Was this a good year for acquisitions at Sundance?
Sundance is one of the biggest and best indie film festivals for several reasons, but one of the most exciting reasons is the opportunity to have your film acquired. After two years of virtual screenings and big-ticket deals over Zoom calls, big Hollywood studios, A24 executives, and streaming services are back at the festival and fighting for the rights to the most compelling films at Sundance.
We asked earlier in our Sundance 2023 coverage if the film festival could save the indie film industry, and if there would be any huge acquisitions like we saw with Palm Springs and CODA, which went on to be an Oscar movie for Apple. We quickly got an answer after Netflix acquired Chloe Domont’s Fair Play, a thriller set in the ruthless finance world starring Bridgerton’s Phoebe Dynevor and Alden Ehrenreich, for $20 million.
Flora and Son came in as the second-highest deal after an all-night bidding battle between Apple TV+ and Amazon Prime Video. Apple ended up snatching the film for just under $20 million.
All of the dust has finally settled as the festival ended yesterday. While we are still breaking down the numbers to see if the festival did save indie films, here is a list of all of the movies sold at Sundance 2023 and how much they went for:
Acquired Films from Sundance 2023
Nam June Paik: Moon Is the Oldest TV, Director Amanda Kim
This documentary follows the evolution of artist Nam June Paik, who is also known as “The George Washington of Video Art.” Arguably one of the most famous Korean artists in modern history, Paik tells the story of his education in Munich to his rise through the New York art scene.
Distributor: Greenwich Entertainment
The Eternal Memory, Director Maite Alberdi
After a prominent Chilean journalist who reported on the Pinochet regime, Augusto was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease eight years ago, his wife, Paulina, became his primary caretaker. The Oscar-nominated director splices footage of domestic struggles with clips of the country’s and the couple’s past.
Distributor: MTV Documentary Films
Talk to Me, Directors Danny and Michael Philippou
A group of friends learns to conjure spirits using an ancient embalmed hand. This Australian horror is all fun and games until one of them accidentally opens the door to the spirit world, leading to horrifying and gory events.
Price: A number in the high-seven-figure range.
A Little Prayer, Director Angus MacLachlan
A father tries to save his son’s marriage after he suspects that his son may be cheating on his wife. The exploration of the complexity of family dynamics, especially after a child becomes an adult, lends itself to an interesting dissection of the self in this film.
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Passages, Director Ira Sachs
When German filmmaker Tomas (Franz Rogowski) begins an extramarital affair with a young woman (Adèle Exarchopoulos), he causes his husband, Martin (Ben Whishaw) to have an affair of his own. Grappling with contradicting emotions, Tomas must either embrace his marriage or come to terms with the relationship having run its course.
Flora and Son, Director John Carney
Fed up with her teenage son’s petty theft, Flora (Eve Hewson) gifts him a guitar she found in the dumpster in an attempt to get her son a more legal hobby.
Distributor: Apple TV+
Price: Just under $20 million
Theater Camp, Directors Molly Gordon, and Nick Lieberman
After the founder of a theater camp falls into a coma after a strobe-light incident, this mockumentary follows her crypto-bro son as he tries to learn the ways of theater and save the camp from financial ruin.
Price: Roughly $8 million
Fair Play, Director Chloe Domont
A couple engages in a consensual workplace relationship while working for a cutthroat hedge fund. Unfortunately, an unexpected promotion throws their romance into chaos. The power dynamics shift in their relationship, and the couple must face the true price of success and the unnerving limits of ambition.
Price: $20 million
Little Richard: I Am Everything, Director Lisa Cortés
This celebratory documentary traces Little Richard’s early life and musical journey. From archival and performance footage, the film attempts to capture the spark that made Little Richard a rock-and-roll icon in the Black, queer, and mainstream communities while also pulling the curtains back on the reality of exploitation in the industry.
Distributor: Magnolia/CNN Films
Run Rabbit Run, Director Daina Reid
When a fertility doctor’s daughter Mia (Liy LaTorre) begins acting strange, the mother (Sarah Snook) has no choice but to confront the ghost of her past and challenge her beliefs on life and death.
In My Mother’s Skin, Director Kenneth Dagatan
Stranded with their dying mother in 1945 in Japanese-occupied Philippines, Tala (Felicity Kyle Napuli) places her trust in a fairy (Jasmine Curtis-Smith). Unfortunately, the fairy’s cure comes with horrific consequences.
Distributor: Amazon Prime Video
Kokomo City, Director D. Smith
The feature directorial debut of two-time Grammy-nominated producer/singer/songwriter D. Smith follows the stories of four Black trans sex workers, Daniella Carter, Koko Da Doll, Liyah Mitchell, and Dominique Silver, in Georgia and New York. D. Smith’s style is unforgettable and undeniably true to her style of storytelling.
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures