On Thursday, the seventh full day of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, temperatures in snowbound Park City dipped down to a frigid 17 degrees — even as North America’s preeminent showcase for independent cinema remained a superheated environment, backdropping a trio of record-shattering mega deals and some of the most frenzied bidding this Hollywood-on-the-slopes event has ever seen.
The chief takeaways: (1) After an off year last year, Sundance has resuscitated itself as a seller’s market, with deep-pocketed streaming services competing with traditional distributors to snag North American rights to a deep bench of commercial titles screening in competition. And (2) at a time when the company’s overall theatrical-distribution strategy remains unclear, Amazon Studios has journeyed to the base of the Wasatch Mountains prepared to lay down serious cash.
On the heels of an all-night bidding war on January 26, Amazon paid $13 million — a festival record for a U.S.-only deal — for rights to Late Night, a workplace comedy starring, written, and produced by Mindy Kaling (playing a so-called writers room “diversity hire”) that co-stars Emma Thompson as a tart-tongued New York talk-show host.
Photo: Emily Aragones/Courtesy of Sundance Institute
“We can’t wait to share this wonderful movie with our customers, first in theaters and then on Amazon Prime Video,” Amazon’s content chief Jennifer Salke said in a statement that hints at her game plan going forward.
The company has a history of splashy deal-making at Sundance, having spent $10 million at the fest in 2016 to acquire Manchester by the Sea and $12 million a year later on U.S. rights for festival darling The Big Sick. But early Monday morning, Amazon eclipsed its own new record by shelling out $14 million for North American rights to The Report, a political drama directed by Scott Z. Burns that stars Adam Driver as a Senate staffer investigating the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques.” Then, just hours later, that record fell too with New Line acquiring Bend It Like Beckham filmmaker Gurinder Chadha’s Blinded by the Light — a coming-of-age drama set to the music of Bruce Springsteen that some Sundance buyers took to calling Sing It Like Springsteen — for $15 million.
While Netflix and Fox Searchlight have spent lavishly at Sundance in past years — the streaming giant picked up ten titles for a combined price tag of $36.5 million in 2017, and Fox’s prestige studio division paid a record-setting $17.5 million for worldwide distribution rights to The Birth of a Nation in 2016 — both have remained relatively subdued this year, acquiring just one title apiece as of this article’s publication. And with such distributors as the Weinstein Company and Broad Green respectively junked for parts and shuttered, the bullish market coming to define this year’s Sundance was hardly a fait accompli.
(Excerpts) Read More at: Vulture.com