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Box Office 2.0: Recapping The Non-Competition Films of Sundance ’09

Box Office 2.0: Recapping The Non-Competition Films of Sundance '09

This Thursday, the independent film industry will once again turn its attention over to Park City and the 113 feature films screening at the Sundance Film Festival. Deals will be made, big indie box office hopes will result, and another year of hits and misses will follow. But before we head into those often unpredictable waters, let’s take a look back at how last year’s crop ended up panning out.

Last week’s Box Office 2.0 column took at look at how the 64 films that screened in competition last year. This week, we’ll take a look at the films that screened out of competition. Excluding the New Frontier section (a sidebar of digital art, film screenings, multimedia performances, site-specific installations and video presentations that can’t really be subjected to this sort of analysis), there were 47 non-competition films at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. Of them, 25 ended up being released in theaters before 2009 ended (that’s over 50% – a much greater statistic than competition films, where about a third ended up getting released). The Premieres section – as one would expect – dominated the top grossers, with “(500) Days of Summer” the second highest grossing film to come out of last year’s fest (behind competition title “Precious”).

Here’s a rundown of four of the non-competition lineups, and how their respective programs played out in theatrical release. Be sure to check back with indieWIRE this week as we kick of our coverage of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.


The Films: Adventureland, Brooklyn’s Finest, Earth Days, Endgame, 500 Days of Summer, I Love You Phillip Morris, The Informers, In the Loop, Manure, Mary and Max, The Messenger, Moon, Motherhood, Rudo y Cursi, Shrink, Spread, The Winning Season
The Big Deals: “500 Days of Summer” (Fox Searchlight), “Adventureland” (Miramax), “The Informers” (Senator) and “Rudo y Cursi” (Sony Classics) were lucky enough to go into the festival with distributors. Beyond them, “Brooklyn’s Finest” was the first major deal of the festival – heading to Senator. Though as we know, Senator had a rough 2009 and “Brooklyn” was not released as a result (its now set to be released by Overture Films this March). Other deals during the fest included “In The Loop” (to IFC Films), “Moon” (to Sony Classics), and “Spread” (to Anchor Bay). Most of the remaining films eventually got picked up as well: “Earth Days” went to Zeitgeist; “Shrink” to Roadside; “The Messenger” to Oscilloscope; and “Endgame” to Monterey Media. Both “Motherhood” and “I Love You Phillip Morris” (the latter of which comes out in March) opted for a DIY release through Freestyle Releasing.
The Top Grossers: “500 Days of Summer” ($32,391,374), “Adventureland” ($16,044,025), “Moon” ($5,010,163) and “In The Loop” ($2,388,804).
The Biggest Disappointment: There’s plenty to choose from here: “Motherhood” grossed only $93,388 despite the presence of Uma Thurman; Kevin Spacey-starrer “Shrink” took in only $189,621; “The Informers” only lasted 3 days in theaters, and grossed $300,000 from a 482 screen release; And “Endgame” – starring William Hurt and Chiwetel Ejiofor – grossed just $8,527.


The Films:Against the Current, The Anarchist’s Wife, Barking Water, Children of Invention, Everything Strange and New, Helen, The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle, Johnny Mad Dog, La Mission, Lymelife, The Missing Person, Once More With Feeling, The Only Good Indian, Pomegranates and Myrrh, The Vicious Kind, World’s Greatest Dad
The Big Deals: Not too many. Visit Films took the global rights to “Little Dizzle,” “Lymelife” went to Screen Media, “World’s Greatest Dad” went to Magnolia, “The Missing Person” to Strand, “The Vicious Kind” was eventually went DIY by distributing through 72nd Street Productions (and received some surprise Indie Spirit nods)
The Top Grossers: “Lymelife” ($421,307) and “World’s Greatest Dad” ($221,805)
The Biggest Disappointment: Again, simply getting theatrically released was a big feat for the films in this section. But “The Missing Person”‘s $11,097 gross last November is hardly a success story.

Documentary Spotlight

The Films:It Might Get Loud, No Impact Man, Passing Strange, Tyson, Why We Laugh: Black Comedians on Black Comedy, Wounded Knee, The Yes Men Fix the World
The Big Deals: Both “Tyson” and “It Might Get Loud” had already made deals with Sony Classics pre-fest, while “No Impact Man” ended up with Oscilloscope,”Yes Men” was released through Shadow Distribution, and “Passing Strange” launched the Sundance Channel’s “Sundance Selects” series, an ongoing video-on-demand program (and also had an exclusive run at the IFC Center).
The Top Grossers: “It Might Get Loud” ($1,610,163) and “Tyson” ($887,918).
The Biggest Disappointment: While “Impact Man” and “Yes Men”‘s combined gross was under $300,000, considering expectations, “Tyson” was probably the biggest disappointment in its final gross under $1 milllion.

Park City at Midnight

The Films: Black Dynamite, The Carter, Dead Snow, Grace, The Killing Room, Mystery Team, Spring Breakdown, White Lightnin’
The Big Deals: “Dynamite” sold to Sony Worldwide Acquisitions Group for $2 million and was eventually released through Apparition; “Dead Snow” went to IFC Films; and “Mystery Team” to Roadside. “The Carter,” “Grace” and “Breakdown” went straight to DVD
The Top Grossers: “Black Dynamite” ($242,578)
The Biggest Disappointment: “Dead Snow” and “Mystery Team” both grossed around $50,000, but it was “Dynamite” that had the 7-figure deal, making its gross the biggest disappointment.

“Box Office 2.0” is a weekly column by indieWIRE Associate Editor Peter Knegt. Check out the previous editions:

Box Office 2.0: Recapping The Competition Films of Sundance ’09
Box Office 2.0: Tracking The Awards Contenders
Box Office 2.0: The Biggest Stories of the 2009 Indie Box Office
Box Office 2.0: “Broken Embraces” and the Cannes ’09 Crop
Box Office 2.0: What Happens To “Precious” Now?
Box Office 2.0: The Curious Case of “Orson Welles”
Box Office 2.0: Fall Winners and Losers
Box Office 2.0: Assessing 2009’s Dox Office From “Capitalism” to “The Cove”
Box Office 2.0: Two Notable DIY Releases That Opened In “Precious”‘s Shadow
Box Office 2.0: Snap Judgements & Great Expectations

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