By Gregg Goldstein gcgoldstein@yahoo.com

Sundance Sales Chart Day Ten

by Gregg Goldstein

Film
Section
Sales
Co
Odds
Pros
Cons
First
Screening
Today’s Top Five
Push: Based on the
novel by Sapphire
DrComp
Cin
2:1
Standing O for audacious portrait of abused girl; vivid performances by Mo’Nique and wacky supporting cast (Mariah Carey, Sherri Shepherd, Lenny Kravitz). A TWC/BET partnership one of several possibilities; hoped-for close before awards ceremony.
… but how long will it take? And how do you sell it? Both buyers and sellers carefully weighing release strategy for tough material
1/16, 8p, Racquet Club
I Love You Phillip Morris
Prem
CAA/
End
3:1
A Carrey/McGregor prison romance from writers of “Bad Santa.”Good reviews flowing in for true con-man story with a dozen twists, some great audience response. A comedy? A drama? A romance? A crime thriller? One thing’s for sure, lots of gay sex. Buyers dragging feet, waiting for better deal on big names. 1/18, 9:30p, Eccles
Art & Copy
Doc Comp
Sub
4:1
Ad industry study getting good word of mouth; could it be this year’s “Helvetica?” Growing sales buzz.
Amidst interest, some are questioning commercial appeal
1/16, 5:30p, Prospector
The September Issue
Doc Comp
CAA
4:1
Rare inside look at the alleged inspiration for “The Devil Wear’s Prada,” Vogue’s Anna Wintour; some positive buzz and interest ramping up..
Sellers still have to convince buyers it’s as theatrical as its subject and that there’s enough Devil with the Prada.
1/16, 6:30p, Rose Wagner
The Greatest
DrComp
End/
CAA
4:1
Tearjerker with Brosnan and Sarandon called “as fine a debut as we can present”; packed an emotional wallop for many and said to be moving. Buyers interested, could be tears of joy soon, if talk is to be believed.
Son dies in car accident: not a great sales pitch.
1/17, 3:15p, Eccles
Other Narratives In Play
Paper Heart
DrComp
UTA
4:1
Two words: Michael Cera. Sale of flawed all-star “Brooklyn’s Finest” bodes well; some in audience responded well …
… some, not so much. Response at premiere didn’t improve muted reaction to screener much
1/17, 8p, Racquet Club
Five Minutes of Heaven
World DrComp
UTA
4:1
Liam Neeson, James Nesbitt and director of “Downfall”
Violence in Northern Ireland. Good times.
1/19, 6:30p, Egyptian
Cold Souls
DrComp
Cin
4:1
Giamatti, Strathairn, Watson, Ambrose in a unique “metaphysical tragi-comedy”; Canadian rights acquired by E1 Films Canada; more screenings warming things up a bit
Chilly response from some south of the border, but buyers may be warming to it.
1/17, 5:15p, Racquet Club
Amreeka
Dr Comp
WM
5:1
Sometimes humorous, very topical struggle of Palestinian mom on West Bank; some positive reviews could make for a late pickup
No stars, Iraq war backdrop, and some not as enthusiastic; will need more critical response
1/17, 12:15p, Eccles
Don’t Let Me Drown
DrComp
Loeb
Loeb
5:1
Latino high schoolers in post-9/11 romantic drama; getting some very positive reaction and potential awards traction
No stars, premise depressing on paper.
1/18, 12:15p, Eccles
Endgame
Prem
End
5:1
Good cast (Hurt, Ejiofor) in South African apartheid thriller garnering a few good reviews
Did anyone get to see it? CNN currently chock full of other real-life political thrillers
1/18, 6:15p, Eccles
World’s Greatest Dad
Spectrum
CAA/
Cin
5:1
Robin Williams in another dark comedy from Bobcat Goldthwait. Some loved it, and said to be momentous …
… others felt it was just crass with flawed execution of good idea. Buyers won’t kill themselves if they don’t get it.
1/18, 5:30p, Library
Motherhood
Premieres
End
6:1
Harried-mom comedy with Thurman, Edwards, Driver
Urban anxiety can make for anxious audiences; may be a bit slower than hoped for in finding the right parents.
1/21, 9:30p, Eccles
Peter and Vandy
DrComp
End
6:1
Some good buzz behind Manhattan romance with Sundance “Teeth” award-winner Weixler
Unclear if played well enough to break out, overcome lack of star power
1/19, 8p, Racquet Club
Shrink
Premieres
WM
6:1
“In Treatment” has proven the appeal of therapy dramas
Spacey’s star power has shrunk; Hollywood inside baseball? Experiencing some shrinkage
1/20, 11p, Holiday Village II
The Messenger
Premieres
UTA
6:1
Talented scribe Oren Moverman’s directing debut, and some seem to like it
Another Iraq war drama; Ben Foster, Harrelson have spotty track records
1/19, 9:30p, Eccles
Big Fan
DrComp
Andr
Hur
7:1
Some champions for dark sports fanatic spoof directed by “The Wrestler” scribe. Manohla likes.
Others not such big fans; momentum slowing. Despite good performance, star Patton Oswalt an unproven commodity.
1/18, 8p, Racquet Club
Brief Interviews with Hideous Men
Dr Comp
CAA
8:1
Hot star John Krasinski directing, starring and adapting from David Foster Wallace novel
