Pop Culture

Strike could spark Sundance buying frenzy

The same writers strike that transformed the Golden Globes into a news conference might bring smiles to the faces of agents and filmmakers gathered in this snow-covered ski town.

They’re hoping that studios will spend more freely than usual at the Sundance Film Festival, buying up independent movies to fill release schedules that have begun to thin as the Writers Guild of America work stoppage continues.

Combine traditionally forgiving audiences here with slowly increasing pressure for ready-to-go movies, and even a dramedy about women who scrub blood from crime scenes may not be a hard sell (though “Sunshine Cleaning” is attracting interest anyway, for its stars Amy Adams and Emily Blunt).

Director Johan Renck expects the strike will help his movie “Downloading Nancy” get picked up at the festival, “and in some ways we’re happy about that. But you can’t help but feeling a bit of guilt.”

“It’s unfortunate that a lot of people ask to get what they are due in some sense,” he said, “but at the same time what happens is that the show must go on anyways.”

The question is whether the paltry box-office performance of “Grace is Gone” and “Joshua,” both big buys at last year’s fest, will be remembered as bidding begins. Some 120 films will be shown at Sundance, which opened Thursday and runs through Jan. 27.

“I think the competition is always heated. In the past, we’ve always tried to find something to buy and hope we will this year,” said Peter Rice, president of Fox Searchlight, which has had a golden touch with such Sundance acquisitions as “Little Miss Sunshine,” “Napoleon Dynamite” and last year’s indie hits “Waitress” and “Once.”

“I wouldn’t put it down to the writers strike. There’s always competition. ... and if there are commercial movies there, it will be heated. There wasn’t a huge bidding war last year. I think it’s very film-dependent.”

‘Determined to really only buy something we love’Michael Schaefer, vice president of acquisitions for Summit Entertainment, said he does not expect the strike to prompt unusual spending.

“We are just going to try to be as focused and determined to really only buy something we love,” said Schaefer, whose company is releasing “Penelope” starring Christina Ricci and James McAvoy next month. “We’re definitely not going to get caught up in any buying frenzies and pick up five movies. That’s just not going to happen.”

Renck said his movie was done in October, but his agents decided against shopping it around in hopes of attracting interest from multiple buyers at Sundance.

And Harvey Weinstein, at least, was girding himself for bidding battles.

“People are going to be looking for that commercial movie out of Sundance, which very often happens,” said Weinstein, a master at connecting with new talent at Sundance from his days running Miramax. “I think people are going to spend what they have to to get the film, because there’s going to be a paucity of films” because of the strike.

Among other top prospects: “The Wackness,” about a New York stoner who swaps marijuana for therapy; “Phoebe in Wonderland,” starring Elle Fanning and Felicity Huffman; Barry Levinson’s Hollywood insidery “What Just Happened?” with Robert De Niro and Sean Penn; an adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s “Choke” starring Sam Rockwell; the Steve Coogan comedy “Hamlet 2”; and Brett Simon’s “Assassination of a High School President” with Mischa Barton.

  • Slideshow Photos

    Kevin Winter / Getty Images North America

    Image: Premiere Of Twentieth Century Fox's "Let's Be Cops" - Red Carpet

    Celebrity Sightings

    Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. on the "Let's Be Cops," red carpet, Selena Gomez is immortalized in wax and more.

  • Image: Celebrity Sightings On The Set Of 'A Hundred Streets' - August 8, 2014

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Idris Elba

    Actor Idris Elba seen on the set of :A Hundred Streets" on Aug. 8 in London.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Premiere Of RADiUS-TWC's "The One I Love" - Red Carpet

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Elisabeth Moss, Mark Duplass

    Actors Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass arrive at the premiere of RADIUS-TWC's "The One I Love" at the Vista Theatre on Aug. 7 in Los Angeles.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Premiere Of RADiUS-TWC's "The One I Love" - Red Carpet

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Nick Kroll

    Actor Nick Kroll arrives at the premiere of RADIUS-TWC's "The One I Love" at the Vista Theatre on Aug. 7 in Los Angeles.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: BESTPIX: Premiere Of Twentieth Century Fox's "Let's Be Cops" - Red Carpet

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Damon Wayans Jr., Jake Johnson

    Actors Damon Wayans Jr. and Jake Johnson arrive at the premiere of "Let's Be Cops" at the Cinerama Dome on Aug. 7 in Los Angeles.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Cast member D'Arcy poses at the premiere of "Let's Be Cops" in Hollywood

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    James D'Arcy

    James D'Arcy arrives at the premiere of "Let's Be Cops" at the Cinerama Dome on Aug. 7 in Los Angeles.

