The End of the Tour, The Witch, Mississippi Grind
A24 has gone from upstart to major player, and made three smart buys at the fest. The End of the Tour was an early festival favorite, and A24 handled director James Ponsoldt’s last film, The Spectacular Now, so this one was a bit of a no-brainer; I wouldn’t be surprised to see it held until fall, if for no other reason than to position Jason Segel as an awards contender. The period horror title The Witch garnered big-time buzz and a US Dramatic Directing award, and seems like a strong possibility for a Halloween-ish release. And while reviews were a bit more mixed for Mississippi Grind , people can’t stop talking about how great Ryan Reynolds and (especially) Ben Mendelsohn are in the leads.
Knock Knock, Don Verdean, Z for Zachariah
Lionsgate is one of the most reliably savvy marketers of horror movies, so the $2.5 million they reportedly popped for the latest from brand-name director Eli Roth and marquee star Keanu Reeves was probably money well spent. But who knows what the hell they were thinking with their pre-fest buy of Don Verdean, the latest from Napoleon Dynamite’s Jared and Jerusha Hess, which premiered a week later to less-than-rapturous notices (including ours)? Finally, the company will partner with Roadside Attractions to release Craig Zobel’s acclaimed Z for Zachariah.
The Diary of a Teenage Girl, Grandma
Sony Pictures Classics had made two buys so far: The potentially controversial Diary of a Teenage Girl (which won the Jury Prize for Cinematography) and Paul Weitz’s Grandma , which is already generating Oscar talk for star Lily Tomlin. I’d expect Diary in the summer and Grandma in the fall.
The D Train, Reversal
IFC Films landed The D Train, which garnered strong buzz for Jack Black’s first starring role in years and an ace comic turn by James Marsden, for a $3 million price tag that included a commitment for wide theatrical release, which I imagine will happen this summer. Their genre-based IFC Midnight imprint also picked up Reversal, a revenge thriller that generated more mixed reviews.
The Overnight, Digging for Fire
The Orchard is one of the newer distributors on the indie scene, but they spent some cash to pick up two high-profile comedy/dramas. The enjoyably raucous The Overnight went for somewhere in the “seven-figure range,” with Orchard reportedly outbidding at least four other distributors, while also acquiring the muted but strong Joe Swanberg effort Digging for Fire.
My second-fave of the festival, this energetic action/comedy is one of the most commercial films screened last week; it was picked up for $7 million by Open Road (who will distribute domestically) and Sony (who will handle it internationally). And it has the first concrete release date of the festival buys: June 12, opposite Jurassic World. Good luck, great little movie that’s taking on giant dinosaur franchise!
Hot Girls Wanted
Netflix picked up the disturbing and powerful amateur-porn exposé Hot Girls Wanted, which should result in some interesting blind-watches by streaming-skin aficionados here in a few months.
Showtime acquired the human trafficking documentary Dreamcatcher prior to its Sundance premiere (and World Cinema Documentary Directing award). Their website is advertising a March 27 debut.
The additional deals thus far are from distributors that have only picked up one title: Tribeca Film (the comedy doc Misery Loves Comedy), Relativity (the opening night comedy The Bronze), Alchemy (the Nicole Kidman/Joseph Finnes drama Strangerland), HBO (the US Documentary Special Jury Award winner for Social Impact 3½ Minutes), Bleecker Street (I’ll See You in My Dreams, which may be positioned as Oscar fodder for star Blythe Danner), newbie Broad Green (A Walk in the Woods, starring fest founder Robert Redford), Screen Media Films (the lackluster Ten Thousand Saints), Sundance Selects (City of Gold), Relativity Sports (In Football We Trust), Focus World (Cop Car), Breaking Glass Pictures (Uncertain Terms), Fortissimo (Songs My Brothers Taught Me), and Samuel Goldwyn Films (Fresh Dressed).
Pre-festival deals (with release dates!)
Before we were even in pre-fest mode, A24 picked up the Michael Fassbender starrer (and World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic award winner) Slow West. The Irish historical drama ’71 is slated for limited release on February 27. Spotlight selection and Best Foreign Film Oscar nominee Wild Tales will open on February 20. HBO will air the controversial Scientology documentary Going Clear in March. Radius-TWC will release the powerful campus rape documentary The Hunting Ground on March 20. The Spotlight selection (and Cannes Un Certain Regard winner) White God will open in New York on March 27. Ramin Bahrani’s excellent 99 Homes will reportedly hit theaters in June. And here’s the best news of all: the wonderful Girlhood is playing in limited release right now. Who says you have to wait forever to see the best of Sundance?