Over 60 films came into this year’s Sundance Film Festival looking for buyers, but many of the key players on the indie film market already had movies premiering in the festival, with many of those among the most commercial and star-studded movies making their debuts.
Last year’s market was slow, especially for documentaries, but this year’s festival market was nothing but robust in 2024. We’re tracking everything that already has a home and will update this space throughout the month with every sale that comes in.
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Section: U.S. Dramatic
Director: India Donaldson
Buyer: Metrograph Pictures
Cast: Lily Collias, James Le Gros, Danny McCarthy
Release Plans: Theatrical in Summer 2024
Buzz: India Donaldson’s “Good One” will be the first title acquired by Metrograph Pictures, as the company known for its film restorations and SVOD platform is now getting into theatrical distribution. And they picked a good one too. IndieWire called Donaldson’s film a “fantastically assured debut” that has a harrowing turn as it follows a 17-year-old girl on a backpacking trip through the woods with her dad and his oldest friend. The men’s brotherly friendship slowly turns to them airing years-long grievances, and the teenager’s parental bond with her dad is tested. It’s been compared to “The Loneliest Planet” or the films of Debra Granik, and reviews have suggested Collias could be a breakout star.
“Between the Temples”
Section: U.S. Dramatic
Director: Nathan Silver
Buyer: Sony Pictures Classics
Cast: Jason Schwartzman, Carol Kane, Dolly de Leon, Caroline Aaron, Robert Smigel, Madeline Weinstein, Matthew Shear
Buzz: It took some time to close, but a deal for Nathan Silver’s “Between the Temples” was bound to happen sooner rather than later. The film was one of our favorites out of Sundance and represented a step up for Silver after years of filmmaking but never making it to the biggest stage in Park City. Jason Schwartzman continued a hot streak of performances as a 40-something cantor losing his voice and possibly his faith in this very Jewish story that’s full of “non-Kosher gags,” as IndieWire’s review put it. The film explores complexities of belief and connection in the relationship Schwartzman’s character forms when his old grade school music teacher (Carol Kane) re-enters his life as an adult bat mitzvah student. Sony Pictures Classics — with its second acquisition after “Kneecap” — picked up the worldwide rights and will now back it before it heads into its international premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival in the Panorama section. The film is produced by Tim Headington, Theresa Steele Page, and Nate Kamiya on behalf of Ley Line Entertainment, Adam Kersh of Fusion Entertainment, and Taylor Hess.
“Will & Harper”
Director: Josh Greenbaum
Buzz: Netflix strikes again. The streamer has closed a deal for the worldwide rights to “Will & Harper” following its Eccles premiere last week (The New York Times first reported Netflix was in exclusive negotiations). With Will Ferrell attached, this one was destined to be big and would’ve been appealing to NBCUni buyers like Peacock or Focus Features given the number of “Saturday Night Live” stars and clips it includes, to Searchlight because David Greenbaum is the older brother to director Josh Greenbaum, or to literally any other streamer that wants to put Ferrell and his best friend Harper Steele on “The Tonight Show” to promote the doc. But with Netflix attached — the streamer’s fourth documentary pickup and fifth overall acquisition — the film’s messages about friendship and trans representation can find the widest possible audience in reaching a Middle America crowd like the places Ferrell and Steele visit. “We are thrilled about how audiences received the movie with open arms at Sundance. It’s a movie about the power of friendship and acceptance, that we hope can help shift the culture, and so we are excited to have a partner in Netflix that has the ability to reach the largest possible audience worldwide,” the filmmakers said in a statement.
Section: U.S. Documentary
Director: Angela Patton, Natalie Rae
Buzz: “Daughters,” which won the Audience Award out of the U.S. Documentary competition at Sundance, is the latest nonfiction acquisition from Netflix. The film about a father-daughter dance that follows four girls reuniting with their incarcerated fathers earned raves at the festival and figures to be an Oscar contender in the Best Documentary race next year. Netflix has also bought “Skywalkers,” and “Ibelin,” plus Midnight entry “It’s What’s Inside.”
