Sundance acquisition reveals distributors’ streaming plans

Distributors of everything from film genres to award contests are creating their own strategies to enhance their titles and target specific audiences.

In today’s streaming-priority landscape, every acquisition requires an answer to the same question: How do you get your movies to cut through the noise for your audience in the face of overwhelming odds? number of buffet content eat all to your heart?

From Netflix and Apple to IFC Films and Sony Pictures Classicseach 19 acquisitions outside the festival revealed much about how distributors will chart their way in an industry that has never felt more cluttered. Here’s a look at how some of the biggest deals out of the Sundance illuminating the murky future of the entertainment industry.

Apple Seeks Love With “Cha Cha Real Smooth”

Apple has long seen itself as the innovative, socially responsible face of consumerism. With nearly $200 billion in cash on hand, festive opportunistic acquisitions have become a fancy way to show it off. This year, it’s Cooper Raiff’s second film “Cha Cha Real Smooth.” The film festival’s biggest $15 million acquisition, a price raised by a bidding war between broadcasters and theatrical distributors, who couldn’t resist the allure of doing so. film and on screen by Raiff.

For Apple, the film has a pleasing feel that has been refined without losing the soul that made 24-year-old Raiff a rising star (his first film, “Shithouse,” won. big at SXSW 2020). It also won the Audience Award, receiving Sundance’s seal of approval also achieved thanks to In 2021 Sundance buys “CODA” ($25 million; Grand Jury Prize, Audience Award, Special Jury Prize, Best Director) and 2020 buy “Boys State” ($12 million, Grand Jury Prize).

In the early days of Apple TV+, many in the industry were complacent that outsiders “didn’t know what they were doing”. Two years on, Apple executives deserve credit for predicting which movies will win big and paying whatever amount of money it takes to get them. Apple wants content to be liked and the titles that value it. If you ask Cook anything about Apple TV+, as some analysts did on Thursday’s quarterly earnings call, he will not focus on the number of subscribers; he’ll give answers that prove that Apple’s movies and shows have earned their place in the culture and become as important to customers as their iPhones.

“In its first two years, Apple TV+ shows and movies have won 200 awards and more than 890 nominations,” he said. “Among the strong lineup are feature films like ‘The Tragedy of Macbeth,’ ‘CODA,’ and ‘Swan Song.’ Each story is a huge recognition to all the storytellers in front of the camera and behind them, who have moved audiences around the world. ”

The growing AMC network reigns supreme

All in all, AMC Networks-owned distributors have six Sundance movies, beating everyone else — even Disney, which brought or bought four. IFC continued its “Happening” festival program after acquiring it from Venice last year, while IFC Midnight launched “Hatching” for the festival ahead of its April 29 date. RLJE chose “Dual” after the premiere in Sundance.

IFC has limited the festival to two acquisitions with a new distribution plan change. Rebecca Hall, who stars, “Resurrection” will be released in theaters and VOD from a distributor, and Shudder will have its first streaming window. IFC Midnight buy “Watcher” will see a similar release strategy.

Scott Shooman, who joined IFC as senior VP of acquisition earlier this month, said: “I always use target sentiment: The core of the uptrend, but those other rounds are new. is what makes it even more successful. Among his duties is cooperation between sister companies.

“Among our audience at IFC Midnight and Shudder, we are able to bring films of this smart genre to even more audiences – and as you experience and the reputation of IFC across all genres kind, it can be positioned as something even more complex,” he said after the “Easter” acquisition. “From a positioning and market point of view, I think you see the company’s desire to have different genres of films. You start to see the cross section from [six] films that we were at the festival together – and we haven’t finished yet. “

Rebecca Hall appears in Andrew Semans' Resurrection, an official selection of the 2022 Sundance Film Festival Premiere. Courtesy of the Sundance Institute | Wyatt Garfield's photo.



Genre distributor RLJE, which AMC acquired in 2018, released Camille Griffin’s “Silent Night” in theaters last December; it also has a streaming homepage on AMC+. RLJE’s acquisition of Sundance for “Dual” comes with a nice bonus as star Aaron Paul, known for his role on AMC’s “Breaking Bad.”

