The annual Cinetic Media party, the hottest industry ticket at Sundance, maintained its dominance among festival soirees Monday night luring buyers, sellers and filmmakers to Zoom on Main St. No RSVPs were accepted for the party this year, instead a simple email was sent to guests who were told their name would be at the door. Those who skipped competing agency parties and nighttime fest screenings were treated to a front row seat as company head John Sloss brokered a pair of deals in Zoom’s upstairs dining room. The Weinstein Company head Harvey Weinstein arrived a half-hour early to talk business, and when guests were allowed in at 9 p.m., Fox Searchlight chief Peter Rice was sitting down with the team from “La Misma Luna” as groups of interested execs from competing companies watched from across the small room. Later, the team from First Look Pictures arrived to negotiate for Justin Theroux‘s “Dedication” and this afternoon pacts for both films are expected to be announced. Separately, Paramount Vantage announced it acquisition of “Son of Rambow,” while Magnolia Pictures is planning to announce a deal for “The Signal.”
Both Cinetic deals brokered in the past few hours have The Weinstein Company in the mix. “La Misma Luna” has been acquired in a joint deal between TWC (The Hollywood Reporter pegged the pact at $5 – $6 million) and Fox Searchlight, while First Look Pictures will likely partner with TWC on “Dedication” in a joint, worldwide deal. (Multiple sources verified the plan, but a TWC rep declined comment as final negotiations continued this afternoon).
The recent rush of deals including five that were announced on Monday totaling more than $15 million in sales, was the hot topic among buyers at the Cinetic bash, many of whom speculated about the progress of the pacts for “La Misma Luna” and “Dedication” as the evening wore on. Later, as the soiree drew to a close, company heads and their lieutenants began to buzz about a bidding war over Garth Jennings‘ “Son of Rambow,” some speculating at the time that the deal might close as much as $10 million.
This afternoon, Paramount Vantage confirmed that it acquired worldwide rights (excluding Japan, Germany and French Free TV) in a deal brokered by Celluloid Dreams, but insiders would not comment on the figure. Late Tuesday, the Paramount Vantage also announced that, in association with MTV Films, it has acquired worldwide rights (excluding Canada) to Ian Iqbal Rashid‘s “How She Move.”
“I think this is one of the biggest ‘festival fever’ festivals in recent memory,” Magnolia Pictures president Eamonn Bowles told indieWIRE, just hours before closing his own deal on David Bruckner, Jacob Gentry, and Dan Bush‘s “The Signal.” “The prices are insane, I am kind of shocked.” (The company is expected to announce “The Signal” deal today.)
This latest round of acquisitions, perhaps totaling more than $15 million, has extended the frenzy of buying that began in earnest over the weekend. With some buyers leaving town tonight or tomorrow as the Sundance Film Festival transitions to its second-half “Package B” badges, observers are wondering whether the market can maintain the intensity.
“The last two big festivals were kind of fallow as far as really notable acquisitions and I think people are just hungry and need product,” Bowles told indieWIRE. “There hasn’t been much out there on the open market and I think people are kind of overreacting.” But he added that as Sundance hits its midpoint, he expects things to slow down and prices to drop a bit.
“There have been a lot of films, especially some in the competition, that feel like the equivalent of ‘Emo’ music, cinematically,” Magnolia Pictures president Bowles told indieWIRE, continuing, “There are adolescent concerns that I just don’t buy.” But he added, “There were nice surprises and a lot of things that didn’t look promising (turned out) to be kind of nice.”
Lionsgate president Tom Ortenberg, an apparent fan of “La Misma Luna,” chatted with indieWIRE upstairs at the Cinetic bash as Fox’s Peter Rice met with the “Luna” group nearby. Saying that he and his team have been “pleasantly surprised by how many movies we’ve enjoyed watching,” Ortenberg continued, “I feel like we’ve seen more good, solid independently made features at Sundance this year than I can recall seeing at any of the major festivals recently. It’s been a pleasant surprise.” Concluding the chat, Ortenberg added that business has been brisk at Sundance this year “because there are a lot of really good movies.”
“There are a lot of good films, but I haven’t seen any great films,” IFC Entertainment president Jonathan Sehring told indieWIRE during a brief chat at the Cinetic party. Reacting to the biz side of things, he added, “The prices are pretty astounding, especially for the documentaries when not all rights are available — it’s great for the filmmakers and it’s great for sales agents.”
“A lot of companies need product,” Sehring said, when asked to explain the busy Park City marketplace this year, “There are new companies…everyone needs product or is worried about what is on their lineup.”
Admitting that he is not actively looking to buy anything for IFC Films because he has his slate set for the year, Sehring said that he is seeking movies for his IFC First Take label, but that some of the movies he has considered have been priced too high.
“If we saw something we loved, we’d go after it,” Sehring concluded,” I just haven’t loved anything.”
Later, Henry Winterstern, Stuart Ford and Ruth Vitale, the team from First Look Pictures, made their way upstairs for the sit down with Weinstein and Sloss. During a break in the action, Vitale told indieWIRE that she sees little difference at Sundance from year to year.
“I believe that people need product,” Vitale explained, “So irregardless of what people thing the quality of product is, they need product.” Continuing she added, “Whether it lives up to your expectations, exceeds your expectations, or is below your expectations, you need to buy. “So people will always buy and it will be a question of how high they go to by what kind of product.”
She said she isn’t surprised at all by the prices being paid. Reflecting on the differences from her days as co-president at Paramount Classics to her new leadership post at First Look, Vitale said that when a specialty division of a studio spends $3 – $4 million for a film, especially when it gets worldwide rights, they will utlimately be coveraged. But for “the little guys,” as she referenced the non-studio companies, “It leaves us cautiously looking for product and (trying not to) get into a bidding war with anybody…because you can’t afford to — we have to be smarter.”
“I think there is a good deal of caution,” Koch Lorber head Richard Lorber told indieWIRE, shortly after chatting a bit with Harvey Weinstein (who now owns hundreds of films from the old Fox Lorber/Weinstein library). “The higher profile titles are going to continue to demand premium prices, but the large majority of the titles are going to have a slower sell,” Lorber explained. Elaborating, he added, “There are more (potential) combinations on the distribution side to handle and maximize the revenue streams from the smaller films because it’s getting harder to depend upon the top of the pyramid to get the most out of these titles.”
Asked about Sundance ’07, Lorber instead looked ahead, saying, “Berlin is going to be a much more important market. It has grown dramatically…it (is) more user-friendly in terms of actually negotiating deals that can work. Sundance is great in terms of promotion and cache and press, but it’s not an environment where we can complete deals at the micro level.”
Inside indieWIRE On the Scene: Park City
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Get the latest coverage of Park City ’07 in indieWIRE’s special section here at indieWIRE.com