Sundance for sale: Festival market is wide open

By David Germain

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Jan. 20 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

"We're hoping to sell it. It's a question of how to sell it and the best person to make sure it's nurtured the right way and released the right way," said Delpy, whose film is a sequel to her 2007 comedy "2 Days in Paris."

With 117 films, most of them hunting for buyers, Sundance will be a scramble for distributors as they rush to see as many movies as they can and try to strike deals on the ones they want.

Sundance has seen occasional bidding wars that have driven the price of some films to more than $10 million, a fortune in the low-budget cinema world. Some pricey festival acquisitions, such as "Little Miss Sunshine," become hits that earn their money back many times over. Others, such as "Happy, Texas" and "Next Stop Wonderland," wind up as commercial duds.

Bidding wars have become rare in recent years as studios closed low-budget film banners and grew more cautious about throwing money around at film festivals amid the economic downturn.

Still, buyers have to be careful to avoid getting caught up in the frenzy over films that set festival crowds buzzing. A film that earns a rapturous response in the thin, high-altitude air of the Utah mountains may be met with indifference at sea level.

"You're just so busy. You have to figure out a way to see the movies and make a business decision based on the reaction at Sundance, which could be the last reaction like that for the film," said Michael Barker, co-president of Sony Pictures Classics, whose Sundance acquisitions last year included Vera Farmiga's "Higher Ground" and Michael Rapaport's "Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest."

"You just don't know if that reaction is going to translate to the rest of the country or the rest of the world."


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