Section: U.S. Dramatic
Buyer: Focus Features
Director: Sean Wang
Cast: Izaac Wang, Joan Chen, Shirley Chen, Chang Li Hua
Release Plans: July 26 in theaters
Buzz: Sean Wang’s coming-of-age film “Dìdi” was a hit out of the U.S. Dramatic competition, winning both the Audience Award for the section and a Special Jury Prize for the film’s ensemble. Wang directed, wrote, and produced the comedy-drama starring Izaac Wang as a 13-year-old Taiwanese-American boy grappling with the pangs of adolescence in his last summer before high school in Southern California. “Dìdi” was warmly reviewed out of the festival in-person and on the home viewing platform, placing at #4 on IndieWire’s Critics’ Poll of the best films at Sundance while earning spots on the Best Director and Best First Film rankings. The sale also caps off a big month for Wang, who not just won the Audience Award but also was nominated for an Oscar for his upcoming Disney+ short documentary film “Nǎi Nai and Wài Pó.”
Director: Josh Margolin
Cast: June Squibb, Richard Roundtree, Fred Hechinger, Parker Posey, Clark Gregg, Malcolm McDowell
Release Plans: Wide theatrical release
Buzz: 94-year-old June Squibb does all her own stunts for the charming and crowd pleasing action comedy “Thelma,” which Magnolia picked up North American rights to in a competitive situation that included several other potential buyers. The film is based on first-time director and writer Josh Margolin’s real-life grandmother and is inspired by imagining what his own grandmother would do in a “Mission: Impossible” scenario, with Squibb’s character “Thelma” the victim of a phone scam, only to track down the scammers while slipping under the noses of her children. The film is also likely the final on-screen role for “Shaft” actor Richard Roundtree.
“Skywalkers: A Love Story”
Section: U.S. Documentary
Director: Jeff Zimbalist
Buzz: Hype for this documentary was as sky-high as its subjects. Jeff Zimbalist’s “Skywalkers” is a cross between “Man on Wire” and “Fire of Love” that showcases the love story of two law-breaking, death-defying Russian stuntpeople who sneak to the tallest skyscrapers and traverse the tippy tops, sharing photos of their escapades. While we thought it could be a prime target of Nat Geo, the commercial appeal was too great for Netflix to pass up, as the streamer has been the most aggressive buyer at the festival so far.
“Super/Man: The Christopher Reeve Story”
Buyer: Warner Bros. Discovery
Directors: Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui
Buzz: A major studio like Warner Bros. Discovery is hardly your typical buyer out of Sundance, but the pairing of Superman and WBD’s DC makes perfect sense. IndieWire has confirmed that WBD has closed its deal to acquire the documentary about Christopher Reeve, the late “Superman” actor. Multiple media reports have pegged the sale at $15 million. It’s unclear specifically how the film will be released, but the documentary will be released in collaboration with WBD’s DC Studios, Warner Bros. Motion Pictures, HBO, CNN Films, and Max, which all jointly sought out the project for a theatrical and home release strategy. DC Studios is currently prepping James Gunn’s “Superman: Legacy” reboot. Directors Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui in “Super/Man” tell Reeve’s story non-linearly, finding the parallels in his life both before and after his accident that left him paralyzed from the shoulders down. The film features interviews with his three adult children, finds archival footage of his time in Juilliard, and explores his deep friendship with Robin Williams. The film is produced by Words+Pictures, Passion Pictures and Misfits Entertainment in association with Jenco Films.
“My Old Ass”
Buyer: Amazon MGM
Director: Megan Park
Cast: Maisy Stella, Maddie Ziegler, Aubrey Plaza, Kerrice Brooks, Percy Hynes White
Release Plans: Theatrical Release followed by streaming debut on Amazon Prime Video
Buzz: Amazon MGM is in final negotiations to acquire “My Old Ass,” the coming-of-age comedy about a young woman who meets her future self and is advised not to fall in love. Margot Robbie’s LuckyChap produced the film, and the sale re-teams Robbie’s company with Amazon after they together partnered on 2023’s “Saltburn.” Indian Paintbrush also produced and financed. Park’s debut feature film “The Fallout” won the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award from SXSW in 2021, and “My Old Ass” currently has a 100 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes, in addition to receiving a standing ovation following its premiere. Deadline reported the sale was for $15 million and that other buyers such as Netflix, Focus Features, and Searchlight were all in on the movie.
