GOING BIONIC: DISTRIBUTING INDEPENDENT FILMS INTERNATIONALLY – SUNDANCE “FEATURES” HEALTHY SALES

As Park City, Utah goes back to being a small mountain town with choice powder, instead of the temporary epicenter of the film world it morphs into every January, Sundance 2013 has made one thing abundantly clear; the appetite for indie feature films is healthy. While this year’s sale prices weren’t record-setting, the amount of seven-figure deals were surprisingly plentiful, setting the stage for a year filled with deep pockets for indie filmmakers. Thus, without further ado, let’s examine some key feature sales, and discuss their international potential.

The Way, Way Back
This Steve Carell coming of age comedy, sold for $9.75 million to Fox Searchlight, making it the largest acquisition at Sundance this year. Of course, the entire purchase price is less than Steve Carell’s normal per film asking price, (Carell earned $15 million in 2011 and $34 million in 2010), so $9.75 million for a Steve Carell comedy is a no-brainer of an investment.

International Outlook: Shitty to Average
While Steve Carell has a strong box office history, comedies usually only work in the country they were made, and “coming-of-age” films are synonyms for “won’t work overseas.” There are exceptions, but not many, so this picture should expect to make 80% or more of its money domestically.

Don Jon’s Addiction 
Joseph Gordon-Levitt wrote, directed and acted in this flick of a womanizer with a severe porn addiction. The picture nabbed $4 million from Relativity Media. While $4 million is is a big enough deal to brag about, Relativity Media claims it’s committing $25 million more in P&A.

International Outlook: Good to Very Good
Sex always sells, and it will sell a lot more with Relativity Media planting $25 million into P&A costs. Furthermore, Europe and Asia are far more culturally open about sex than America is, so expect this film to thrive in places like Germany, France, the UK, Japan and maybe even Hong Kong.

Austenland
This comedy about a resort where everyone acts like they are stuck in a Jane Austen novel got Sony Pictures Classics to pay “just over $4 million.”

International Outlook: Bleak to Average
This picture may perform well in targeted, cultured cities in the UK.

Lovelace
Amanda Seyfried plays Linda Lovelace, the a porn star of the 1972 box-office hit, Deep Throat. RADiUS – TWC paid $3 million for the U.S. distribution rights.

International Outlook: Average to Very Good
This film’s subject matter content guarantees it a shot to perform well internationally, especially since even non-porn enthusiasts have heard of Deep Throat. Like Don Jon’s Addiction, this picture should do well in Europe and Asia. However, films with female leads traditionally struggle internationally, so we’ll have to see if the familiarity with Deep Throat can overcome the odds.

Fruitvale
This film was the Grand Jury Prize winner at Sundance 2013, so expect it to make the rounds at other major film festivals throughout the world. However, this drama about the last day in the life of a man who was killed at a San Francisco subway station on New Year’s Eve, probably has a better shot of winning awards than it does earning box office dollars. The Weinstein Company, bought it for “just over $2 million.”

International Outlook: Shitty
Make no mistake, I’m not commenting on the film’s cinematic promise. I’m just saying that it probably won’t be an international hit.

Kill Your Darlings
A drama about a 1944 murder that inspired the loudest voices of the Beat Generation, was bought by Sony Pictures Classics, for “about $2 million” (which means less than $2 million).

International Outlook: Shitty to Surprise Hit  
The success of this film will depend on if it “goes viral,” and/or gains a following on social media.

S-VHS
This “found footage” horror about private investigators that find tape with horrific acts on it, scared Magnolia Pictures into paying more than $1 million.

International Outlook: Damn Good
One thing that all foreign territories have is an abundance of teenage boys. Thus, this film will kick-ass in multiple languages in multiple countries.

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints

This film about an outlaw couple, sold to IFC Films for a reported $1 million.

International Outlook: Average to Very Good
Rooney Mara is a hot name internationally, and the prison-break, action drama is an easy story to follow in any language. Thus, it could “break out.”

Before Midnight

Richard Linklater’s third installment to the “Before Sunrise” series of films starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy (Before Sunrise in 1995, and Before Sunset in 2004), sold to Sony Pictures Classics for an undisclosed amount.

International Outlook: Damn Good to Excellent
The fact this film is the newest sibling in an Oscar-nominated family of films going back 18 years, helps its interest level, especially in Europe.

We Are What We Are
This horror film about a cannibalistic family, was picked up by Entertainment One, and is slated to have in theatrical run later in 2013.

International Outlook: Good to Very Good
Horror films always have a shot to do well, especially ones that have the “Sundance Seal of Approval,” thanks to The Blair Witch Project (1999).

Mother of George
This drama about a woman who will go to any lengths to save her marriage, secured a deal with Oscilloscope Laboratories for its North American rights.

International Outlook: Shitty to Almost Shitty
I’d be pleasantly surprised if this film works overseas, especially since it’s doubtful it will capture an audience stateside.

Prince Avalanche
Paul Rudd as Texas traffic-line painter, sold to Magnolia Pictures for an undisclosed amount.

International Outlook: Shitty to Average
While I have no doubt this film is funny as hell, it’s overseas box office won’t be nearly as funny, because this kind of humor usually doesn’t translate well.

The Look of Love
Steve Coogan plays Paul Raymond, the man who opened the first strip club in the UK.  This film sold to IFC Films for an undisclosed sum.

International Outlook: Good to Great
It’s sex and history, all wrapped up into an interesting topic. This picture will undoubtedly do well all over Europe, and should also thrive in Japan.

Two Mothers
This Naomi Watts and Robin Wright drama is based on the Doris Lessing novella The Grandmothers, where two women fall for each other’s son. It’s the first acquisition for Exclusive Releasing.

International Outlook: Shitty to Average
The good news here is that I bet this picture gets a few awards along the way.

 Newlyweeds
This comedy about a marijuana-dependent couple, sold to Phase 4 Films.

International Outlook: Average to Good
Like sex, drug culture is also far more accepted in Europe than it is in the USA, so expect this picture to “light up” throughout Europe.

Okay, filmmakers, it’s time to get moving on your script, soon-to-be-financed indie feature, because the distributors’ checkbooks are back and waiting to buy your cutting-edge, cinematic voice. All you have to do is make it good! On that note, I thank you again for lending me your eyes, and I look forward to borrowing them again next Tuesday.

I can be followed on Twitter @Lonelyseal.




Posted on January 29, 2013 in Features, Going Bionic by
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