Top picks at Sundance

Steve Carell's comedy emerges as the winner, launching a $10 million bidding war


Prachi Gupta
January 23, 2013 1:30AM (UTC)

The 2013 Sundance Film Festival is well underway, giving American and independent filmmakers a chance to showcase their talent and vie for a chance to sell their films to major distributors. And the frenzy has begun: Among the first picks included are "Pussy Riot — A Punk Prayer,” a documentary about the Russian punk activist band, bought by HBO, and “Don Jon’s Addiction,” a comedy about a man (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) addicted to porn, has been bought by Relativity Media for $4 million.

The biggest deal, however (and as Deadline notes, "one of the craziest for deal making in recent memory"), is for "The Way, Way Back" the Steve Carell-starring movie, which went for nearly $10 million. Fox Searchlight won the bidding war, coming out ahead of Lionsgate, FilmDistrict, Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros., and has committed to a wide theatrical release of the film.

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The deal has turned heads because, as the New York Times explains, this type of bid is now a rarity at Sundance:

Gone are the days, most everyone here agrees, of dizzying prices, as when “Little Miss Sunshine” sold for $10.5 million in 2006 ($12 million in today’s dollars). The time of frantic bidding wars among the specialty divisions of major studios — some of which, like Miramax, no longer exist — has also passed.

Now, $6 million is considered a big acquisition price. The pace of making deals has also become steady and deliberate, as sellers weigh their expanding options and buyers think more carefully about whether films truly have crossover appeal.

Other dramas sold so far include "The Spectacular Now," a high school love story;  "Fruitvale," about the last day in the life of a man who became a symbol against police brutality; "Concussion," about the reflections of a lesbian housewife; and the majorly anticipated "The Fifth Estate," about elusive and controversial WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. (No word yet on the murderous tale involving Allen Gingsberg, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs, "Kill Your Darlings," starring Daniel Radcliffe, though it premiered on Friday.)

HBO, CNN Films, Showtime and others have picked up a slew of documentaries as well, ranging from "Twenty Feet From Stardom," a film about the lives of backup singers; "The History of the Eagles," chronicling the classic rock group; and "Dirty Wars,” which attempts to illustrate “the truth behind America’s covert wars.”

Below, a look at 10 of the most anticipated films to come out of Sundance this year:

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Prachi Gupta

Prachi Gupta is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on pop culture. Follow her on Twitter at @prachigu or email her at pgupta@salon.com.

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