Buyer: IFC Films and Sapan Studio
Director: Alex Thompson and Kelly O’Sullivan
Cast: Keith Kupferer, Tara Mallen, Katherine Mallen Kupferer, Dolly De Leon
Release Plans: Theatrical in 2024
Buzz: The follow-up film from the filmmakers behind “Saint Frances” was one of the sleeper hits at Sundance this year, a heartwarming dramedy starring a real-life family of actors that manages to blend fact and fiction. “Ghostlight” centers on Keith Kupferer as Dan, a melancholic construction worker who unexpectedly joins a local theater’s production of “Romeo and Juliet.” When the drama onstage starts to mirror his own life, he and his family are forced to address a recent tragedy. IndieWire’s review called it a “charming, funny, and very human exploration of the bonds that alter the course of our lives…finding humor and heart at every turn.”
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Cast: Lucy Liu, Chris Sullivan, Callina Liang, Julia Fox, Eddy Maday, West Mulholland
Buzz: Neon has won the distribution rights to Steven Soderbergh’s “Presence,” beating out numerous other bidders in a big worldwide deal for the film in a highly competitive situation, IndieWire has confirmed. Soderbergh made his return to Sundance 35 years after “sex, lies, and videotape” put himself and Sundance on the map. “Presence” is another Soderbergh experiment and is filmed entirely from the perspective of a ghost observing a dysfunctional family as they move into a new house during the family’s best and worst moments.
“It’s What’s Inside”
Director: Greg Jardin
Cast: Brittany O’Grady, James Morosini, Alycia Debnam-Carey, Devon Terrell, Gavin Leatherwood, Reina Hardesty, Nina Bloomgarden, David Thompson
Buzz: Greg Jardin formerly worked on some Netflix ad campaigns, and the distributor picked up his buzzy debut feature for the biggest deal out of the festival so far, with the streamer picking it up for $17 million, a source told IndieWire. The film is a genre-bending, head-spinning, colorful affair about a pre-wedding party that descends into an existential nightmare when an estranged friend shows up with a mysterious suitcase, but the fun of the premise is best left to be discovered. The film generated huge buzz among audiences in its Midnight premiere. ““On behalf of the cast, crew, and entire production team, we are absolutely thrilled that ‘It’s What’s Inside’ landed at Netflix. Their commitment to championing bold and groundbreaking filmmakers like Greg Jardin remains unparalleled,” said producer William Rosenfeld of Such, which financed and oversaw production.
“A Real Pain”
Section: U.S. Dramatic
Buyer: Searchlight Pictures
Director: Jesse Eisenberg
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Kieran Culkin, Will Sharpe, Jennifer Grey, Kurt Egyiawan, Liza Sadovy, Daniel Oreskes
Release Plans: Theatrically in 2024
Buzz: Jesse Eisenberg’s sophomore feature starring Kieran Culkin was generating a lot of buzz from buyers, and Searchlight won out in a deal that Deadline first reported reached $10 million for a theatrical play later this year. The film follows mismatched cousins David and Benji who reunite for a tour through Poland to honor their beloved grandmother and tour Holocaust-era history. The film was produced by Dave McCary, Ali Herting, Emma Stone for Fruit Tree, Jennifer Semler, and Ewa Puszczynska. Executive producers are Ryan Heller of Topic Studios, Jennifer Westin, Michael Bloom, and Kevin Kelly.
Section: World Cinema Documentary Competition
Director: Benjamin Ree
Buzz: The latest film from the director of “The Painter and the Thief,” which won the Jury Prize at Sundance in 2020, tells the story of Mats Steen, a Norwegian gamer, who died of a degenerative muscular disease at the age of 25. Though his parents believed he lived a lonely and isolated life, what they didn’t know is he actually had a rich life as a character named Ibelin inside the online game “World of Warcraft.” An entire community of fellow gamers who knew him started reaching out to his parents to describe the impact he had on their lives, and the film uses animation to re-enact some of Steen’s blogs, gameplay, and interviews with his WoW cohorts.
