One of the most fascinating things to watch out for during the world’s biggest film festivals is the level of frenzy running through the veins of the bigtime agents who are responsible for snatching up the distribution rights of the highest quality films up for sale. Some years the bidding is hot and heavy, and some years it’s tepid and disappointing. The “bidding factor” provides a great barometer of not only the quality of a festival’s selection in general, but also the quality of specific films. Take, for example, Jeff Nichols’ psychological/apocalyptic thriller Take Shelter which premiered exactly one year ago in early 2011 at the Sundance Film Festival — the film was so exceptional that Sony Classics laid down a whack of cash on securing the distribution rights without even seeing the film (you can read more about the success story of Take Shelter by CLICKING HERE and if you have not yet seen the film you are in for one hell of a treat). One of my favorite acquisition stories took place at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival during the premiere screening of Denis Arcand’s mindblowing film The Barbarian Invasions. The final scene of the film had not even finished before superstar mogul Harvey Weinstein rushed up the aisle in the dark to Denis Arcand who was sitting beside his producer wife Denise Robert and told Arcand: “Don’t even think of selling this movie to anyone else — consider it sold!” You can read more about my love of The Barbarian Invasions (and Wes Anderson) by CLICKING HERE.
It’s currently day #3 of the Sundance Film Festival which is held every year in Park City, Utah (this year it runs from January 19-29) and all indications are that acquisition agents are loving what they see. Last year’s 2011 Sundance had one of the most feverish buying sprees in the festival’s history, so most people were not expecting this to repeat itself again in 2012. But as Chris Lee of The Daily Beast reports:
“Two of 2012’s buzziest documentaries had their distribution rights scooped up at independent filmdom’s foremost North American marketplace, in an early indication that studio acquisitions agents aren’t playing around this year. Sony Pictures Classics struck first blood, buying North American rights to Malik Bendjelloul’s directorial debut documentary Searching for Sugar Man [a documentary which tells the story of an obscure Mexican-American folk singer named Rodriguez, which bowed to explosive tears, cheers, and a standing ovation]. Later in the day Friday, Magnolia Pictures bought North American theatrical distribution rights to Lauren Greenfield’s loopy but poignant documentary The Queen of Versailles. As described in a Notes from Sundance post Thursday, the movie chronicles a unique implosion of the American Dream. Florida billionaires David and Jackie Siegel set out to build the biggest house in America — a garish 90,000-square-foot edifice modeled on French King Louis XIV’s storied estate — but then are shown nearly losing their shirts during the 2008 global economic meltdown. “The Queen of Versailles brilliantly encapsulates the salient issues of the American economic downturn, while also being one of the most jaw-droppingly entertaining films I’ve seen in a very long time,” Magnolia president Eamonn Bowles said in a statement (thereby perpetuating Hollywood executives’ over-reliance on the word construction ‘jaw-droppingly’ in press releases). ‘Lauren Greenfield is an exceptionally talented filmmaker with a wonderfully humanistic touch, and she has found a truly magnetic, charismatic star in Jackie Siegel.'”
There are 9 full days left of this year’s Sundance, with many more incredible films such as the ones mentioned above waiting to be discovered. The Daily Beast has its resident movie experts on the field covering every latest development, and to stay on top of this year’s breaking news from Sundance be sure to visit the LIVE updates and stories courtesy of TDB’s Notes From Sundance. You can see the full line-up of films by visiting The Sundance Film Festival.