SXSW film fest kicks off with much 'Love'

Weekend packed with movies, while two docs get distrib'n

AUSTIN -- John Hamburg's "I Love You, Man" opened the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin on Friday, a week ahead of its national theatrical rollout. The comedy, starring Paul Rudd and Jason Segel, played to a packed house at the Paramount Theatre, one of 54 world premieres set to play around town before the fest wraps Tuesday.

"It's such a cool movie town, and it feels like a really cool vibe to debut our film here," Hamburg said.

Friday's opening slate ran the typical festival gamut, covering everything from studio pics to such darker fare as John Inwood's "ExTerminators," starring Heather Graham, and Adam Goldstein and Eric Kutner's "The Snake," an indie comedy introduced and championed by comedian Patton Oswalt.

Saturday saw the premieres of two films that couldn't be more different: Duncan Jones' sci-fi thriller "Moon," starring Sam Rockwell, and Michael Stephenson's documentary "Best Worst Movie." Both were part of the Spotlight Premieres section, but while "Moon" is a Sundance holdover acclaimed for its story, "Best Worst" is a doc about the straight-to-cable horror film "Troll 2" and the cult fan base it has inspired.

Jones' pic drew as large a crowd as did the bow of the much broader "Man," providing something of a gauntlet for him to run.

"At Sundance, everyone was already inside, so I just kind of went in. This is quite scary," Jones joked. "If you could just put on those blinders like horses have in New York, that would be great."

While Jones and Rockwell were fielding questions about their film, "Best Worst" played to a cheering crowd a few blocks south at the Alamo Drafthouse, an Austin institution known for its event programming and laid-back vibe. The doc partly was shot at multiple Drafthouse cinema locations, making the premiere screening a homecoming Stephenson described as "surreal, to say the very least."

Drafthouse co-founder Tim League shared the sentiment, adding that he's glad to give up half of his chain's screens for the festival each year.

"If you were to put pen to paper, theoretically we'd probably make more money by showing first-run movies for the entire eight days," League said. "But it's not really a financial thing -- it's kind of a heart-and-soul thing."

The festival also will premiere Jody Hill's Seth Rogen starrer "Observe and Report" on Monday and Kathryn Bigelow's "The Hurt Locker" on Tuesday. And though Tuesday sees closing-night ceremonies and awards, South by Southwest screenings will continue through the weekend.

In acquisition news, boutique distributors have picked up a pair of docs playing here.

Lorber HT Digital has acquired "Intangible Assets # 82," Australian jazz singer Emma Franz's investigation into drummer Simon Barker's quest to find his South Korean muse.

Meanwhile, Canadian producer EyeSteel Film and the National Film Board of Canada made a deal with B-Side Entertainment and Disinformation for distribution of "RiP: A Remix Manifesto," about copyright issues.

Steven Zeitchik in New York contributed to this report.