Buyer: Sony Pictures Classics
Director: Rich Peppiatt
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Móglaí Bap, Mo Chara, DJ Provaí, Josie Walker, Fionnuala Flaherty, Jessica Reynolds, Adam Best and Simone Kirby
Buzz: The first major sale out of Sundance was for one of the wilder, more rambunctious entries in the festival, the fictionalized biopic about the Irish rap trio Kneecap which also stars Michael Fassbender. Rappers Móglaí Bap, Mo Chara, and Dj Provaí all play themselves in the film, which is set in Belfast post-Troubles and sees the Irish-language crew try to make their mark and break through the establishment. IndieWire’s favorable review called it a “delightfully spiky story” of a group that became a recent media sensation. Peppiatt, making his debut feature, previously filmed music videos for Kneecap. The group even played a riotous set at the film’s after party here in Park City and brought along an Irish police van as part of a stunt. Sony Pictures Classics also acquired Latin America, Eastern Europe, Turkey, and the Middle East rights in addition to North American rights.
“The Greatest Night in Pop”
Section: Special Screening
Director: Bao Nguyen
Release Plans: January 29 on Netflix
Buzz: Announced after the initial Sundance lineup was released and with Netflix unveiling the trailer shortly thereafter, “The Greatest Night in Pop” flashes back to January 25, 1985, when Lionel Richie brought together a group of musicians from around the globe to record “We Are the World.” The film shows how he worked the phones and called in favors to get everyone together for the track. Bao Nguyen, who came to Sundance with the Bruce Lee doc “Be Water,” directs the doc feature playing as part of the Beyond Film programming.
Films Arriving with Distribution
“A Different Man”
Director: Aaron Schimberg
Cast: Sebastian Stan, Renate Reinsve, Adam Pierson
Buzz: “The Worst Person in the World” star Renate Reinsve gives her first English-language performance alongside Sebastian Stan in this surrealist psychological thriller about an aspiring actor who undergoes a surgery for a new face, only to lose out on the role of his dreams.
“The American Society of Magical Negroes”
Distributor: Focus Features
Director: Kobi Libii
Release: March 22
Cast: Justice Smith, David Alan Grier, An-Li Bogan, Drew Tarver, Rupert Friend, Nicole Byer
Buzz: This fantasy satire from actor-turned-director Kobi Libii stars Justice Smith as a young man invited into a secret society of Black people set on making life easier for white folks.
Section: U.S. Documentary
Distributor: Amazon Studios
Director: Carla Gutierrez
Buzz: Imagine Documentaries returns to Sundance with this doc about Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, with 2024 marking 70 years since Kahlo passed away. Carla Gutierrez is a first-time director known for her work as an editor on “RBG.”
Distributor: Apple Original Documentaries
Director: Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss
Buzz: “Girls State” is not just the follow-up documentary to “Boys State”; its subjects of aspiring teenage female politicians responds to the differences between their program and the Boys State program, sparking outcry and the desire for change.
“God Save Texas”
Director: Richard Linklater, Alex Stapleton, Iliana Sosa
Buzz: HBO is releasing this three-part anthology series of personal, documentary stories all centered around Texas and inspired by Lawrence Wright’s book of the same name. Richard Linklater directs the first episode about his hometown and its place among Texas’ prison system. It will be screened separately from the other two episodes at Sundance.
“Handling the Undead”
Section: World Cinema Dramatic Competition
Director: Thea Hvistendahl
Cast: Renate Reinsve, Bjørn Sundquist, Bente Børsum, Anders Danielsen Lie, Bahar Pars, Inesa Dauksta
Buzz: Neon has assembled this reunion of “The Worst Person in the World” stars Renate Reinsve and Anders Danielsen Lie in a Gothic horror story based on a book by John Ajvide Lindqvist.
Director: Richard Linklater
Cast: Glen Powell, Adria Arjona
Buzz: Richard Linklater’s latest premiered at Venice and was snapped up by Netflix in a $20 million deal. The film is a true crime story based on a Texas Monthly article.
