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Sundance 2012: Potential Deals Multiplying Monday as 'Beasts,' 'Surrogate,' 'Celeste,' More Still in Play

After bursts of activity Friday and Sunday, no film sales have closed Monday as word of Bingham Ray's death subdues Park City.


As a light but steady dusting of snow fell in Park City on Monday, acquisitions activity got blustery as several deals moved closer to completion, though no new sales had closed by early evening.

Hot acquisition titles Arbitrage and Beasts of the Southern Wild remain in play, with both films retaining interest from multiple suitors. WME Global, which is repping both films, had set up at least 11 additional screenings of the movies Sunday in Los Angeles and New York for interested parties. Universal, the Weinstein Co. and Relativity were all showing interest in Arbitrage since the film’s positively received premiere screening Saturday night.

Newer arrivals drawing heat include competition features The Surrogate, which had a very positively received premiere Monday, with attention focused on star John Hawkes' performance; and Safety Not Guaranteed, which also has had buyers circling since it unfurled Sunday afternoon. Bids began flying almost immediately following the screening of The Surrogate, a drama about a man in an iron lung who decides to lose his virginity. Helen Hunt also stars. CAA is repping Surrogate, ICM has Safety.

PHOTOS: 10 of Sundance 2012's Films With Buzz - The Fest's Best Bets

Narrative competition feature Filly Brown (WME) is among the films the Weinstein Co. is feeling out, and fellow competition films Hello I Must Be Going (WME) and Simon Killer (UTA/CAA) could find homes soon. Higher-profile Premieres section film Celeste and Jesse Forever (UTA) has four substantial offers on the table, as well.

On the documentary front, the AIDS story How to Survive a Plague, which is screening in competition and bowed Sunday, has attracted strong interest, and several buyers were expected to attend a P&I screening slated for 4 p.m. Monday. Submarine is handling sales. Also, the well-reviewed basketball doc The Other Dream Team is said to have fielded multiple offers. The competition film had its premiere Saturday; WME is handling sales.

Ice-T's debut doc Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap, repped by UTA, has fielded pitches from a wide mix of potential distributors, including Paramount Vantage.

While the biggest buyers -- Fox Searchlight, SPC, TWC, Focus, Paramount -- have been waiting to see all the films before pulling the trigger, acquisitions execs have been sure to place markers on potential buys as they go. This points to a looming domino effect when the next film deal or two closes, as the rest of the shoppers rush to snag what they need.

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However, many festivalgoers and industry veterans were reacting to news of San Francisco Film Society executive director Bingham Ray's death on Monday. The 57-year-old indie film veteran was a Sundance stalwart, and many of his friends and colleagues who otherwise would be buying and selling films were mourning him.

Sales activity Friday included Sony Pictures Classics grabbing North American rights to Malik Bendjelloul's competition documentary Searching For Sugar Man, and Magnolia Pictures picking up Lauren Greenfield’s competition doc The Queen of Versailles, both for somewhere in the mid-six-figure range. Protagonist Pictures sold U.K. and Australia/New Zealand rights to Sugar Man, as well, on Sunday.

Sunday saw LD Distribution close a deal to pick up the Midnight thriller Black Rock not long after its late-night premiere for just north of $1 million, and CBS Films acquired drama The Words for a combined deal valued at $3.5 million.

Email: Daniel.Miller@THR.com; Jay.Fernandez@THR.com

Twitter: @DanielNMiller; @Writer730