WSJ Blogging Sundance: Post #1: Will Buyers Be Assholes?

by Anthony Kaufman
January 17, 2008 12:54 AM
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Yes, even the Wall Street Journal blogs now. For my kick-off post at WSJ.com, "Feeding Frenzy or Freeze," I offer a counterpoint to the WGA-strike-induced-buying-mania meme that is all over the mediascape these days. I doubt the Hollywood specialized division heads are thinking, "let's fork over multi-millions for indie films that proved weak at the box-office." Strike or no strike, the indie business is in a strange place, and as the ever-quotable Mark Urman from ThinkFilm told me, "If people don't understand by this point that they can walk away, that they need the money more than the movie, then they're just assholes."

Urman, twice bitten at last year's Sundance (spending millions for lackluster performers "In the Shadow of the Moon" and "The Ten") should know. If the strike is making folks nervous about their slates, what should be making them more nervous is the fact that the films that broke-out this year in theaters -- "Waitress," "Once" -- were not expected as commercial hits at the festival, while the films that were -- "Joshua," for one -- tanked. If there are ridiculous record-breaking buying sprees, says Urman, "it reflects on the poor judgment of the buyers.”

All that being said, you know the first feel-good comedy to premiere with sustained laughs and some quirky characters (played by name-actors) is going to spark a bidding war... But what will happen to that movie in the wild, saturated marketplace? As Picturehouse's Bob Berney told me, "The market is horrendously overcrowded. Most of the movies bought last year turned out to be bombs. But that never stops anyone."

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