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Last year's Sundance Film Festival was certainly an anomaly with The Birth of a Nation selling for $17.5 million. Though history won’t likely repeat itself this year, there will still be plenty of action on the buyer front and bidding wars afoot. New players are lining up from Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures to Tom Quinn and Tim League’s recently launched Neon, which bought the Anne Hathaway starrer Colossal out of Toronto and is ready to build a slate. And tech giants like Facebook and even Apple — whose pocketbooks rival the twin festival forces of Amazon and Netflix — are bringing acquisition execs. But as was the case last year, the big price tags will be the exceptions, even though nothing is expected to approach Birth of a Nation's mammoth payout.
"It will be a seller’s market for one or two films and a buyer’s market for everything else," predicts Roadside Attractions’ Howard Cohen, who released last year’s Sundance darling and this year’s Oscar hopeful Manchester by the Sea.
As buyers descend on Park City, Utah, there’s no shortage of timely films like the immigrant experience comedy The Big Sick or immigrant-billionaire battle-of-the-wills drama Beatriz at Dinner.
"I think you’ll see a lot go in the $3 million to $5 million range," says The Orchard’s Paul Davidson, who picked up several films last year, including Oscar doc contender Life, Animated and Hunt for the Wilderpeople.
Heading into the fest, a few films already have been picked off, including Casey Affleck’s Manchester follow-up, A Ghost Story (to A24), and the Armie Hammer-led gay love story Call Me by Your Name (to Sony Pictures Classics). And Charlie McDowell's The Discovery was snapped up by Netflix last year. On the documentary front, Netflix struck for Casting JonBenet.
But those pre-fest moves haven’t put a dent in the robust lineup of indie fare that is up for grabs. Here are the 11 feature films and six docs most likely to fetch the biggest prices.
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