'Dynamite,' then quiet

Sundance sales soft after Sony's morning buy

For a brief moment Monday, it looked like the sales action was picking up at the Sundance Film Festival. Then the moment passed.

The day broke with a big sale to Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions Group of the blaxploitation movie "Black Dynamite." At about 6 a.m. local time, Endeavor reps and execs from the Steven Bersch division concluded an all-night negotiation that began when the film finished screening at about 1 a.m.

Sony agreed to pay about $2 million and made a strong marketing commitment for all North American rights to the violent and campy 1970s tale.

Actors in the Scott Sanders pic are signed for a sequel, and Sony hopes its summer or fall release will be the start of a franchise along the lines of the "Friday" or "Austin Powers" properties.

The sale was a coup for optimists hopeful that this would kick-start a big day of sales Monday. But that didn't materialize as other gestating deals failed to come together by evening and the specialty divisions clearly were holding their fire.

Upstart distributors, however, have been active so far at the fest.

After Senator, which in association with Sony snapped up "Brooklyn's Finest" on Saturday, Summit began making moves: The Patrick Wachsberger-Rob Friedman distributor apparently is in pole position to pick up the Ashton Kutcher dramedy "Spread" as well as a leading candidate for the oddball Jim Carrey-Ewan McGregor prison love story "I Love You Phillip Morris." Overture Films is in the running for several pics that also had Sunday screenings.

Lone Scherfig's period romantic comedy "An Education" was one of the best-received titles — and the subject of negotiation drama. Fox Searchlight was said to float a low-seven-figure offer for the movie, but sellers countered with very high-seven figures, leaving the movie unsold for the moment.

The exchange highlighted how far apart many buyers and sellers still are at the fest.

Meanwhile, a host of other pics that were thought to be close to securing deals for domestic distribution — including Lynn Shelton's "Humpday," Lee Daniels' "Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire" and the Palestinian immigrant tale "Amreeka" — remained in play.

"We keep waiting for things to break through, but this is the way it seems to happen these days — with a trickle," one seller said.

Monday night's screenings included Oren Moverman's "The Messenger," the competition entry "Bronson" and the black comedy doc "Why We Laugh." (partialdiff)
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