Sundance 2012 Sales: 'Celeste & Jesse', 'Beasts' and 'The Surrogate'
by Alex Billington
January 24, 2012
It has been a fairly slow start for Sundance deals this year, but today is when everything began to hit. Not only was it confirmed, only a few hours after it premiered to a standing ovation, that Fox Searchlight was buying The Surrogate for $6 million, but a number of other deals have come through today. Searchlight is also on the prowl buying another one of the most highly-buzzed about films, Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Sony Pictures Classics just nabbed the comedy Celeste & Jesse Forever. A few other sales hit over the weekend for a few other films, but many of my favorite films haven't been picked up by anyone yet.
First things first, Fox Searchlight (a indie studio we follow very closely) is closing in on two major deals for two major films coming out with a lot of buzz. They first acquired The Surrogate, directed and written by Ben Lewin, starring John Hawkes (already getting major Oscar buzz - seen above), Helen Hunt, William H. Macy and Moon Bloodgood. That deal was for around $6 million (as reported via Deadline). Based on the poignantly optimistic autobiographical writings of California–based journalist and poet Mark O’Brien, The Surrogate tells the story of a man confined to an iron lung who's determined, at age 38, to lose his virginity. With the help of his therapists and the guidance of his priest, he sets out to make his dream a reality.
Fox Searchlight is also closing a deal to buy the other title that everyone in town seems to be talking about - Beasts of the Southern Wild, written and directed by Benh Zeitlin, focusing on a six-year-old girl in in "the Bathtub," a southern Delta community at the edge of the world, as she experiences the end of the world, or something like that. I haven't seen this film yet, but will be catching a screening tonight. Financial details haven't been revealed, but the LA Times reports that "the deal [was] being finalized early Tuesday morning." Check out The Film Stage's review to get an idea of the buzz behind this, and stay tuned for our own review.
Additional Sundance sales: Sony Pictures Classics has acquired Celeste & Jesse Forever (via Deadline), directed by Lee Toland Krieger, starring Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg. I wasn't a fan of the film myself, but Ethan loved it. Focus Features is buying For A Good Time, Call... (via indieWire), directed by Jamie Travis, a raunchy phone sex comedy starring Ari Graynor and Lauren Miller. Upstart LD Distribution bought midnight horror flick Black Rock (via indieWire), directed by Katie Aselton, starring Aselton, Kate Bosworth and Lake Bell. Finally, CBS Films bought the film The Words (via Deadline), directed by Brian Klugman & Lee Sternthal, starring Zoe Saldana. The film hasn't premiered yet and was acquired early on.
I'm glad to see some strong Sundance sales so far, but a few of my favorites from the festival haven't been picked up: Arbitrage, Safety Not Guaranteed, I Am Not a Hipster, The First Time and Robot and Frank are all still looking for distributors. I have yet to see a few of these big buzz titles, too. Distributors are being a bit more cautious this year, as the free-for-all non-stop purchases last year didn't really seem to pay off for anyone, but there's lots of potential in this year's films (even the ones I named still looking for acquisition). We'll continue to keep you updated on deals as the 2012 Sundance Film Festival runs through this week.