By Gregg Goldstein gcgoldstein@yahoo.com

Day Four of Sundance: Spread-ing the Wealth as Sales Sail Into Sunday (news)

Bitter cold may have finally settled on Park City, but film execs were basking in the afterglow of Senator’s $5 million Brooklyn’s Finest pickup Saturday night, and warmed by the heat that could make Ashton Kutcher’s sex comedy Spread one of the biggest sales of the festival. On the flip side, a gay panic comedy with unknowns, Humpday, was in talks to make a deal with (rumor had it) Sony Pictures Classics or another small-scale specialty distributor.

After fest upon fest of disappointing big-name projects, Spread almost seemed too good to be true: a Sundance comedy with name actors (and nudity!) that seemed to live up to its commercial promise. Kutcher plays a wannabe gigolo with a variety of clients who seemingly meets his match (Anne Heche). The very indie director David Mackenzie (Young Adam) delivered a less-than-indie movie, and while Sundance purists could balk, in this economy it was cause for celebration. Any number of new distributors (Summit, Senator, Overture) looking for mainstream films on the cheap would be a good fit.
William Morris Independent’s Cassian Elwes, whose company co-repped the Finest sale with CAA, said “we were very conscious about getting our sale done within 24 hours of its premiere,” in part to give the market a much-needed psychological boost. The unfinished film was rushed into Sundance because the sellers didn’t want to wait until Cannes, he said, and to capitalize on having many key buyers assembled together. Senator president Mark Urman tracked down Elwes’ hotel room Friday night and knocked on his door at 2am, convincing sellers his new distribution firm was right for the film.

While it’s too early for buyers to be singing Happy Days are Here Again, the sale of Finest (despite some harsh criticism) and the appeal of Spread gives hope that the Jim Carrey/Ewan McGregor gay prison love comedy “I Love You Phillip Morris,” will live up to the same commercial expectations, even if it needs a little tweaking in the edit room. (Late-night Lil’ Wayne doc The Carter may also benefit from the up-with-stars mood). But even before the Sunday night Eccles premiere of Morris, buyers will have a host of films to scout.

An Education, Arlen Faber and World’s Greatest Dad are just some of the films showing promise. Check out the full list at the 10 Days of Sundance Sales Chart, and check it again late, late Sunday night to see which films beat the odds to score a sale.

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“I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how many recappers, while clearly over their heads, are baseline sympathetic to finding themselves routinely unmoored, even if that means repeating over and over that this is closer to “avant-garde art” than  normal TV to meet the word count. My feed was busy connecting the dots to Peter Tscherkassky (gas station), Tony Conrad (the giant staring at feedback of what we’ve just seen), Pat O’Neill (bombs away) et al., and this is all apposite — visual and conceptual thinking along possibly inadvertent parallel lines. If recappers can’t find those exact reference points to latch onto, that speaks less to willful ignorance than to how unfortunately severed experimental film is from nearly all mainstream discussions of film because it’s generally hard to see outside of privileged contexts (fests, academia, the secret knowledge of a self-preserving circle working with a very finite set of resources and publicity access to the larger world); resources/capital/access/etc. So I won’t assign demerits for willful incuriosity, even if some recappers are reduced, in some unpleasantly condescending/bluffing cases, to dismissing this as a “student film” — because presumably experimentation is something the seasoned artist gets out of their system in maturity, following the George Lucas Model of graduating from Bruce Conner visuals to Lawrence Kasdan’s screenwriting.”
~ Vadim Rizov Goes For It, A Bit

“On the first ‘Twin Peaks,’ doing TV was like going from a mansion to a hut. But the arthouses are gone now, so cable television is a godsend — they’re the new art houses. You’ve got tons of freedom to do the work you want to do on TV, but there is a restriction in terms of picture and sound. The range of television is restricted. It’s hard for the power and the glory to come through. In other words, you can have things in a theater much louder and also much quieter. With TV, the quieter things have to be louder and the louder things have to be quieter, so you have less dynamics. The picture quality — it’s fine if you have a giant television with a good speaker system, but a lot of people will watch this on their laptops or whatever, so the picture and the sound are going to suffer big time. Optimally, people should be watching TV in a dark room with no disturbances and with as big and good a picture as possible and with as great sound as possible.”
~ David Lynch