But behind the closed doors of Park City, acquisitions execs were aggressively jockeying for position as more of the high-level premieres were unveiled, even as no one had yet pulled the trigger on anything from the dramatic side of the program. It's unlikely that Monday morning will arrive without some action.
The slow-burn pace follows a recent pattern at the festival of buyers sizing up as much of the film roster as they can the first few days until one party closes a deal and the rest of the dominoes fall as each distributor then lunges for its next-best target. And with the wide array of both good-enough films and effective distributors, it no longer feels as if competition must be targeted and heavy on just a tight handful of movies -- it can be spread across the program.
“Given the reactions, the films will find homes, for sure,” says Bob Berney, who with wife Jeanne recently re-launched Picturehouse. “But I don’t see a mad scramble yet.”
“Kill Your Darlings” and “Don Jon’s Addiction,” two films with sizable stars and high-profile premieres at the Eccles Theatre, unspooled Friday, and while both are sure to find homes, neither is an easy sell for audiences. Both have received praise for performances, but the sexiness on display in each comes with a major dash of dark.
Through Saturday, Lynn Shelton’s “Touchy Feely,” Drake Doremus’s “Breathe In” and Michael Winterbottom’s “The Look of Love” – anticipated works from returning Sundance filmmakers — screened mostly to piecemeal praise that pointed, again, to worthy films that would certainly find audiences but hadn’t hit with the consensus power that “Beasts of the Southern Wild” or “Precious” did in recent years.
One source pegs Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s “Addiction” for a wide-release play by one of the newer distributors. Likely VOD-friendly titles such as “Austenland” and “Two Mothers” — both Friday premieres — have bids on them as well, according to a source that has been meeting with sellers. A different source pegs Park City at Midnight selections "S-VHS" and "We Are What We Are" for imminent placement.
Several documentaries have already found homes, however, with Sundance Selects picking up North American rights to “The Summit” and “Dirty Wars,” Showtime grabbing “History of the Eagles” and RADiUS-TWC acquiring “Twenty Feet From Stardom” Friday. In recent years, the increasingly meaty nonfiction portion of the program has produced as much excitement (and box office return) as the fiction side. And with the dramatic films requiring a more cautious approach, the first days of the festival have become increasingly dominated by doc purchases.
“It’s like going into a candy store,” says Sundance Selects/IFC Films acquisitions chief Arianna Bocco, who has done well with docs “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work,” “Buck” and other Sundance pick-ups in recent years, and has 2012 buy “How to Survive a Plague” up for an Oscar this year. “There’s always a clear audience for documentaries in taking them out to the marketplace. With docs, there’s a path.”
It helps that a number of the best-performing films acquired out of the 2012 Sundance line-up were documentaries: “Searching for Sugar Man,” “The Imposter,” “The Queen of Versailles,” “Chasing Ice” and “Shut Up and Play the Hits” all did well at the box office last year.