Not only is dealmaking off to a slow start at the Sundance Film Festival, where buyers have been underwhelmed by many acquisition titles, but the deals that are being made aren’t nearly as big as those at past festivals.
In what is shaping up to be the biggest deal of the festival so far, ICM Partners is fielding multiple mid-seven-figure offers for Maya Forbes’ dramedy “Infinitely Polar Bear,” several acquisitions executives have told TheWrap.
The hot rumor over the weekend was that Fox Searchlight was the frontrunner to acquire the Mark Ruffalo-Zoe Saldana movie for between $9 million and $10 million, though several sources scoffed at that figure, suggesting the film would sell for between $5 million and $6 million.
Last year’s Sundance saw Searchlight acquire “The Way Way Back” for $9.75 million, while Joseph Gordon-Levitt‘s directorial debut “Don Jon” went to Relativity for $4 million upfront and a hefty $25 million P&A commitment.
While only a handful of this year’s Sundance titles have been sold, most deals are going for between $2 million and $3 million, including “I, Origins” to Fox Searchlight, “Laggies” to A24 and opening night film “Whiplash” to Sony Pictures Classics.
Searchlight is one of several companies bidding on “Polar Bear,” with Sony Classics is also believed to be in the mix. However, sources caution that the film is not close to closing and may wind up with a different distributor altogether. Set in the late 1970s, “Polar Bear” stars Ruffalo as a manic-depressive mess of a father who tries to win back his wife by taking responsibility of their two spirited young daughters, who don’t make the overwhelming task any easier.
This is the second straight major festival Ruffalo has found himself the star of, as “Can a Song Save Your Life?” nabbed the biggest deal of the Toronto International Film Festival when it sold to the Weinstein Company.
Sunday saw new Focus Features CEO Peter Schlessel make a statement by buying Zach Braff’s “Wish I Was Here” for $2.75 million. The deal was seen as evidence that the new Focus is looking to strike a balance between indie fare and more commercial product, and will not be turning its back on its arthouse roots.
The Weinstein Company and Radius-TWC have been unusually quiet, though they are expected to be more active in the coming days. Lionsgate and CBS Films are also among the heavyweights looking to make some strategic acquisitions.
Other hot acquisition titles include Ira Sachs’ “Love is Strange” starring John Lithgow and Alfred Molina as a New York couple, as well as Craig Johnson’s dramedy “The Skeleton Twins,” which buyers believe is commercial thanks to Kristen Wiig and a breakout performance from her fellow “SNL” veteran Bill Hader.
Meanwhile, Adam Wingard’s “The Guest,” which the director has described as “‘The Terminator’ meets ‘Halloween,’” drew multiple seven-figure bids after it blew the roof off its world premiere at the Library. The thriller stars “Downton Abbey” alum Dan Stevens, who will have a whole new fanbase once “The Guest” is released.
Other Park City at Midnight titles that have buyers circling are the Australian monster movie “The Babadook” and the horror-comedy “Cooties,” which is being sold by Paradigm.
There are still plenty of high-profile acquisition titles waiting to debut, including Anne Hathaway’s “Song One” and Shailene Woodley’s “White Bird in a Blizzard,” both of which debut at the Eccles on Monday. It’s still early in the week, so stay tuned.