The 2016 Sundance Film Festival got its first major breakout last night with the world premiere of Kenneth Lonergan’s domestic drama “Manchester By the Sea.” Earning the strongest reviews so far for any feature at the festival, the movie set off a huge bidding war between a handful of major studio and indie distributors, including Sony Pictures Classics, Universal, Fox Searchlight and Lionsgate, but it’s Amazon that has come off on top. According to reports from Deadline and The Hollywood Reporter, the company paid upwards of $10 million for the drama.
Lonergan’s third feature after “You Can Count on Me” and “Margaret,” “Manchester” stars Casey Affleck as a man who moves back to his New England home in order to take care of his recently-deceased brother’s 16-year-old son. Kyle Chandler and Michelle Williams also star in the film, which is produced by Matt Damon and is prematurely drumming up Oscar buzz for next year.
The deal is one of the largest to ever hit Park City, and it’s the latest 2016 festival acquisition for Amazon after “Complete Unknown” and Whit Stillman’s “Love and Friendship.” Amazon has picked up streaming rights for the drama and is now looking to partner up with a studio for the theatrical release, similar to their collaboration with Roadside on Spike Lee’s “Chi-Raq” last December.
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The deal also includes an awards campaign, meaning we’ll most likely see “Manchester By the Sea” show up at a few prestige festivals before opening in the fall.