The 5 Films Likeliest to Ignite a Sundance Bidding War

Your Movieline crew is preparing to brave the snow, swag and spectacle of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, which can mean only one thing: Reckless predictions of this year's titles most likely to ignite a distribution bidding war. Granted, Sundance isn't the market it was 10 years ago (or even five years ago); few buyers have any real money to lavish on acquisitions, and a "bidding war" today might mean a producer strings out a few interested parties overnight for a million-dollar (or less) deal. It could mean a couple cable channels scrapping over a documentary. Or, in more traditional style, it could mean buyers fighting to release the one where Kristen Stewart plays a hooker. Anything goes!

For the record, this isn't simply a catalog of star allure trolling for big buys (e.g. The Romantics, The Kids Are All Right) or the films necessarily having high-percentage shots of leaving Park City with a deal (e.g. The Extra Man, The Killer Inside Me). Instead, it's a fistful of educated guesses based on five wholly unseen films (some of which may turn out to completely suck), their casts and other principals, program descriptions, advance buzz (if any), social/cultural context and potential audiences. In other words: Pure speculation. Would you have it any other way?

[In alphabetical order]


· Blue Valentine

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: A couple (Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams) on the downslope of a marriage attempts to rekindle some of the spark that began their relationship -- a period framed in flashbacks.

UPSIDE: That cast! That drama! Gosling's reunion with his Half Nelson producers and cinematographer implies he'll turn in something awards-worthy, and Williams's performance -- matched with her own tormented relationship history -- will likely be a publicity magnet.

DOWNSIDE: An intense young cast means little if first-time filmmaker Derek Cianfrance can't harness them into something beyond abject Sundance melodrama.

POTENTIAL BUYERS: Sony Classics, Focus Features, Apparition

HOW MUCH? $3 million.


· Buried

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: A civilian contractor (Ryan Reynolds) in Iraq is kidnapped and buried alive, with only a cell phone, a lighter and about 90 minutes to save himself before suffocating.

UPSIDE: Reynolds is coming off a terrific year in high-visibility hits (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Proposal), and come on: Who wouldn't want a crack at distributing the Ryan Reynolds-trapped-in-a-coffin movie?

DOWNSIDE: In the end, it is just the Ryan Reynolds-trapped-in-a-coffin movie. Despite a cast that also lists Samantha Mathis and Stephen Tobolowski, I'm told that Reynolds is indeed the only one onscreen in the film. Too much Ryan?

POTENTIAL BIDDING WARRIORS: Lionsgate, Magnet, Screen Gems

HOW MUCH? A little north of $1 million, maybe more if Screen Gems -- Sony's genre label, and not generally a huge fest buyer -- gets involved.

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  • Dan Cranston says:

    What? There are no non-US films worth considering? How bloody myopic can you be?!

  • Jed Strong says:

    Who came up with these batshit numbers??????? Likely some 17 year old intern working out of Cassian Elwes kitchen aka his new office.
    The best Sundance sales from 2009 didn't break $4.5M for multi-territory deals (and most of the distribs who bought them domestically didn't even pay out, which led to films like "Brooklyn's Finest" having to be flipped or fire sold).
    "Welcome to the Rileys"... are you effing kidding? That project got passed on more times than Carrie Prejean at a NAMBLA convention until Ridley Scott wrote the check himself to get his son a film directing gig (Scott Free is nepotism central and they'd put their name on a fart if the fart paid them... see the A-Team whose script they apparently didn't even read before signing on).
    "The Company Men" has screened at for buyers at other markets and if it was worth what this delusional writer says it is, then it would have been sold at Cannes and already in theaters.
    Sundance has become a flea market, so expect those prices to range from $250k on the low to $2.5M on the high for the titles mentioned.
    With a small amount of buyers and lots of product, it behooves all the distribs to play wait and see (and save their money for platform P&A versus large advances... especially since these kinds of films rely on strong word of mouth or else the go straight to a Redbox near you).
    As for these so called buyers, Magnet doesn't have bidding wars... they have yard sales. Overture is being sold or going bust (Malone is apparently over McGuirk and Rossett's lake of vision and revenue). Magnolia pays no money.
    The indie boom days are over... and until people start making great or commercial indie films again they won't be back.

  • Sabrina says:

    I've read the script for 'Buried' and I must say it is pretty amazing. I really do hope that it gets bought at Sundance.

  • w says:

    I read the script for Buried also Sabrina, and I share your hope that it gets bought at Sundance as well. Loved the teaser trailer and clip that hit the net this week.

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    you are an idiot.

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