So much indie history has been made at the fest over the last three decades and so many careers launched -- from Quentin Tarantino's to Hugh Grant's, from Steven Soderbergh's to Kevin Smith's -– it's time to look back at some of those key moments.
From left: AndieMacDowell and JamesSpader in Steven Soderbergh's 1989 low-budget film that lost the Grand Prize to Nancy Savoca's True Love. After its million-dollar purchase at Sundance, it grossed $25 million.
Robert Rodriguez's 'El Mariachi'
Rodriguez's $7,000 El Mariachi debuted in 1992 and ended up grossing $2 million at the box office.
Quentin Tarantino's 'Reservoir Dogs'
Although the power went out during the film's opening screening in 1992, the reboot of the gangster genre-flick rewrote the rule book on what an independent movie could be.
Steven James's nearly three-hour 1994 documentary on high school kids with NBA dreams grossed $9 million.
Harvey Weinstein's 'Shine'
Weinstein got into a dustup with Fine Line's Jonathan Taplin over the distribution rights to Scott Hicks' schizophrenia drama Shine. Weinstein reportedly shoved Taplin into a corner and loudly accused him of swiping the rights out from under him. According to PeterBiskind's DownandDirtyPictures, Harvey's exact words to Taplin were, "You f---! You f---ed me! You bid me up ... you f---er!"
Rogert Ebert Gives Justin Lin a Thumbs-Up in 2002
Lin, who went on to direct four Fast & Furious films, remembers chatting with Ebert in a corner of the theater after a 2002 screening of his Asian-American crime drama Better Luck Tomorrow. "We were this little film with an Asian-American cast -- distributors were going out of their way to kick us," Lin recalls. "But Roger said the most important thing was to go out there and be passionate. I appreciated him saying that."
The Swag Invastion Begins
By 1999, swag suites became so ubiquitous at Sundance -- and so over-the-top, with some celebrity goodie bags packed with as much as $50,000 worth of gifts -- that the festival began an anti-swag campaign, encouraging stars to boycott the free stuff.
'Four Weddings and a Funeral'
The 1994 flick was one of the most profitable films ever to screen at Sundance, earning a quarter of a billion dollars, costing only a quarter of a million.
Kevin Smith's 'Clerks' earns an R rating
Although there was not an inch of nudity in the black-and-white comedy, the dialogue was so outlandishly and inventively profane, the film ended up getting slapped with an NC-17 rating. For Miramax, which bought the movie after HarveyWeinstein caught its final screening at Sundance, the harsh rating turned out to be a PR bonanza. The MPAA ultimately reconsidered and changed Clerks' ratings to R.
'Little Miss Sunshine'
Sales agent/lawyer JohnSloss knew he had a hit even before 2006's Little Miss Sunshine's screening was over. "It was playing huge," he later recalled. "I knew everyone would want it. Just before the lights came up, I said, 'I've got to get out of here. It's going to get ugly. [Distributors] are not going to leave me alone until they get it.' So my assistant and I drove out to a Ruby Tuesday for a few hours. They have the bottomless salad bar. You just don't get that in New York." The movie ended up setting a still unbroken Sundance sales record, going to Fox Searchlight for $10.5 million. It turned out to be a bargain. The film wound up grossing more than $100 million.
Ira Sachs, veteran indie director, says not only was "queer cinema" embraced by Sundance, but it also started there. "I was at the first screening of ToddHaynes' Poison in 1991. I was at the first screening of RoseTroche's Go Fish at the Holiday Village Cinema in 1994. I wanted to be Rose and I wanted to be Todd. I think that's how movements happen. You aspire."
'Blair Witch' Blankets Park City
Producers of the original found-footage horror movie plastered fake "missing person" posters, with the faces of some of the film's cast, all over the 1999 festival. The stunt certainly helped generate attention. The film sold for $1.1 million to Artisan, then went on to gross $140 million.
'Kids' Does All Right
LarryClark's 1995 quasi-documentary drama about sexually super-active, morally stunted high schoolers in New York City got slapped with an NC-17 from the MPAA and ignited a firestorm among critics. The New York Times called it a "wake-up call to the modern world." The Washington Post, on the other hand, called it borderline child pornography. By any other name, the film ended up grossing $20 million.
'9 Songs' Does the Impossible -- Shocks Sundance
This melancholy MichaelWinterbottom romance followed a young London couple over the course of 12 months and nine concerts. The 2005 film also happened to feature the first unsimulated sexual intercourse ever shown at Sundance. It remains the most sexually explicit non-pornographic film ever released. Winterbottom shocked Sundance again in 2010 with ultraviolent The Killer Inside Me.
The Dude Fights Dirty
Film critics are supposed to be passionate, but Variety's JohnAnderson actually came to blows with film publicist JeffDowd in 2009 after a disagreement in a coffeehouse parking lot over the artistic merit of documentary Dirt! The Movie. "I go into the restaurant and John is sitting at a table," recalls Dowd (who, incidentally, is widely believed to be the inspiration for The Dude in The Big Lebowski). "He comes around the table and throws a right-hand cross, then a right-hand jab to my nose. He's fast. He used to be a boxer. But I'm a wrestler. He barely rocked me."
Trade Wars Erupt
Variety and THR both got into Sundance scrapes in 2000. First, Variety's DanCox was arrested for disorderly conduct after he couldn't get into a CAA party. Then, THR's critic KirkHoneycutt nearly got into fisticuffs with CourtneyLove, after Love grabbed his wife's camera and threw it to the ground. Honeycutt and Love reportedly made up afterward.
Banksy Paints the Town
The elusive British graffiti artist visited Sundance in 2010, and left masterpieces everywhere.
'Kurt & Courtney'
Kurt & Courtney, NickBroomfield's documentary about the death of KurtCobain, got pulled from the 1998 festival after Courtney Love threatened to sue.
A 2004 filing for $10 million by Napoleon Dynamite's producers over the contracts signed at Sundance with Fox Searchlight was among the fest's biggest legal battles.
MichaelKeaton's failure to appear at the 2008 Sundance screening of The Merry Gentleman sparked a lawsuit.
No fewer than four lawsuits were filed over 2009's Grand Jury Prize-winning drama Precious, between The Weinstein Co. and Lionsgate over disputed North American rights.
'The Queen of Versailles'
One of Sundance's biggest legal disputes includes a defamation suit filed by real estate mogul DavidSiegel just before the 2012 festival screening of The Queen of Versailles, a documentary about his life that filmmakers were billing as a "rags-to-riches-to-rags story."
One of Sundance's Biggest Legal Battles
A branding agency called Hype Creative Agency filed an $11 million suit in 2012 over an event that never took place at Robert Redford's Park City restaurant, Zoom.
A Camel Walks Main Street
To promote his movie Egypt Through the Glass Shop (which wasn't even screening at Sundance), filmmaker NextAnyextee took a camel ride through Park City in 2013. Police cited him for obstructing traffic.
Among Sundance's biggest bombs, Hamlet 2 (2008) was bought for $10 million, and made$4.8 million at the box office.
UPDATED: The film mogul addresses a range of issues during his keynote speech at the UCLA Entertainment symposium, including calling on California governor Jerry Brown to back stronger production tax incentives. Read More