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Sundance 2012 Buyers Guide: A Primer

Festivals
by Anne Thompson and Tom Brueggemann
January 20, 2012 11:21 AM
2 Comments
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"Your Sister's Sister"
Every year the Sundance acquisition landscape changes as buyers come and go. After a period of upheaval, the studio subsidiaries are steady on, although the lack of commercial or awards breakouts from last year's batch of buys should keep 2012 Sundance bidding low. But it only takes one hot title to reignite the marketplace.

While there's movement in indie distribution, we're profiling regular buyers with track records. Some will partner with such other entities as Participant Media, OWN, PBS or HBO, who are not theatrical distributors. And some newer entities are not listed.

Relativity, never a major Sundance player, is struggling to keep its financial footing and losing key executives, and Graham King plans to restructure FilmDistrict, his experiment in releasing his sprawling slate, after letting go of Bob Berney. The impact of Lionsgate and Summit's pending merger on their buying appetite is unclear. And P & A financeer Mickey Liddell, who has been partnering with the likes of Lionsgate partner Roadside Attractions, is starting his own releasing company LD Distribution with marketing veteran, ex-Paramount Classics exec David Dinerstein as president. The company plans to release four to six films in its first year, a mix of acquisitions and films from five-year-old Liddell Entertainment's expanding production slate of modestly budgeted films capped at $25 million. And eyes are also on Cohen Media Group ("The Lady") and Wrekin Hill (Zhang Yimou's "The Flowers of War"). 

Anyone at the fest who does not land theatrical distribution has at least one back-up: they can self-distribute via Sundance's Artists Services.

Sundance Buyers

Name: Anchor Bay
Past notable Sundance buys: "Happythankyoumoreplease," "Frozen"
Bought last year: Sundance – "Son of No One"; Toronto – "Ten Year"
Looking for: wide range of mid-level films with DVD appeal as well as theatrical
Pockets: medium deep
Hunger/Need: modest

Name: Cinema Guild
Past notable Sundance buys:
Bought last year: Sundance - "The Interrupters"; Cannes - "Once Upon a Time in Anatolia," "The Turin Horse"
Looking for: high-end critic-oriented specialized films
Pockets: moderate
Hunger/Need: moderate


Name: Focus
Past notable Sundance buys: "The Kids Are All Right,""Hamlet 2"
Bought last year: Sundance – "Pariah"
Looking for: Crossover commercial and award-potential films
Pockets: deep
Hunger/Need: Full plate, but open to falling in love; not hungry, might flesh out year-end slate.

Name: Fox Searchlight
Past notable Sundance buys: "Little Miss Sunshine," "Waitress," "Garden State"
Bought last year: Sundance - "Martha Marcy May Marlene," "Art of Getting By," "Another Earth" (released 2011); "The Sound of My Voice" (2012) ,"The Bengali Detective" (remake rights), Toronto's "Shame"
Looking for: Crossover commercial and award-potential films, possible remakes
Pockets: Very deep
Hunger/Need: 2012 slate includes "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," "Stoker" (Park Chan-wook, with Nicole Kidman), "He Loves Me" (Dayton/Faris), upcoming Payne, but not likely this year – so they look hungry.

Name: IFC/Sundance Selects
Past notable Sundance buys: "The Escapist," "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work"
Bought last year: Sundance – "Buck," "The Ledge," "Perfect Sense," "Salvation Boulevard," "Septien," "Those Amazing Shadows," "Mad Bastards," "Uncle Kent"; Berlin – "Pina", "The Forgiveness of Blood"; Cannes – Declaration of War," "House of Pleasures," "Kid With a Bike"; Toronto – "Your Sister’s Sister", "Edwin Boyd" (among many other films)
Looking for: wide range of mid- and low-range titles including documentaries, midnight, foreign-language and more for primarily VOD release
Pockets: medium deep, but don't pay much for individual titles, nor spend substantial marketing coin
Hunger/Need: insatiable

Name: Kino Lorber
Past notable Sundance buys:  "Kimjonilia," "The Red Chapel"
Bought last year: Sundance - "The Mill and the Cross"; Cannes - "Charlotte Rampling: The Look"
Looking for: range of critic-oriented specialized films, primarily foreign
Pockets: moderate
Hunger/Need: moderate
 

Name: LD Entertainment
Past notable Sundance buys: formed post-Sundance 11
Bought last year: Sundance - "Silent House;" Toronto - "Killer Joe"
Looking for: range of films with wide release potential
Pockets: medium deep
Hunger/need: new buyers often make splashy bids.

