment

23. Project Nim
Distributor: Roadside Attractions
Gross: $411,184
Reported Deal: $2 million
Verdict: Big (The Biggest?) Disappointment

24. Pariah
Distributor: Focus Features
Gross: $401,305, though only after 3 weeks of release
Reported Deal: Under $500,000
Verdict: Slight Disappointment So Far (though it could still easily hit $1-2 million).

25. The Interrupters
Distributor: Cinema Guild
Gross: $274,963
Reported Deal: Not reported, but likely not for very much.
Verdict: Respectable

Other released Sundance films:
Life in a Day (National Geograpic, grossed $257,788)
Bellflower (Oscilloscope, grossed $168,226 but was bought for just $100K)
Magic Trip (Magnolia, grossed only $154,521 but is said have done very well on VOD)
Gun Hill Road (Motion Picture Group, grossed only $148,994 from $1 million purchase)
The Last Mountain (Dada Films, grossed  $122,959 on $300K purchase)
Son of No One (Anchor Bay, grossed just $30,680 and was $2 million purchase)
Salvation Boulevard (IFC, $28,468 plus VOD)
The Ledge (IFC, grossed only $7,140 plus VOD)
I Melt With You (Magnolia, grossed just $6,400 plus VOD)
Corman's World (A&E Indiefilms, grossed just $3,050)

Bought For Television:
Crime After Crime (Oprah Winfrey Network)
Becoming Chaz (Oprah Winfrey Network)
Hot Coffee (HBO)
Knuckle (HBO)

As Yet Unreleased:
The Details (Weinstein Company)
Sound of My Voice (Fox Searchlight)
Mad Bastards (Sundance Selects)
Perfect Sense (IFC)
Silent House (Liddell)
The Flaw (New Video)
 


 










 

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3 Comments

  • Orly Ravid | January 21, 2012 3:05 AMReply

    We Were Here was also released and whilst not big Boxoffice it will have generated more in revenue than its budget once all US distribution is taken into account. Shut Up Little Man was also left off and is doing solid business on the digital side though theatrical was small. Also I thought the Dada Films deal was a service deal.

  • Sandra Branum | January 19, 2012 2:25 PMReply

    Just goes to show you cannot second guess the likes and dislikes of the public.

  • Igbo | January 19, 2012 1:38 AMReply

    Just goes to show it's tough out there for independents.