BOXOFFICE takes a look at the deals that have gone down as well as the overall sales climate at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.

Always Be Closing

on January 20, 2009 by Ray Greene

UPDATED: As predicted here Humpday has been sold. The prize went to Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner's Magnolia Pictures, though IFC and Roadside were thought to have made substantial offers too. In the strange terms of the deal, Humpday will be made available as a video on demand before getting its theatrical run. Go figure!

From January 19:

Some high-profile sales action has provided fresh oxygen into the thin acquisitions air at Sundance 2009. Blaxploitation send-up Black Dynamite went to Sony for a modest $2 million -- a low figure that belies the studio's apparent enthusiasm for the project as rumor has it they are already talking franchise. Does this mean Arsenio Hall has taken the crown from Mickey Rourke as 80's-era entertainment's comeback kid?

Sony is emerging as the most (only?) aggressive player in a tepid acquisitions market, having partnered with mark Urman's Senator Distribution on a rumored $4 to $5 million deal for Brooklyn's Finest, a cop drama starring Richard Gere and Ethan Hawke, earlier in the weekend. Some other high-profile titles, including the much applauded 500 Days of Summer, came with distribution intact -- this is a Fox Searchlight title, really here to garner buzz and pullquotes. The Sam Rockwell-starring Moon, directed by David Bowie's kid Duncan Jones (aka Zowie Bowie) had a partial distribution deal in place, with Sony owning all english-speaking territories but seeking partners elsewhere, so far without luck. Unless its makers have overdone the "hard to get" approach to negotiation stratedy, we can expect a sale some time soon for Lynn Shelton's comedy Humpday, which allegedly has offers on the table, with IFC, Magnolia, Samuel Goldwyn and Sony Classics all mentioned as possibilities. But a counter rumor has it that Humpday may have sold off one foreign territory for completion money in advance of the fest, and that this has been a stumbling block in negotiations.

It's an anemic list, and movies featuring "names" like Ashton Kutcher ( Spread ) and Jim Carrey ( I Love You Philip Morris ) have screened without selling so far. There will be other sales undoubtedly, but it seems nobody wants to get the Happy Texas, Hamlet 2, Son of Rambow award for overspending at Sundance in this year's very down market, so caution is the watchword so far.

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