Feeding Frenzy

‘Don Jon’s Addiction,’ ‘Fruitvale’ & More Sundance Acquisitions

The feeding frenzy in Park City has finally begun. Marlow Stern on the deals starting to roll in.

While many of the highly anticipated films at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival came in with distributors—including Fox Searchlight’s duo of eco-terrorism thriller The East, co-written by and starring Brit Marling; filmmaker Park Chan-wook’s (Oldboy) stylistic horror film Stoker, featuring Mia Wasikowska and Nicole Kidman; and Alex Gibney’s documentary We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks, which will be released by Focus World—a wide variety came to Park City seeking distribution.

Acquisitions had been relatively quiet for the first few days of the fest, but now that everyone’s adjusted to the altitude, the deals are starting to roll in.

Don Jon’s Addiction, about a caddish, porn-obsessed douchebag (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who falls for a romantic comedy-obsessed Joisey girl (Scarlett Johansson), marks the feature filmmaking debut of Gordon-Levitt. It was acquired by Relativity Media for a fest high $4 million after a serious bidding war that reportedly included a nice bid by the Weinstein Company.

Fruitvale dramatizes the real-life events leading up to the slaying of 22-year-old Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan) by a BART police officer in Oakland. The killing was captured on cell-phone cameras and caused an Internet furor and subsequent rioting. The Weinstein Company acquired Fruitvale for about $2.5 million.

The Way, Way Back was written and directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, the team who won the Best Screenplay Oscar for The Descendants. Here, an outcast 14-year-old boy (Liam James) comes out of his shell after befriending the gregarious owner of the Water Wizz water park (Sam Rockwell). It was acquired by Fox Searchlight for a rumored $10 million, one of the richest deals in Sundance history. The film also stars Steve Carell and Toni Collette as the boy’s parents.

The Look of Love, written and directed by Michael Winterbottom (24 Hour Party People), stars longtime collaborator Steve Coogan as a hilarious Hugh Hefner type in swingin’ London. It was acquired by IFC Films for an undisclosed sum.

The Spectacular Now, filmmaker James Ponsoldt’s fantastic coming-of-age drama about a troubled, alcoholic teen (Miles Teller) who finds new meaning in life after falling for a dorky, cerebral classmate (Shailene Woodley), was acquired by A24. The new distributor was established in summer 2012 and will release the buzzed-about Spring Breakers, directed by Harmony Korine, and The Bling Ring, by Sofia Coppola, later this year.

Austenland, filmmaker Jerusha Hess’s randy comedy about a Jane Austen-obsessed 20-something (Keri Russell) who squanders her life savings to travel to a Regency era adult theme park where she can live out her Austen fantasy, was acquired by Sony Worldwide Acquisitions. The film will be released by Sony Pictures Classics stateside.

Other acquisitions include Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, a documentary chronicling the plight of the punk rock/feminist collective locked up for “hooliganism” after challenging Russian leader Vladimir Putin, picked up by HBO Documentary Films. Sundance Selects bought Richard Rowley’s documentary Dirty Wars, about U.S. drone strikes, as well as The Summit, a doc about climbers scaling Everest. Showtime picked up the documentary History of the Eagles, about the titular rock band, while RADiUS, a subsidiary of the Weinstein Company, acquired Twenty Feet From Stardom, about some of the music industry’s greatest backup singers. And Magnolia Pictures, in conjunction with CNN Films, acquired Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s documentary Blackfish, tracing the 39-year history of killer whales in captivity, including a trainer’s killing by an orca whale at Sea World in 2010.