“I know what we like, and I know these fun and totally original genre films with a cast that’s been giving a lot of work – that’s been tried and tested,” said Mark Ward, RLJE’s director of acquisitions. experimental and correct”. And he really meant everything: The company was still doing well with Walmart’s DVD sales.

Creating a separate mix of distribution on stage, streaming, and television can bring surgical precision to audience reach. It also means that specialty distributors must forge partnerships across corporate boundaries in order to be competitive, as with the joint purchase of “Alice” before Sundance by Vertical and Point Entertainment. roadside travel.

IFC Films President Arianna Bocco said leveraging the collective strength of its sister companies helps set IFC apart from its peers.

“I think [‘Resurrection’] will really benefit from the partnership we are going to create,” she said. “Over time we will really emerge as a sole distributor which will be more flexible in the way we release things with more options than I think anyone else in the market at a standalone level. .”

Disney’s Searchlight and its cross-platform future

Searchlight, distributor of Oscar-winning hits like “Slumdog Millionaire” and “The Shape of Water,” purchased two films at Sundance, “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande” and “Fresh.” Both will go straight to Hulu. It’s amazing, until you remember last year’s Best Picture winner, “Nomadland”.

“Most people have seen [‘Nomadland’] on Hulu, but it was marketed as a traditional movie,” said Searchlight co-chairman Matthew Greenfield during a Film Independent panel in November.

Searchlight’s Hulu embrace is more than just a pandemic response. On the FIND panel last fall, Greenfield said Searchlight plans to expand production of TV and streaming titles while continuing “the same number of movies in theaters.” (Prior to COVID, that annual blocking medium accounted for about 10 headlines.)

Searchlight’s summary for press releases announcing their acquisition of Sundance identified upcoming releases as “Hulu Original Limited Series ‘The Dropout’, by Michael Showalter, ‘FRESH’ by Mimi Cave , ‘See How They Run’ by Tom George, ‘Fire Island’ by Andrew Ahn , ‘Mark Mylod’s’ The Menu, ‘Martin McDonagh’s’Inisherin’s Banshees,“Empire of Light” and Sam Mendes. “Fresh” and “Fire Island” are Hulu releases.

For Sony Pictures Classics, it remains the theater of choice

Distributors from Netflix to Gravitas Ventures sees theatrical release as a way to position their film as something special, but no company is more optimistic than Sony Pictures Classics. With the acquisition of Oliver Hermanus’ movie “Living” on Sunday 2022, it has become one of the few companies at the festival to see the theater as an end unto itself, with other platforms. are the classical works of downstream.

Bill Nighy appears in Oliver Hermanus' Living, an official selection of the 2022 Sundance Film Festival Premiere. Courtesy of the Sundance Institute | Photo by Number 9 Films / Ross Ferguson.



“It’s not just the film’s aesthetic quality, it’s the audience image,” SPC co-president Michael Barker said in an interview. “I think the audience will accept it in a major way. I think that’s a priority on our minds as we move towards the end of the year and people go back to the cinemas.”

SPC really thinks outside the four walls of the cinema. Starting this year, all of Sony’s theatrical films – including SPC – will migrate to Netflix after they leave theaters and are released on DVD. Several of its recent releases, including “The Father,” have had PVODs following their expansion to theaters. However, Barker insists that the stage is still the main thing.

“The theater is most important to us, and as we get closer to the opening of ‘Living’ or any other film we have in the second half of 2022, we’ll adapt to whatever whatever the situation is, but we are confident that theaters will do well and audiences will return in the second half of 2022 and we really look forward to that,” he said. “The movies we have for this fall will be embraced by audiences in theaters as initial releases.”

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https://www.indiewire.com/2022/02/sundance-acquisitions-distributors-theatrical-streaming-1234694862/ Sundance acquisition reveals distributors’ streaming plans

Olly Dawes

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