Talk of the Sundance Film Festival’s demise as an incubator for audience-friendly independent films appears to be greatly exaggerated.
When the titles for this year’s 40th Anniversary Festival were not revealed until the third day of screenings, some observers saw it as another sign that Hollywood was in serious trouble. Independent films could no longer be screened at the festival commercially viablethought about it.
Yet as the festival concluded over the weekend, it appeared that studios had found several films that they could bet would connect with moviegoers.
As has been the case in recent years, streaming services made the most attractive deals. Netflix reportedly paid $17 million for horror film “It’s What’s Inside,” and Amazon/MGM picked up “My Old Ass,” starring Aubrey Plaza, for $15 million. “Skywalkers: A Love Story,” a documentary about a Russian couple who saves their marriage by climbing skyscrapers, was acquired by Netflix, while Warner Bros. Discovery, which owns the Max streaming service, ” Super/” is negotiating a $15 million sale. Man: The Christopher Reeve Story is a documentary about the “fall and rise” of the actor best known for his big-screen portrayal of Superman.
Traditional studios also got involved in the act. Reminiscent of Sundance’s busiest days, the all-night bidding war ended with Searchlight Pictures’ acquisition of Jesse Eisenberg’s film “A Real Pain,” starring him alongside Kieran Culkin, for $10 million. Independent distributor Neon acquired Steven Soderbergh’s ghost story “Presence” for $5 million.
Deborah McIntosh, co-head of WME’s independent film financing and sales group, said this year’s market is likely to be on par with 2023 in terms of sales volume.
He said in an interview, “I think now that the festival buzz is calming down, there’s a lot of things really coming out where buyers feel really excited about movies that they can make money with.” ” “Ultimately, movie production is very strong, and I think the buying market is growing year over year and hopefully it’s getting back to a good place.”
The Sundance Film Festival has long been viewed as a barometer for the health of the film industry. Last year, after business remained closed for nearly six months due to two strikes, film insiders were hopeful that a strong market would emerge in which a large number of films would be purchased and eventually made available to the public.
Producer Jason Blum initially said during a press conference, “My hope is that one positive thing about the strike is that a lot of movies that would have struggled don’t have to, because there were so many holes in the release schedule. Are.” Of celebration. “I expect to see a lot of Sundance films hit theaters soon over the next six months.”
Still, all is not rosy in the independent film market. Last week, Sundance convened a three-hour summit where 60 indie film industry leaders – distributors, producers and sales agents – gathered to discuss the issues facing the business. According to one attendee, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the event was off limits to the media, there was a focus on how to best support up-and-coming independent filmmakers, who are often working at some of Hollywood’s top They reach. The greatest movies. The primary concern was that while films were still being bought for large sums of money at Sundance, the small million-dollar purchases that represented the majority of sales were no longer as abundant.
“We’re well ahead of the post-Studio era and, as it turns out, we’re well beyond the post-Streaming era as well,” said Tom Quinn, Neon’s chief executive officer. Talent was paid excessively and films were set with extremely large budgets.
Still, he said, despite the market contraction, Sundance remains stable.
“It’s really interesting to see the continuity of Sundance,” he said, adding that some of the films from this year’s festival “could have been put into Sundance 20 years ago and they would still be as relevant as they are today, a definite The timeless concept is independent filmmaking, and that’s really exciting.”