'The Spectacular Now,' 'Austenland' & 'The Look Of Love' Lead First Wave Of Sundance Acquisitions

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by Oliver Lyttelton
January 21, 2013 9:19 AM
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The Sundance Film Festival has been underway for a few days now, but the buyers' market has been slow to get moving. It's not entirely surprising; as we documented last week, a run of disappointments has left distributors a little more cautious than in the past, and with few films attracting across-the-board raves, there's further reason to keep the purse strings tightened until most of the major films have screened.

But with the majority of the big-ticket movies now having unspooled, things are starting to warm up, with a number of major deals closing in the last 24 hours or so. Among the most high profile is "The Spectacular Now," the well-liked teen drama from "Smashed" director James Ponsoldt, starring bright young things Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley. A number of buyers were said to be in the hunt, but it's A24 Films, the new company set up by Oscilloscope co-founder David Fenkel, who've won out, acquiring the movie for an undisclosed sum, according to their press release. The company have made an aggressive start to the business, with "Ginger & Rosa," "A Glimpse Inside The Mind Of Charles Swan III" and "Spring Breakers" among their acquisitions, and only last week they snapped up Sofia Coppola's new one, "The Bling Ring." There's a definite aesthetic and thematic link running through these choices, and it's exciting to have a new player on the scene who seem so serious about getting these films in front of audiences. "The Spectacular Now" is being targeted for a summer release.

Also picked up is "Austenland," the crowd-pleasing rom-com from "Napoleon Dynamite" co-writer Jerusha Hess, starring Keri Russell, Bret McKenzie, J.J. Feild and Jennifer Coolidge. The first venture into film production by "Twilight" author Stephenie Meyer, it drew fairly lukewarm reviews (including ours), but seems to be among the more commercial prospects on offer, and newcomers Exclusive Releasing (a division of financiers Exclusive Media) are partnering with FilmDistrict, who had success last year with Sundance flick "Safety Not Guaranteed," to acquire the film. The deal's not closed yet, but looks likely to later today when Meyer returns to Park City, and the two companies will split worldwide rights, so it's not clear yet as to which of them will be putting it out domestically. Fox Searchlight were also interested, but were beaten out. [Variety]

Meanwhile, we weren't fans of Steve Coogan and Michael Winterbottom's reteam on "The Look Of Love," but IFC Films (who've released several of the director's movies, including "The Trip," "The Killer Inside Me" and "Trishna," with "Everyday" on the way) clearly were, as a press release reveals they've snapped up the North American rights to the picture. As with many of these deals, the exact sum is under wraps (studios are wary of shouting that stuff from the rooftops these days), but likely to be around the six figure mark. IFC president Jonathan Sehring commented that "The Look Of Love" is "a beautifully executed film that we are incredibly proud to bring to audiences later this year."

Meanwhile, documentaries have been selling like veritable hot cakes over the last few days. IFC Films' sister company Sundance Selects picked up mountain climbing doc "The Summit" and war-on-terror film "Dirty Wars," while The Weinstein Company's VOD shingle Radius acquired the rapturously-received "Twenty Feet From Stardom," which focuses on back-up singers, and HBO Films took North American TV rights to "Pussy Riot -- A Punk Prayer." [Indiewire/Indiewire/Indiewire/Indiewire]

There's still a whole week to go of the festival, and many of the buzzier titles remain to be sold, including "Ain't Them Bodies Saints," "Toy's House," "Before Midnight," "In Fear," "In A World..." and "The Inevitable Defeat Of Mister And Pete" (although the screenwriter of the latter, Michael Starrbury, has already had a boost, being hired, according to Deadline, by Morgan Creek to rewrite their Tupac Shakur biopic). But there's one that looks like it'll close sooner rather than later: based-in-fact drama "Fruitvale," about a young man killed by policemen in Oakland, has multiple suitors, with The Weinstein Company (said to be front-runners), Fox Searchlight, Paramount and Focus Features all interested, with a $2 million pricetag in place. The film stars Michael B. Jordan, Octavia Spencer, Melonie Diaz, Ahna O'Reilly, Kevin Durand and Chad Michael Murray, marks the directorial debut of 26-year-old Ryan Coogler, and is drawing comparisons to "Precious" and "Beasts of the Southern Wild." Check back later on to find out who comes up victorious. [Deadline]

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