The 40th chapter of the Sundance Film Festival came to a close on Sunday. Despite several critically acclaimed movie premieres and appearances by A-List talent, there was much anxiety about Sundance’s contribution to the entertainment industry going forward.
Historically, films that premiere at Sundance have received intense interest from studios, vying to acquire rights for a theatrical release. This dynamic changed starting in 2020 when theatres were forced to shut down by the pandemic. When the traditional independent distributors such as Fox Searchlight, Focus Features, A24, and Neon stepped back, they were replaced by deep-pocketed new players including Amazon, Netflix, and Apple. In 2021 and 2022, the streamers spent lavishly to adorn their platforms with exclusive content.
The eight-figure acquisitions coming out of last year’s Sundance for titles such as THEATER CAMP and FAIR PLAY underperformed in theatres and online, chilling interest in a world that has become increasingly focused on the bottom line. A significant exception to this rule is interest in the horror genre. At last year’s Sundance, A24 stepped up with a “seven-figure” bid to acquire TALK TO ME, which went on to earn over $100M in its theatrical run. Sundance’s 2024 program reflects the current interest in horror,
While acclaimed dramas and documentaries such as THELMA, MY OLD ASS, and WILL & HARPER have yet to be acquired, horror titles that premiered at the festival including PRESENCE, IT’S WHATS INSIDE, and IN A VIOLENT NATURE have flown off the shelf. This is a marked change from previous years.