GOING BIONIC: DISTRIBUTING INDEPENDENT FILMS INTERNATIONALLY – SUNDANCE 2015 SPRINGS LIFE INTO INDEPENDENT CINEMA VALUES!

Welcome to the 252nd edition of Going Bionic. Today we’re discussing the scorching-hot sales market at Sundance 2015. But, before we discuss America’s most significant film festival, Id like to discuss another scorching-hot event I just retuned from: Super Bowl 49.

Attending the Super Bowl has been my birthday gift to myself for several years, but this year’s game was especially significant. Yes, Super Bowl 49 offered a collision of two great teams, a thrilling finish and the single stupidest end-of game coaching decision in the history of football. But, Super Bowl 49 became “especially significant” because it was the single-most watched event in the history of television. 114.5 million viewers watched the New England Patriots hold off a late surge from the Seattle Seahawks, and 120.8 million viewers were glued to their boob tube the fourth quarter. Thus, a) I wouldn’t expect Super Bowl ad prices to decrease, or even hold steady and b) I would expect film studios to stay clear of releasing anything significant over future Super Bowl weekends. Why compete with America’s biggest draw of eyeballs, right?

Anyway, now let’s discuss how Sundance 2015 is going to shape up the year for independent cinema.

 Sundance 2015 Wasn’t Just Another Year
Few years have exuded such hope for the future of independent cinema like 2015 just did in Park City. Thus, now would be the time for indie filmmakers to pay attention to the types of films that were picked-up at Sundance. For example, teenage-oriented stories have found traction with distributors this year, as have a few films based on hip-hop music and culture. Mind you, not every film acquired is destined for the silver screen. In fact, many of the “chosen ones” at Sundance will make the bulk of their income from be digital/cable/VOD and TV releases), as opposed to money from any theatrical release they may have. However, getting distributed, regardless of the platform, should never be disregarded, because these days, a theatrical release is just one of many platforms motion pictures can be consumed. So, without further ado, here are a few key stats about the buyers temperature at Sundance 2015.

32 Is This Year’s Magic Number
There were 32 acquisitions at Sundance 2015, which is up from previous years. Here are a few of the key acquisitions:

Me, Earl and the Dying Girl
The Alfonzo Gomez-Rejon directed picture about an awkward, self-deprecating high school kid, sold to Fox Searchlight and Indian Paintbrush, for a near record setting amount. The film flirted with getting $12 million dollars upfront, which would have eclipsed the $10.5 million given to Little Miss Sunshine in 2006. While the deal fell short of the Sundance record, it’s believed the filmmakers opted to have a greater financial upside upon release, as opposed to getting a fat up front check. Nonetheless, having a sale that enters the double-digit millions certainly helps the outlook for independent cinema values.

The D Train
IFC bought this $3 million dollar Jack Black comedy about a high school reunion committee member who tries to convince a famous class fellow to attend the event.

Knock Knock
Lionsgate paid $2.5 million up front for Eli Roth’s home invasion drama that stars Keanu Reeves.

The Bonze
Relativity snagged this picture about a washed-up Olympian, for $3 million.

Best of Enemies
Although the acquisitions price was not immediately available, Magnolia partnered with Participant in order to acquire this behind the scenes look at the 1968 televised debates between liberal Gore Vidal and conservative William F. Buckley, Jr.

Comparing This Year’s Sundance To Years Past
One way to understand where you are is to see where you’ve been. Thus, the following three links will allow you to examine the indie film sales temperature at Sundance in previous years:

Conclusion
As you compare the above years, please keep in mind the more cutting-edge technology helps to monetize independent cinema, the more indie cinema we’ll see.

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