Hyped movies fall flat at Sundance

Mon Jan 21, 2008 3:51am EST
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By Steven Zeitchik and Gregg Goldstein

PARK CITY, Utah (Hollywood Reporter) - Documentaries stole the show at the Sundance Film Festival over the weekend.

The most-hyped feature films meanwhile, including the Tom Hanks-produced comedy "The Great Buck Howard" and the Hollywood comedy drama "What Just Happened?" failed to ignite overwhelming enthusiasm or bidding wars.

The stir over the documentaries, however, defied pundits who had predicted that distributors would be cool to the category after such big Sundance acquisitions from last year as "Crazy Love" and "My Kid Could Paint That" failed to live up to expectations.

Bidding reached the $2 million-$3 million range for Nanette Burstein's narrative-driven documentary "American Teen," which examines assorted high-school seniors in Indiana. Fox Searchlight, Paramount Vantage and a number of other players were said to be in the mix for the A&E Indie Films production.

Meanwhile, Marina Zerovich's "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired," which takes a second look at the Oscar-winning director's statutory rape trial, sold in a split international/domestic deal. HBO picked up all U.S. rights. The Weinstein Co. scooped up most international rights.

ESPN scored Susan Koch's soccer documentary "Kicking It," which follows seven homeless players from around the world who compete in the fourth annual Homeless World Cup.

Other documentaries creating late acquisitions buzz included the Hurricane Katrina-themed "Trouble the Water" and Peter Galison and Robb Moss' national security expose "Secrecy."

The big documentary news only partly concealed what had been lackluster performances for some of the bigger titles. On Saturday, one of the most expensive movies ever to come to Sundance played to one of the most distributor-heavy screenings ever to hit the festival.   Continued...

<p>Morgan Spurlock, best known for his documentary film "Supersize Me" and the new documentary in "Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden" which is in competition at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, gestures on Main Street in Park City, Utah January 20, 2008. REUTERS/Fred Prouser</p>