Response not hideous, but not great
1/19, 3:15p. Eccles
Arlen Faber
Dr Comp
CAA/
ICM
8:1
Daniels, Graham, Pucci in romantic tale of reclusive author
Mixed-to-negative reactions.
1/18, 5:15p, Racquet Club
The Killing Room
Mid
CAA
8:1
Psychological thriller with compelling premise and solid indie cast slayed some audience members …
… while others feel it’s a pretentious “Saw”; could middling response kill theatrical chances?
1/16, 11:30a, Prospector
The Vicious Kind
Spectrum
ICM
8:1
Tough portrait of emotionally damaged man; getting some good buzz
See “Pros”; very Sundance, and appears more dour on paper than it really is.
1/17, 8:30p, Library
Dare
DrComp
xCin
9:1
Sex-charged teen romance featuring Emmy Rossum
Not great buzz.
1/19, 5:15p, Racquet Club
Manure
Premieres
v
10:1
Thornton, Leoni, McLachlan in what could be the Polish Bros’ Coen Bros moment with a ’60s period comedy
Polish Bros artiness sometimes overwhelms all else; lives up to title for some.
1/20, 9:30p, Eccles
Mary & Max
Opening Night
Icon
10:1
Quirky Aussie claymation from Oscar-winning director good enough to attract Hoffman and Collette
Too quirky for many at the opening night screening, garnering mixed reactions
1/15, 6p, Eccles
Mystery Team
Midnight
Sub
11:1
Potential sleeper with foul-mouthed teens; could hit right chord; got some good reviews.
Others not as enthused by comedy troupe’s feature as their online shorts. No-name cast.
1/17, 11:30p, Library
Toe To Toe
DrComp
WM
11:1
Complicated relationship between two female high school teammates; interracial issues a hot topic. A few good reviews.
No stars, also very Sundance. Sales buzz not strong, but is this the kind of movie the jury will go for?
1/16, 3:15p, Eccles
Helen
Spectrum
Little
12:1
Ashley Judd sinks her teeth into bipolar role, and can sell some ancillary
Seems to be depressing buyers, and audience response is tepid; living up to its name for some.
1/16, 8:45, Library
Moon
Premieres
1000:1
Compelling 2001-style sci-fi thriller getting good buzz from two P&I screenings. Sony Pictures WW Acq Group has English language rights and was quietly looking for theatrical partner, but went for in-house SPC.
Perennial Sundance fave Sam Rockwell, the only on-screen talent, not a box office draw. If that good, why was Sony looking to partner?
1/23, 6:15p, Eccles
Other Documentaries In Play
The Carter
Midnight
Cin
4:1
One of the hottest selling rappers in a hurting music biz, Lil’ Wayne.
Not much rapping among buyers, but the fest is young; will the audience for this film go to the theater or wait for DVD? Or copy the DVD making the rounds at the festival?
1/17, Midnight Eccles
Good Hair
Doc Comp
ICM
4:1
If every black hair magazine reader buys a ticket to producer/star Chris Rock’s comic, celeb-filled take on the topic, it’s a hit. Great early reaction.
Interest in niche topic could be hair today, gone tomorrow
1/18, 9p, Temple
Passing Strange
Spectrum: Docu Spotlight
End
4:1
Spike Lee filmed this unconventional, Tony-nominated musical, and both names will help sell the project: some good initial word growing
Still has to show its theatrical pull
1/16, 2:30p, Library
The Cove
Doc Comp
Sub/
WM
4:1
Fascination with dolphins may propel sale of this dark tale; some very emotional audience reactions and sold-out screenings
Animal Planet shows wade in similar waters
1/18, 3p, Temple
We Live In Public
Doc Comp
Sub/
Cin
5:1
Stranger than fiction dot-com boom art experiment from Web entrepreneur; living up to some initial hype/
Must rise above Discovery Channel audience interest to sell
1/19, 6p, Temple
Reporter
Doc Comp
Films
Trans
7:1
A New York Times reporter’s valiant attempt to put an African crisis on the map speaks volumes about the state of journalism today
Most political docs have had a tough box office ride
1/16, 9:30p, Temple
When You’re Strange
Doc Comp
Sub/
Cin
8:1
Indie vet Tom DiCillo unveils all-original footage of The Doors
Video sales assured, but will it break on through to theatrical? Some not loving it two times … or even once.
1/17, 9p, Temple
No Impact Man
Spectrum: Docu Spotlight
Cin
8:1
Family undertakes controversial experiment to live a year with no carbon footprint; could tap “An Inconvenient Truth” audience
Another inconvenient truth: many socially conscious docs have no theatrical impact
1/16, 11:30a, Library
Why We Laugh: Black Comedians on Black Comedy
Spectrum
WM
8:1
Robert Townsend interviews a Who’s Who of top comedians. The next Kings of Comedy?
DVD co. is a producer, so no pressure for theatrical sale
1/17, 5:30p, Prospector
Big River Man
World Doc Comp
Salt
20:1
Slovenian man’s attempt at record swim could be Michael Phelps meets “Grizzly Man”
No waves just yet.
1/16, 3:15p, HV4

