SUNDANCE 2007

Sales heat up at Sundance

Weinstein and Paramount Vantage pull out their wallets as the buying gets cranked up a notch.

Sundance Film Festival, Rutina Wesley | Cast of ''How She Move''
Image credit: Jeff Vespa/WireImage.com
Cast of ''How She Move''

Thursday, Day 8 at the Sundance Film Festival, follows a quiet Wednesday but an absolutely crazy Monday and Tuesday, when high-profile deal after high-profile deal shot to smithereens the prevailing suspicion among EW staffers that 2007's would be a slow fest packed with serious films that nobody would want to take home with them.

On Tuesday, Paramount Vantage spent just under $8 million to acquire Son of Rambow, a British comedy about a boy's obsession with First Blood, and a step-dancing movie called How She Move. And after seven or eight hours at the negotiating table on Saturday night, Harvey Weinstein shelled out $4 million for the grieving-John-Cusack drama Grace is Gone — then he roared. ''I'm happy to be back in this game,'' he told the Hollywood Reporter. ''F--- it. I'm good at this. It's fun.'' The Weinstein Company followed through by partnering with other studios on several more deals, including one for Dedication, a romantic comedy directed by Justin Theroux and co-starring Mandy Moore. Among other noteworthy deals, Warner Independent picked up a Brenda Blethyn movie called Clubland, and Magnolia bought a horror film called The Signal. Things are humming along.

What's remains to be screened? Not a lot. Tonight there's a promising double feature at the festival's prime venue, the Eccles. First up is The Good Night, the debut feature of writer/director Jake Paltrow. It features Martin Freeman of the BBC's The Office as a guy who falls in love with Penelope Cruz as a woman who lives only in his dreams. But he's already got a real-life girlfriend, and she's played by Jake's sister Gwyneth. Immediately following The Good Night at the Eccles, Chapter 27 digs around inside the mind of Mark David Chapman, the man who shot John Lennon. Jared Leto gained a lot of weight for the role, did you hear? Lindsay Lohan co-stars.

Both of these movies are will be looking for somebody to buy them and get them out into the theaters so we may watch them. One tough thing about Sundance is that there are many, many directors praying their movies will get picked up, but given the success of last year's Sundance hit Little Miss Sunshine, it may take more than ever to wow distributors with your indie. Tom DiCillo is worried about that. The director of 1992's offbeat classic Living in Oblivion is back at the fest this year with Delirious, a comedy that casts Steve Buscemi as a paparazzo. DiCillo is looking for a buyer, but he knows his movie is unlikely to ever match the $60 million in box office earned by Sunshine, and that's kind of a problem in today's indie market. ''Independent films are being judged by the exact same requirements as Hollywood movies,'' DiCillo says. ''How was your opening weekend? Who's the star? And directors are just completely swept out. I think independent films now are in a real quandary as to what to do to become successful.''

DiCillo's modest little movie has not yet found a distributor.

Originally posted Jan 25, 2007
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