Name: Lionsgate
Past notable Sundance buys: "Precious," "Buried"
Bought last year: Sundance – "The Devil’s Double"; Toronto – "Friends With Kids"
Looking for: uncertain
Pockets: medium deep
Hunger/Need: uncertain after merger with Summit, usually chases genre fare, but open to Oscar material.

Name: Magnolia
Past notable Sundance buys: "Tucker & Dale Vs, Evil," "Client Number Nine," "Humpday"
Bought last year: Sundance – "Happy Happy," "Hobo With a Shotgun," "I Melt With You," "Magic Trip"; Cannes – "Melancholia"; Toronto – "360," "The Hunter," "Headhunters," "God Bless America"
Looking for: midnight films, documentaries, VOD, foreign language
Pockets: medium deep
Hunger/Need: VOD demands constant stream, especially of genre product

Name: Music Box
Past notable Sundance buys: none
Bought last year: Cannes - "The Conquest," Toronto - "Monsieur Lazhar," "The Deep Blue Sea"
Looking for: mainly foreign language films, both critics' oriented but also sometimes more off-beat
Pockets: modest
Hunger/Need: modest

Name: Open Road
Past notable Sundance buys: formed post-Sundance 11
Bought last year: none at festivals
Looking for: wide release commercial films
Pockets: medium deep
Hunger/Need: uncertain

Name: Oscilloscope
Past notable Sundance buys: "The Messenger," "Howl"
Bought last year: Sundance – "If a Tree Falls," "Bellflower," "Rebirth," "The Other F Word"; Cannes – "We Need to Talk About Kevin"; Toronto – "Wuthering Heights"
Looking for: edgier, critics-driven films and documentaries
Pockets: medium deep
Hunger/Need: moderate

Name: Paramount
Past notable Sundance buys: "An Inconvenient Truth," "Waiting for Superman"
Bought last year: Sundance - "Like Crazy"
Looking for: crossover commercial films, directors to nurture
Pockets: deep
Hunger/Need: low

Name: Roadside Attractions
Past notable Sundance buys: "Winter’s Bone," "The Cove"
Bought last year: Sundance – "Margin Call," "Circumstance," "The Future"; Toronto – "Friends With Kids"
Looking for: Middle-level indie films and documentaries with crossover potential
Pockets: medium deep (past partnerships with Lionsgate and Participant as well)
Hunger/Need: big – only a handful of films set for 2012 so far.

Name: Sony Pictures Classics
Past notable Sundance buys: "Animal Kingdom," "My Kid Could Paint That," "An Education"
Bought last year: Sundance - "Higher Ground," "Take Shelter," "The Greatest Movie Ever Sold," "The Guard," "Beats, Rhymes & Life"; others include "A Separation," "Footnote," "Where We Go Now?"
Looking for: foreign language, award-potential, documentaries, cross-over commercial
Pockets: deep only when appropriate
Hunger/Need: they release a high volume of films, mainly acquisitions, so moderate need. They can afford to be picky.

Name: Strand
Past notable Sundance buys: Peter and Vandy, The Missing Person
Bought last year: Sundance - "Tyrannousaur," "Attenberg"; Cannes - "Michael"
Looking for: independent/specialized niche
Pockets: moderate
Hunger/Need: moderate
 

Name: The Weinstein Co.
Past notable Sundance buys: "Blue Valentine," "The Tillman Story"
Bought last year: Sundance - "Our Idiot Brother"; "The Details" (2012); Cannes' "The Artist"
Looking for: wide-release, cross-over commercial, award-potential, possible remakes, midnight, documentaries, foreign language
Pockets: deep
Hunger/Need: several 2011 festival buys are still unreleased, production slate less specialized, so should be looking hard.

Name: Zeitgeist
Past notable Sundance buys: "Up the Yangtze," "Trouble the Water," "Last Train Home"

Bought last year: none
Looking for: niche specialized films, particular emphasis on documentaries as well as women directors
Pockets: moderate
Hunger/Need: moderate

2 Comments

  • Judy Scott | January 20, 2012 2:01 PMReply

    Hi Anne,
    I will be attending the second half of the festival on behalf of The Little Film Company (Robbie Little's company) looking for world rights on smaller, but commercial product. Pockets are not real deep - but MG's and partnership with domestic theatrical releasing are available.
    -Judy Scott

  • Eli Zanzabar | January 20, 2012 11:32 AMReply

    Thanks for including the well respected indie distributors suck as Kino/Lorber, Zeitgeist and Cinema Guild. They only have multiple films in the festival to begin with and almost always take multiple titles. Sure Oscilloscope execs might look real hip in their designer pants but do their films actually make money? They have a higher employee turnover rate than most gas stations.

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