FILMS SOLD SO FAR …

Film
Buyer
Sales
Co
Section
Pros
Cons
First
Screening
Adam
Fox Searchlight
Film Sales Co.
DrComp
Manhattan 20-something romance with Hugh Dancy and Rose Byrne; hey, they did well with “Once” Common quote from execs on Monday night party circuit: They’re buying thatmovie? 1/16, 6:15p. Eccles
Brooklyn’s Finest
Senator Ent
& Sony Pictures
WM/
CAA
Prem
Gere, Cheadle, Hawke, Snipes, Barkin in cop drama from “Training Day” director. Film went out with a bang audiences hated, but director is cutting. Not the feel-good film of the year. Audience liked sections of it, hated others, but helmer has until fall to tweak. 1/16, 6:15p. Eccles
Black Dynamite
Sony Pictures
End
Mid
Good response leads to overnight sale.
May be too culty for its own good, but at 2 million a safe bet.
1/18, 11:30p, Library
Humpday
Magnolia
Sub
DrComp
Straight best buds link for gay porn; those who loved it really have a hard-on for it…
No stars, a premise not for the squeamish, and failed to turn a few on
1/16, 12:15p, Eccles
An Education
Sony Picutres Classics
CAA
3:1
’60s coming-of-age romance from scribe Nick Hornby with Sarsgaard, Molina, Thompson and a breakout Mulligan
Despite the pedigree, still no bankable stars.
1/18, 3p, Egyptian
In The Loop
IFC Films
Prot/WM
3:1
James Gandolfini in satire of war and politics could be a sleeper hit; seemed to live up to initial promise for most
Small, filled with unknown Brits and distinctly British humour
1/19, 11:15a, Yarrow
Spread
Anchor Bay/TVA
CAA/
End
3:1
Gigolo satire from sexpert helmer of “Young Adam.” Lots of T (female) and A (Ashton Kutcher). Played like a wide-release commercial film but distributors not putting out what sellers want. Some don’t feel it lives up to the sum of its body parts, others low-balling offers. Ashton Kutcher and Anne Heche don’t scream “smart comedy” to prospective moviegoers. 1/17, 9:15p, Eccles
The Winning Season
Lionsgate
Cin
4:1
Female “Bad News Bears” dramedy centering on high school basketball team, Emma Roberts, late add like top-seller “Hamlet 2″; some found very charming …
Sam Rockwell films sell big at Sundance, but haven’t performed.
1/19, 8:30p, Library

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This is probably going to sound petty, but Martin Scorsese insisting that critics see his film in theaters even though it’s going straight to Netflix and then not screening it in most American cities was a watershed moment for me in this theatrical versus streaming debate.

