Buying at Sundance is a game of grabbing one title at a time: each distrib circles the hit titles, grabs one, and retires from the fray. (Sony Pictures Classics, Magnolia IFC tend to have bigger appetites.) What buyers don't want in a heated bidding situation is to overpay for a weak title or wind up needing product and going home with nothing. Weinstein Co. did not land Margin Call (which went to Lionsgate/Roadside) or Like Crazy (which went to Paramount) or Take Shelter, starring Michael Shannon, or Morgan Spurlock's The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, which both went to Sony pre-fest. Sony saw the Spurlock doc before anyone had seen the completed picture--Sony saw the first hour of the film, says Spurlock. James Marsh's dramatic chimp doc Project Nim went to HBO before the fest, which is seeking a theatrical partner.
Sellers say that the indie market shifted at September's Toronto Fest from a buyer's to a seller's market--more movies moved more swiftly and at higher prices (in a what had been a depressed indie market) than anyone had expected. That trend seems to be continuing at Sundance, where more buyers are chasing films.
So Harvey Weinstein moved aggressively (a reported $6 to 7 million plus a $15 million P & A commitment for domestic rights as well as U.K., Germany, France and Japan, the fest's biggest deal to date) to acquire (in another night of heavy negotiating on the part of UTA's dogged Rena Ronson) Jesse Peretz's My Idiot Brother. The dysfunctional family comedy played well at the Eccles Saturday night; every buyer was there, from Focus and Sony to FilmDistrict, Summit and Lionsgate. Clearly, Relativity and FilmDistrict are looking for new product to fill their slates and were expected to make big-stir buys out of Sundance. But both are also seeking wider release projects.
[Sundance photo of Paul Rudd with Elizabeth Banks and Rashida Jones.]
TWC's rival bidder was new-kid-on-block Relativity. The movie is delightful but by no means guaranteed to gross more than what it needs to in order to recoup: $25 million domestic.
In a tale inspired by Dostoevsky, Rudd won kudos for his performance as a dim-witted long-haired goofball who wears his heart on his sleeve. He's in love with his dog as well as his self-involved sisters, played well by Emily Mortimer, Elizabeth Banks and Zooey Deschanel. He infuriates them, but finally convinces them that honesty is always the best policy.
MTV Talks to Rudd here and below: