Distributors Pay Top Dollar at Sundance, Has Indie Film Recovered? Plus a Complete List of Acquisitions
Another year of Sundance is coming to a close, with the awards ceremony taking place on Saturday night. We’ve featured interviews with a number of creatives who have films playing at the festival, including two that were recently acquired, Austenland and Concussion. There were quite a few distribution deals made at the festival, some for very large sums of money, and it certainly looks like it’s going to be an even better year than last for the independent film market. Click through for a list of all of the movies that have received deals.
Here is a list of the acquisitions so far:
- The Way, Way Back: $9.75 Million, Fox Searchlight
- Don Jon’s Addiction: $4 Million, Relativity Media ($25 million P&A)
- Austenland: $4 Million, Sony
- Lovelace: $3 Million, RADiUS – TWC
- Kill Your Darlings: $2 Million, Sony Pictures Classics
- Fruitvale: $2.5 million, The Weinstein Company
- S-VHS: > $1 Million, Magnolia Pictures
- Ain’t Them Bodies Saints: $1 Million, IFC Films
- We Are What We Are: > $1 Million, eOne Distribution — US and Memento Films — International
- Concussion: > $1 Million, RADiUS-TWC
- The Spectacular Now: > $1 Million, A24
- Before Midnight: Undisclosed, Sony Pictures Classics — North American and UK
- jOBS: Undisclosed, Open Road
- The Look of Love: Undisclosed, IFC Films
- Newlyweeds: Undisclosed, Phase 4 Films — North America
- Prince Avalanche: Undisclosed, Magnolia Pictures
- The Rambler: Undisclosed, Anchor Bay Films — North America, the U.K. and Australia
- Toy’s House: Undisclosed, CBS Films — North America
- Two Mothers: Undisclosed, Exclusive Releasing
- Blackfish: > $1 million, CNN Films and Magnolia Pictures
- Pussy Riot — A Punk Prayer: > $1 million, HBO Documentary Films
- The Summit: > $1 million, AMC Networks’ Sundance Selects
- Twenty Feet From Stardom: > $1 million, RADiUS-TWC
- Dirty Wars: Undisclosed, AMC Networks’ Sundance Selects
- History of the Eagles: Undisclosed, Showtime
- Inequality for All: Undisclosed, RADiUS-TWC
- The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear: Undisclosed, Icarus Films — North American rights
While we don’t know right now the amounts that were spent to acquire a number of the films on the list, it’s safe to say the market is very strong. Last year was really a rebound year, and this year things have improved dramatically, with at least a dozen films going for well over $1 million — and that includes four documentaries hitting seven figures, compared to only one doc hitting that number at the 2012 festival. Sundance often sets the tone for the rest of the year’s distribution deals — not only because it’s one of the biggest festivals but also because it’s right at the beginning of the year — so we very well could have an excellent year for independent films as there are a number of festivals still to come where such deals are usually made, like South by Southwest, Tribeca, Cannes, and Toronto.
“The hills are alive with film sales,” says Graham Taylor of WME Global, which in addition to Don Jon’s Addiction also handled the The Way, Way Back, Fruitvale and We Are What We Are sales. “Sundance has curated a great crop of films this year, hence the dealmaking.”
One buyer said the escalating prices reflect a market correction from the past few recessionary years. “It goes in cycles,” this person says. “These high prices come after last year’s relatively low minimum guarantees. More importantly, many mini-majors are in dire need of product and have big staffs — they need the churn.”
The festival isn’t only about those looking for a deal, however. We’ve also seen filmmakers like Shane Carruth (Upstream Color) use the festival as a jumping off point to self-distribute, something we may see a lot more of in the future. Here is what he said to the LA Times:
Carruth hopes by releasing the film himself, he can position it as he sees fit. “It’s not necessarily about revenue or that I don’t think it will sell; it’s that I get to frame this thing exactly the way I think it needs to be framed,” said Carruth, who recently moved from Dallas to New York City. “I get to continue narrating through marketing, releasing teasers and artwork that you could make the case aren’t the most commercial ways to sell this but they absolutely are in tune with the way I think of the film and what I want to communicate.”
It will be interesting to see what happens through the rest of the year, and if 2014 continues this trend, but there is no question right now that the market is very strong, and many companies are fighting hard to acquire titles.
Do you think we’ll continue to see these kinds of numbers throughout the rest of the year? How about the independent market in general, do you think this is an anomaly or will things continue to get better for filmmakers trying to sell their films?
- Sundance Acquisitions — IndieWire
- Sundance 2013: The deal report — EW
- Sundance 2013: What’s Behind the 7-Figure Spending — The Hollywood Reporter
- ‘Primer’s’ Shane Carruth in total control with ‘Upstream Color’ — LA Times
Correction: A previous version of this post read < $1 million, those amounts were actually greater than $1 million.
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