I completely respect when a filmmaker insists that their movie is meant to be seen in the theater, but the thing is, you got to actually make it possible to see it in the theater. Some movies may be too small for that, and that’s totally OK.

When your movie is largely financed by a streaming service and is going to appear on that streaming service instantly, I don’t really see the point of pretending that it’s a theatrical film. It just seems like we are needlessly indulging some kind of personal fantasy.

I don’t think that making a feature film length production that is going to go straight to a video platform is some sort of “step down.“ I really don’t. Theatrical exhibition as we know it is dying off anyway, for a variety of reasons.

I should clarify myself because this thread is already being misconstrued — I’m talking about how the movie is screened in advance. If it’s going straight to Netflix, why the ritual of demanding people see it in the theater?

There used to be a category that everyone recognized called “TV movie” or “made for television movie” and even though a lot of filmmakers considered that déclassé, it seems to me that probably 90% of feature films fit that description now.

Atlantis has mostly sunk into the ocean, only a few tower spires remain above the waterline, and I’m increasingly at peace with that, because it seems to be what the industry and much of the audience wants. We live in an age of convenience and information control.

Only a very elite group of filmmakers is still allowed to make movies “for theaters“ and actually have them seen and judged that way on a wide scale. Even platform releasing seems to be somewhat endangered. It can’t be fought. It has to be accepted.

9. Addendum: I’ve been informed that it wasn’t Scorsese who requested that the Bob Dylan documentary only be screened for critics in theaters, but a Netflix representative indicated the opposite to me, so I just don’t know what to believe.

It’s actually OK if your film is not eligible for an Oscar — we have a thing called the Emmys. A lot of this anxiety is just a holdover from the days when television was considered culturally inferior to theatrical feature films. Everybody needs to just get over it.

In another 10 to 20 years they’re probably going to merge the Emmys in the Oscars into one program anyway, maybe they’ll call it the Contentys.

“One of the fun things about seeing the new Quentin Tarantino film three months early in Cannes (did I mention this?) is that I know exactly why it’s going to make some people furious, and thus I have time to steel myself for the takes.

Back in July 2017, when it was revealed that Tarantino’s next project was connected to the Manson Family murders, it was condemned in some quarters as an insulting and exploitative stunt. We usually require at least a fig-leaf of compassion for the victims in true-crime adaptations, and even Tarantino partisans like myself – I don’t think he’s made a bad film yet – found ourselves wondering how he might square his more outré stylistic impulses with the depiction of a real mass murder in which five people and one unborn child lost their lives.

After all, it’s one thing to slice off with gusto a fictional policeman’s ear; it’s quite another to linger over the gory details of a massacre that took place within living memory, and which still carries a dread historical significance.

In her essay The White Album, Joan Didion wrote: “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true.”

Early in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters drive up the hill towards Leo’s bachelor pad, the camera cranes up gently to reveal a street sign: Cielo Drive. Tarantino understands how charged that name is; he can hear the Molotov cocktails clinking as he shoulders the crate.

As you may have read in the reviews from Cannes, much of the film is taken up with following DiCaprio and Pitt’s characters – a fading TV actor and his long-serving stunt double – as they amusingly go about their lives in Los Angeles, while Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is a relatively minor presence. But the spectre of the murders is just over the horizon, and when the night of the 9th finally arrives, you feel the mood in the cinema shift.

No spoilers whatsoever about what transpires on screen. But in the audience, as it became clear how Tarantino was going to handle this extraordinarily loaded moment, the room soured and split, like a pan of cream left too long on the hob. I craned in, amazed, but felt the person beside me recoil in either dismay or disgust.

Two weeks on, I’m convinced that the scene is the boldest and most graphically violent of Tarantino’s career – I had to shield my eyes at one point, found myself involuntarily groaning “oh no” at another – and a dead cert for the most controversial. People will be outraged by it, and with good reason. But in a strange and brilliant way, it takes Didion’s death-of-the-Sixties observation and pushes it through a hellfire-hot catharsis.

Hollywood summoned up this horror, the film seems to be saying, and now it’s Hollywood’s turn to exorcise it. I can’t wait until the release in August, when we can finally talk about why.

~ Robbie Collin