Sundance 2012: 15 Hot Movies Up for Grabs

 Frank Masi/Sundance Film Festival

This story originally appeared in the Dec. 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter.

Now that the full program for the 2012 Sundance Film Festival has been revealed, one big question is whether the sales market during the Jan. 19 to 29 event can match the robust scramble that led to an explosion of two dozen buys by closing night of the 2011 fest.

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As buyers have proliferated and digital-distribution potential has increased in recent years, films in many of the Sundance categories are now finding homes -- from competition films like Winter's Bone (2010) to low-budget NEXT titles like Bellflower (2011).

"The level of buying, it's across Premieres, it's across competition, it's across Park City at Midnight -- and NEXT is becoming a viable program," says WME Global's Graham Taylor.

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One notable wrinkle of the 2012 slate that points to increased sales is the fact that the entire Premieres section, which typically features the biggest stars and most accessible themes, is available for purchase. Usually, a few Premieres entries already have distributors, which use the annual event as a launching pad for a spring theatrical release. But in January, buyers of every size will have their pick of all 15 films, including Julie Delpy's 2 Days in New York, Spike Lee's Red Hook Summer and Stephen Frears' Lay the Favorite with Bruce Willis.

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Festival director John Cooper says that the anomaly was not his intention.

"I like to have some [unavailable] films playing in the Premieres section because it takes the pressure off and there's less competition to get buyers from theater to theater," Cooper says.

So acquisitions execs from active buyers such as Fox Searchlight, The Weinstein Co. and Roadside Attractions might need to send larger teams this year to see all the available big-name films -- or be prepared to do a lot of running around Park City.

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