Companies purchase films at Sundance Festival

The 2016 Sundance Film Festival held in Park City, Utah, Jan. 21-31, gave rise to bidding wars over sought-after movie rights.

The Sundance Festival, founded in 1981 by actor Robert Redford, is a nonprofit organization that seeks to discover and further develop independent filmmakers across the world. Each January, it is held to give the world a glimpse of emerging filmmakers and their innovative work.

“Sundance is legendary in terms of giving independent filmmakers a chance to get into the public eye, but just make sure that you cast established independent film ‘stars’ in your independent film,” said Michael Eaton, associate professor of film studies and film production at California Baptist University. “Unknown actors, no matter how good they are, will likely not make the cut unless your film is really good.”

Large motion picture companies such as Fox Searchlight and Universal Pictures, as well as smaller companies Magnolia Pictures and Roadside Attractions, often in attendance, seek to purchase the rights to original and powerful new titles.

The festival largely felt the presence of Amazon Studios and Netflix, both buying titles pre-festival and continuing to drive up bids during the week. Both companies walked away as proud owners of multiple new movies.

Netflix acquired the highly anticipated film “Tallulah,” starring Ellen Page and Allison Janney.

Amazon battled larger players, Sony and Universal, for production rights to the domestic drama “Manchester by the Sea,” starring Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams. The sale concluded with a price tag upward of $10 million.

Andrew Graff, sophomore health science major, said despite not being a big fan of the indie film genre, he was intrigued by “The Hollars,” which follows the story of a man who returns to his hometown when his mother becomes ill and requires surgery. The dramedy hosts a star-studded cast including John Krasinski, Anna Kendrick, Richard Jenkins, Charlie Day and Josh Groban.

“All of these sound cool, but I’d be most interested in the comedy with (Krasinski),” said Alexa Thomason, CBU alumna.

The 2016 Sundance Festival was home to an extensive variety of films and saw more than 25 titles sold to production companies. Amazon Studios and Netflix walked away with the most content.

Independent filmmakers were able to spotlight their work and production companies acquired new material.

About Michael Naccarato

Staff Writer

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