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Sundance Dealmaking Heats Up; 'Don Jon's Addiction,' Harvey Lands 'Fruitvale'

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood January 21, 2013 at 4:04PM

In the biggest sale of the fest so far, Sundance newbie Relativity Media is closing a deal to acquire U.S. rights for $4 million, according to sources close to the sale. CAA and WME (who rep Gordon-Levitt and packaged the film) brokered the deal. Relativity committed to a wide release. Companies wanting to make a splash at Sundance often overpay, but clearly Relativity was not the only buyer convinced that this portrait of a sex-addicted bartender (JGL) trying to give up porn for his first love (Scarlett Johannson) was commercial. TWC offered an early bid of $2 million, reports Variety; CBS Films and Lionsgate/Roadside were also in the hunt.
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JGL on set of 'Don Jon's Addiction'
Via hitRECord: Gordon-Levitt on the set of my 'Don Jon's Addiction'

Harvey Weinstein is in town. Let the dealmaking begin! Weinstein arrived in Park City Sunday from various confabs in Washington, D.C., and as Barack Obama gave his inaugural speech Monday morning, the mogul was engaged in a loose breakfast conversation with producer Mark Gordon hosted by the Producer's Guild of America. The Weinstein Co. has no films in the festival this year, but reportedly placed a bid on U.S. rights to Joseph Gordon-Levitt's directorial debut "Don Jon's Addiction," which has ignited a heated bidding war since its debut Saturday. (TOH! review here.)

In the biggest sale of the fest so far, Sundance newbie Relativity Media is closing a deal to acquire U.S. rights for $4 million, according to sources close to the sale. CAA and WME (who rep Gordon-Levitt and packaged the film) brokered the deal. Relativity committed to a wide release. Companies wanting to make a splash at Sundance often overpay, but clearly Relativity was not the only buyer convinced that this portrait of a sex-addicted bartender (JGL) trying to give up porn for his first love (Scarlett Johannson) was commercial. TWC offered an early bid of $2 million, reports Variety; CBS Films and Lionsgate/Roadside were also in the hunt.

Distributors are also chasing U.S. rights to Ryan Coogler's true story "Fruitvale," which was backed by Sundance workshops and San Francisco Film Society filmmaker grants. Weinstein Co. grabbed the title for $2.5 million just after Fox Searchlight stopped bidding. Paramount Vantage and CBS were reportedly also interested.

Weinstein Co. already owns foreign rights to "Ain't Them Bodies Saints," and may pick up its domestic option as well. The movie is the critical smash of the festival, a gorgeous magic-hour classic neo-western in the Terrence Malick tradition from another Austin filmmaker, jack-of-all-trades David Lowery. The noir stars Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck as an ill-fated couple, with terrific supporting performances from Ben Foster, Keith Carradine and Nate Parker.

Other deals so far have been much smaller, from docs "The Summit" and "Dirty Wars" (Sundance Selects) to coming-of-age romance "Spectacular Now" (rookie distrib A24) and "Austenland," which was sold to Film District and Exclusive Releasing.

Harvey Weinstein and Mark Gordon
Harvey Weinstein and Mark Gordon

Likely to outpace "Don Jon's Addiction" is Richard Linklater's "Before Midnight," the third in the series created by Linklater and his stars Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. The movie played Sunday night to rapturous reception--it's smart, sharp and digs into the married couple 18 years after their romantic first encounter in "Before Sunrise," and nine years since their reconnection in "Before Sunset." Cinetic Media's John Sloss is handling the sale--many distributors were prepared to bid before the festival, but he insisted on showing it first here. He had reason for that confidence.

The fest hits "Kill Your Darlings" and David Gordon Green's "Prince Avalanche," NEXT sniper pic "Blue Caprice" and doc "Anita" are also heating up interest, along with well-made genre remake "We Are What We Are" and "S-VHS," which this year's reviewers liked better than the previous Sundance horror omnibus entry "V/H/S," which was released by Magnolia, which is expected to chase this as well.

This article is related to: Sundance Film Festival, Before Midnight, Harvey Weinstein


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.