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Acquisition Shopping At Sundance

$16 Million Dollar Deal for Craig Brewer’s Film HUSTLE AND FLOW

Some of us are the careful shoppers looking for the best quality at the right price. Others see the potential for this item to reap more benefits down the road. However your pocket book fits these analogies, studio acquisitions are shopping in Park City at the 24th Sundance Film Festival. Now considered the top US Market for Independent Films, Sundance draws the industry, corporate sponsors, oh yes if your fortunate a few tickets to the regular public screenings.

A few surprises as the news was announced of deals made this week. Topping the list was the largest package to date made at Sundance. The multi $16 million dollar deal went to Craig Brewer for his film HUSTLE AND FLOW with an obligation to create two more films under this deal with Paramount Pictures. The dollar amount broke down to $7 for HUSTLE AND FLOW and the $9 million for the upcoming two projects. The buzz on this film was exciting as Brewers approach to filmmaking and his streetwise subjects are just what Paramount is looking for.

Paramount also was in the mood for the documentary MAD HOT BALLROOM, which the Sundance Film Festival turned down as a part of their program. It was then offered to Slamdance and they immediately booked it as Opening Night and for the first time the screening rooms of Slamdance were overflowing with industry, acquisitions and press. This is a story of ballroom dancing being taught in the burrows of New York City and the promise of a brighter tomorrow given to these children. A true excitement was in the air as the film was negotiated for acquisitions for Paramount Pictures.

Speaking of “street wise” a purchase was made by Lions Gate for the David LaChapelles hard new look at clown gang street dancing documentary RIZE. This film had a buzz on it before the Festival as Intel chose it to be part of an exclusive event at the Empire Lodge. 200 of the top industry and stars dinned and watched the film and receive the hottest gift bags during the festival. The cast and LaChapelle were on hand to show the guest the street dance moves that are depicted in the film. For Intel they were able to screen the film showing there new wireless projection system and party afterwards with their success. Lions Gate also purchased HARD CANDY by David Slade for $2.25 MILLION this week.

Warner Independent was hot on the tails of the penguins as the documentary THE EMPEROR’S JOURNEY by Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine was acquired in collaboration with National Geographic. This show the life cycle of the penguins with such depth and insight to where the public audience will be capture by the majestic presentation. Warner’s also purchased STRANGERS WITH CANDY by Paul Dinello the shock comedy that was first on the small screen and was transformed as a feature film.

Even with the rumblings and the talk about Miramax and Bob and Harvey Weinstein’s, the brothers were making their present know this past week. Miramax purchased THE MATADOR by Richard Shepard, staring Pierce Brosnan for $7 million and made a deal for the exciting thriller WOLF CREEK by Greg McLean, which had filmgoers waiting in line for hours just to have a chance to buy a ticket. We’ll wait to see if and when the release of these films will come to the theaters by Miramax. Many insiders are still aware of the many top titles that seem to be shelved by Miramax with no apparent release date in sight.

Think Films a true independent and acquisitions is on an upward spiral as two of their films are now up for the Academy Award for Best Documentary with BORN INTO BROTHELS and STORY OF THE WEEPING CAMEL. Last year at the Festival lines of over 3 hours long took place as people tried to purchase tickets to the already sold out theaters of BORN INTO BROTHELS. With Think Films insight they set their sites on THE ARISTOCRATS by Paul Provenza, which was purchased this week. This doc has interviews with over 100 comedians of our times recreating their interpretation of this once obscure joke that only professional comedians knew of. As the festival attendees were captured with the film you soon saw people attempting there own joke-telling interpretation of THE ARISTOCRATS. IIL FATED was also acquired for distribution by Think Films and was part of the SLAMDANCE program.

The amount of acquisitions taking place in Park City seems fast and furious as the major studios and players were out in full force. More so than AFM, the American Film Market that took place in November 2004. Sundance is able to pull the best of the independent films together within the 10 days of the festival. Many more films will be acquired the next few weeks after the festival, as some films will be more carefully assess by acquisitions of the various studios.

The Sundance Film Festival now in it’s 24th year is considered the one of the top US Independent Film Festivals. With over 6,500 submissions they showcase on an average of 200 films during the 10-day event. Sponsors, studios, and film industry gather along with over 50,000 filmgoers to watch films in the beautiful setting of Park City Utah. The Festival is held January 20th to the 30th, 2005 for more information please view the website at www.sundance.org

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Chatelin Bruno
(Filmfestivals.com)

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