Expect Subdued Sundance Film Deals

   Jan. 9, 2009 – The top event for U.S. indie film sector, the Sundance Film Festival, looks to be a subdued affair this year as a casualty of the sour economy, suggests an analytical article in the Wall Street Journal.
   “Plenty of celebrities are still planning to pile into tiny Park City, Utah, for the 10-day event,” says the article by Lauren A.E. Schuker. “But studio executives, directors and others say that when it comes to acquisitions, restraint will prevail.”
   Sundance starts Jan. 15-25 in the Rocky Mountains resort area. Behind the scenes bidding for domestic movie rights is a hallmark of the film festival, which also has a competition and confers awards. Last year, an estimated $45 million was spent to acquire film rights, which was down one third from the prior year as recession took hold.
   Buyers for U.S. film distribution rights will also be cautious because of the travails experienced by last year’s priciest film. “Hamlet 2, a Steve Coogan comedy, triggered an all-night bidding war at the festival,” notes the WSJ article. “The film sold for about $10 million to (Universal Pictures-owned) Focus Features, only to bring in less than $5 million at the box office.”
   While U.S. indie sector is in a severe downturn, mainstream major studio films are doing well, with box office last year holding steady despite the poor economy. Indie-distributed films account for just a few percentage points of national box office, notes Marketing to Moviegoers, so the independent film sector is miniscule measured on an economic basis, despite the considerable attention of film critics.
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