    Reuters / Reuters
  • Image: BESTPIX: Premiere Of Twentieth Century Fox's "Let's Be Cops" - Arrivals

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Julianne Hough

    Actress Julianne Hough arrives at the premiere of "Let's Be Cops" at the Cinerama Dome on Aug. 7 in Los Angeles.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Premiere Of Twentieth Century Fox's "Let's Be Cops" - Arrivals

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Hannah Simone

    Actress Hannah Simone arrives at the premiere of "Let's Be Cops" at the Cinerama Dome on Aug. 7 in Los Angeles.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Premiere Of Twentieth Century Fox's "Let's Be Cops" - Red Carpet

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Nina Dobrev

    Actress Nina Dobrev arrives at the premiere of "Let's Be Cops" at the Cinerama Dome on Aug. 7 in Los Angeles.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: The Pump Group VIP Cocktail Reception

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Nicole Murphy, Brandy Norwood

    TV personality Nicole Murphy and singer Brandy Norwood attend The Pump Group VIP Cocktail Reception at W Hollywood on Aug. 7 in Hollywood.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: The Pump Group VIP Cocktail Reception

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Tara Reid

    Actress Tara Reid attends The Pump Group VIP Cocktail Reception at W Hollywood on Aug. 7 in Hollywood.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: "Phoenix" Opening Night

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    James Wirt, Julia Stiles

    Actors James Wirt and Julia Stiles stand on stage during the opening night curtain call for "Phoenix" at the Cherry Lane Theatre on Aug. 7 in New York.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: "Phoenix" Opening Night

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    AnnaSophia Robb

    Actress AnnaSophia Robb attends the opening night performance of "Phoenix" at the Cherry Lane Theatre on Aug. 7 in New York.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: BESTPIX: Madame Tussauds New York To Unveil New, Never-Before-Seen Selena Gomez Wax Figure

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Selena Gomez

    A boy gives the wax figure of Selena Gomez a kiss at the unveiling of the new new, never-before-seen Selena Gomez wax figure at Madame Tussauds New York on Aug. 7 in New York.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: BESTPIX: Chris Martin Visits "The Elvis Duran Z100 Morning Show"

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Chris Martin

    Chris Martin of Coldplay performs during the Elvis Duran Z100 Morning Show at Z100 Studio on Aug. 7 in New York.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: BESTPIX: Apple Store Soho Presents: Meet the Actors: Michael Fassbender And Domhnall Gleeson - "Frank"

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Michael Fassbender

    Actor Michael Fassbender attends "Meet the Actor" at Apple Store Soho on Aug. 7 in New York.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Celebrity Sightings In Los Angeles - August 07, 2014

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Mickey Rourke

    Actor Mickey Rourke is seen at "Jimmy Kimmel Live" on Aug. 7 in Los Angeles.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Celebrity Sightings In Los Angeles - August 07, 2014

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Jordana Brewster

    Actress Jordana Brewster waves outisde of "Jimmy Kimmel Live" on Aug. 7 in Los Angeles.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: G. Garvin Live

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Keshia Knight Pulliam

    Actress Keshia Knight Pulliam attends G. Garvin Live at Buckhead Theatre on Aug. 7 in Atlanta.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Celebrity Sightings In Los Angeles - August 07, 2014

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Reese Witherspoon

    Actress Reese Witherspoon is seen on Aug. 7 in Los Angeles.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Miley Cyrus

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Miley Cyrus

    Singer Miley Cyrus performs in concert at Bridgestone Arena on Aug. 7 in Nashville.

    AP / AP
  • Image: 67th Locarno Film Festival - Day 2

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Melanie Griffith

    Actress Melanie Griffith attends a press conference during the 67th Locarno Film Festival on Aug. 7 in Locarno, Switzerland.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Lily Allen

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Lily Allen

    Singer Lily Allen performs in concert at Bridgestone Arena on Aug. 7 in Nashville.

    AP / AP
  • Image: "The Expendables 3" Paris Photocall At Cinema UGC Normandie

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    'Expendables 3'

    The stars of "Expendables 3," from left, Kellan Lutz, Jason Statham, Sylvester Stallone, Antonio Banderas and Wesley Snipes attend "Expendables 3" at Cinema UGC Normandie on Aug. 7 in Paris.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Meet The FilmMakers: "The Rover"

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Robert Pattinson

    Actor Robert Pattinson speaks during the Meet The Filmmakers event for "The Rover" at Apple Store, Regent Street on Aug. 7 in London.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Celebrity Sightings In New York City - August 07, 2014

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Nicole Kidman, Jason Bateman

    Actors Nicole Kidman and Jason Bateman are spotted filming Bateman's "The Family Fang" in Westchester, New York, on Aug. 7.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Africa: New Partnership Models For Growth

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Akon

    Grammy-nominated artist Akon, who is the founder of Akon Lighting Africa Project, discusses at the US-Africa Leaders Summit "Africa: New Parnership Models for Growth" news conference, held in Washington, DC, on Aug. 7, the progress that African heads of state have made.

    Getty Images / Getty Images

Thursday’s opening film “In Bruges,” with Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, already has a distributor (Focus Features) as does Michel Gondry’s “Be Kind Rewind” (New Line). One apparent first is the Sundance premiere of a movie that’s set to be shown on network television; the most recent Broadway cast of “A Raisin in the Sun” appears in the movie version set to air on ABC next month.

The music and party scene surrounding the festival has grown exponentially in recent years, to the point where several “lounges” catering to celebrities open their doors at midnight or later.

Among the artists and celebrities with zero-to-minimal connection to filmmaking who are expected to show up: Akon, Dr. Dre, will.i.am, Paris Hilton, Paul Oakenfold, John Legend, Kim Kardashian, Reggie Bush and the bands Maroon 5 and OneRepublic.

TOP