“How to Have Sex”
Director: Molly Manning Walker
Release: February 2
Cast: Mia McKenna-Bruce, Samuel Bottomley, Shaun Thomas, Lara Peake, Enva Lewis, Laura Ambler
Buzz: A coming-of-age story about three British teen girls at a spring break holiday gone wrong, “How to Have Sex” won the Un Certain Regard at last year’s Cannes.
“I Saw the TV Glow”
Director: Jane Schoenbrun
Cast: Justice Smith, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Danielle Deadwyler, Phoebe Bridgers, Helena Howard, Fred Durst, Amber Benson, Conner O’Malley
Buzz: The third film from the director of “We’re All Going to the World’s Fair,” the Midnight movie boasts some serious indie rock cred supporting roles and has Emma Stone as a producer.
“In a Violent Nature”
Distributor: IFC Films and Shudder
Director: Chris Nash
Release Plans: 2024
Buzz: Shudder’s latest slasher film aims to introduce a new iconic horror villain named “Johnny,” who is an undead monster in a remote wilderness. Shudder has now premiered genre horror movies at Sundance for five straight years.
“Lolla: The Story of Lollapalooza”
Director: Michael John Warren
Buzz: This musical rock docuseries tells the story of Chicago’s iconic music festival Lollapalooza and how it went from an underground pipe dream from the Jane’s Addiction frontman to one of the biggest festivals in the world.
“Love Lies Bleeding”
Director: Rose Glass
Release: March 8
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Katy O’Brian, Ed Harris, Dave Franco, Jena Malone, Anna Baryshnikov
Buzz: Romance, bodybuilding, guns, and ’80s music: Rose Glass’ midnight movie has it all. The film is one of two Kristen Stewart projects at this year’s festival.
“Out of My Mind”
Section: Family Matinee
Director: Amber Sealey
Cast: Phoebe-Rae Taylor, Rosemarie DeWitt, Luke Kirby, Michael Chernus, Courtney Taylor, Judith Light
Buzz: Newcomer Phoebe-Rae Taylor, who has cerebral palsy, plays the lead in this adaptation of a 2010 novel about a non-verbal girl also with cerebral palsy as she navigates sixth grade.
Director: Yance Ford
Buzz: Yance Ford’s return to Sundance after 2017’s prize-winning “Strong Island” is an essay film about policing in America spread out across hundreds of years in its examination of privilege, class, race, and power.
Distributor: Bleecker Street
Director: David Zellner and Nathan Zellner
Release Plans: 2024 theatrical release
Cast: Riley Keough, Jesse Eisenberg, Christophe Zajac-Denek, Nathan Zellner
Buzz: Plot details are still scant for “Sasquatch Sunset,” in which Jesse Eisenberg plays Bigfoot in the latest film from the directors of “Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter,” the Zellner Brothers.
“Seeking Mavis Beacon”
Director: Jazmin Jones
Buzz: This documentary follows two “e-girl” investigators trying to discover the whereabouts of a Haitian woman who served as the model for the fictional Mavis Beacon typing tutor that became an icon in the ’80s for the adoption of computers. The film goes deep on digital security, AI, and Black representation in the digital age.
Section: U.S. Dramatic
Director: Theda Hammel
Cast: John Early, Qaher Harhash, Theda Hammel, Rebecca F. Wright, Amy Zimmer, Faheem Ali, Davidson Obennebo, John Roberts
Buzz: Theda Hammel wrote, directed, co-stars, edited, and even composed original music for what is her debut feature after coming to Sundance in 2022 for her short “My Trip to Spain.” The film stars that short’s star John Early in a comedy about a man trying to keep a 19-year-old Moroccan model under quarantine from the public.
Section: U.S. Dramatic
Distributor: Searchlight Pictures
Director: Laura Chinn
Cast: Nico Parker, Laura Linney, Woody Harrelson
Buzz: First-time director Laura Chinn’s debut is a semi-autobiographical account of a teenager who befriends an activist protesting a landmark medical case, all while caring for her brother suffering from an illness.
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