January 28, 2010 / 7:46 AM / 7 years ago

Indie film world gets boost at Sundance

4 Min Read

PARK CITY, Utah (Hollywood Reporter) - The independent films are all right.

High-profile sales of "The Kids Are All Right" to Focus Features and "Buried" to Lionsgate in the past few days have reassured industry watchers that the independent-film market is, if not in peak form, healthy enough.

But there is no question that the dealmaking at this year's Sundance, which concludes Sunday, reverted to what one producer with a film in play called a "rational approach." Patience and thoroughness have become the catchwords in the condos, theater lobbies and lounges here.

North American rights to "Buried" -- a man-in-a-coffin thriller starring Ryan Reynolds -- went for $3 million-$4 million plus a hefty commitment to prints and advertising (P&A).

"Kids," Lisa Cholodenko's drama-tinged comedy starring Julianne Moore and Annette Bening as lesbian lovers, found a quick home after its packed Monday screening. Focus picked up North American rights -- along with South Africa, the U.K. and Germany -- for nearly $5 million.

Buyers have been kicking the tires of "The Company Men," "happythankyoumoreplease," "The Tillman Story," "Splice," "Douchebag," "Catfish," "Winter's Bone" and "High School." But only a few more deals are expected to close before the festival ends.

"There's more thought put into each film's ultimate marketability and less impulsiveness than in past years," said United Talent Agency indie film co-head Rena Ronson said.

"Distributors really want to be sure which platform is right for each film and if it will expand into a multiquadrant release for different audiences," she added.

The stability (or instability) of the distribution community remains a concern for sellers. They're mindful of the case of "Brooklyn's Finest," which was sold to Senator during last year's festival only to see that company fold. The cop drama landed at Overture Films, which might be facing restructuring of its own, though it has set the film for release in March.

Among pending deals, "Tillman" -- the story of friendly-fire victim Pat Tillman -- looks to be landing at Weinstein Co. The stoner comedy "High School" has at least one offer on the table. The horror film "Splice," starring Oscar winner Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley, is inching toward a video buy (most likely via Sony Pictures). The film might also reach theaters via a "service deal" under which a distributor takes an upfront fee and a percentage of ticket sales.

The low-budget comedy "Douchebag" could find a home with one of three of the larger specialty distributors in light of the audience good will it earned. "Hesher," "Welcome to the Rileys" and "The Extra Man" seem to be lower priorities.

The only other pickup to date is the Davis Guggenheim documentary "Waiting for Superman," which Paramount announced Thursday as the festival opened. But that arrangement was reached weeks earlier -- and the players' already had a successful, Oscar-winning collaboration on the release of Guggenheim's "An Inconvenient Truth" in 2006.

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