A Sundance Primer: Sellers Smiling

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DANCER IN THE DARK Weinstein

At the Sundance Film Festival, which begins today, producers making the hard sell stand to ink record-breaking deals as a perfect storm of distributor glut, film shortage, and a writers’ strike stirs up a potential buying spree.

Last year, studio heads took a bath as their $53 million investments for 20 Sundance films drew a historic low of $34 million for the 14 titles that made the screen: All signs pointed to a raging case of buyer’s remorse. Even Sundance pasha Harvey Weinstein made a stir by driving up bids with an aggressive, highly publicized buying spree. His company bought Teeth, “a feminist horror comedy,” which tested poorly and he later unloaded to Lionsgate. Weinstein also picked up Justin Theroux’s Dedication, for a snappy $4 million, which got widely panned and grossed a paltry $93,000.

“It’s a seller’s world now,” Sony Pictures Classic’s Tom Bernard predicted last week. “It’s not the movies, it’s the hotbox of the selling. Sellers are whipping people into a frenzy. It’s not an organized way of doing business. It’s back-alley stuff. It’s speed dating, then you get married.”

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