Sundance Bidding War v2

After kicking off last night with Sebastian Silva's "Crystal Fairy," the Sundance Film Festival is now underway -- movie goers and critics will, in a couple of hours, start lining up for the first full day of the fest, with "Kill Your Darlings," "The Spectacular Now" and "Sound City" among the high-profile pictures of the day.

As we discussed yesterday, Sundance is one of the big markets for companies to pick up films for the coming year, as almost nothing comes to the festival with a distributor already in place. Sometimes, it works out brilliantly, sometimes, not so much.

But with the festival now getting underway properly, we thought we'd take a stab at highlighting the five films that we think are most likely to kick off serious bidding wars. This is all, it should be said, sight unseen, but sometimes the quality is less important than the package, and the below should all be among the big ticket buys of the next ten days or so. Stay tuned throughout the fest for our continuing Sundance coverage.

Before Midnight
"Before Midnight"
We'd actually assumed when we came to write this feature that Richard Linklater's "Before Midnight," the third part of the trilogy that began with "Before Sunrise" and "Before Sunset," and one of the most anticipated films of the festival, already had a distributor. The first film was released by Columbia, the second by Warner Bros, each through deals with the films' producers Castle Rock Entertainment, and we'd figured that a similar system would operate for the third. And while IMDB lists the movie with Warner Bros, the Greece-set Ethan Hawke/Julie Delpy reteam actually doesn't have a U.S. distributor, which must make it one of the hotter prospects at the festival. Admittedly, the films are hardly blockbusters -- they made $5.5 million and $5.8 million domestically on their releases back in 1995 and 2004 (though 'Sunset' did even better business overseas). But we'd wager that they're probably big home video hits, and over the time, the films have been become cherished by scores of fans. We'd wager this would be an ace multi-platform release for an indie shingle, who could do very well with a limited theatrical/VOD rollout. But in any event, there will be more than few folks kicking the tires on this one.

Ain't Them Bodies Saints
"Ain't Them Bodies Saints"
Much of the buzz going into the festival is centered on this period lovers-on-the-run tale from acclaimed shorts filmmaker David Lowery (who we can pretty much guarantee has the best mustache in Park City). Crime pictures are always an attractive buy at the fest (see everything from "Reservoir Dogs" to "Animal Kingdom"), and this one comes with some big names on board. In addition to familiar character actors like Keith Carradine, Ben Foster, Nate Parker and Rami Malek, it features Casey Affleck and the continually rising Rooney Mara in the lead roles, and that's surely enough to get the buyers lining up. Plus, all the whispers we've heard about the film suggest that it's about to make Lowery's name in a big, big way. It's likely to be more "Badlands" than "Lawless," but even so, we'd expect all the top players to be lining up for this one.