February 8, 2023


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Sundance Film Festival: Top Selling Movies

5 min read

Before Covid lit up the film festival scene, Sundance premieres were the center of drama as studio heads and streaming executives picked the best seats in the theater and then lost a way to the exits as soon as the credits rolled, hoping to outdo each other. For hottest movies. Two years after going virtual, Sundance is back in person. However, it is unclear whether the all-night bidding wars that have been a staple of past festivals will also be in play again. In a time of cost-cutting and box office struggles for indie movies, a new era of financial restraint may be the order of the day.

But the thin mountain air of Sundance can evaporate all those economics. And if that’s the case, here are 13 movies that buyers can write big checks for


Cast: Cynthia Erivo, Alia Shawkat
Director: Anthony Chen
Sales Representative: Uta
Why buyers are detouring: Erivo is no less spectacular as Jacqueline, a refugee who flees war-torn Liberia for the safety of a Greek island. Through his friendship with a tour-guide (Shaukat), he begins to find a way to overcome the violence and trauma he endures to build a new life for himself. Will shed tears.

cat person

Cast: Emilia Jones, Nicholas Brown and Geraldine Viswanathan
Director: Susanna Fogel
Sales Representative: Studio Canal/UTA
Why buyers are detouring: Embrace the controversy. The buzz stars of “Legacy” and “CODA” team up for “First Date,” a wide-ranging dissection of social pressures. Based on a New Yorker story that went viral with its thought-provoking depiction of sex and gender, “Cat Person” looks set to be the most controversial movie at Sundance.

Magazine Dreams

Cast: Jonathan Majors, Haley Bennett, Taylor Page
Director: Elias Bynum
Sales Representative: CAA
Why buyers are detouring: Performance is central to the exhibition. Majors gives a transformative turn as a restless youth with dreams of bodybuilding superstardom. In a year where the actor is set to appear in “Creed” and “Ant-Man and the Wasp” sequels, this film could land a major Oscar invite.


Cast: Sana Lathan, Algie Smith, Sierra Capri and Mike Epps
Director: Thembi Banks
Sales Representative: Uta
Why buyers are detouring: Pegged to be a watch, “Young.Wild.Free” marks a stylish feature debut for Banks. The movie has been described as a modern version of “Bonnie and Clyde,” which follows an aspiring artist who finds himself smitten with a local bad girl.


Cast: Anne Hathaway, Thomasine Mackenzie, Jefferson White, Marine Ireland
Director: William Oldroyd
Sales Representative: WME
Why buyers are detouring: Otessa Moshfegh’s pitch black coming-of-age novel wowed critics with its narrative twists and unflinching look at abuse and neglect. It’s powerful stuff, and a film that drew the top-shelf pairing of McKenzie and Hathaway as two women whose lives collide in a dangerous way. It would be a crime to waste anything more than that.


Cast: Brian Emanuel, Yau AW Unru, Kate Lynn Shill, Henry Ian Cusick, Anthony Kiedis
Director: Justin Chon
Sales Representative: Uta
Why buyers are detouring: Emanuel, an acclaimed Indonesian rapper, is said to deliver a star-making performance as an up-and-coming musician whose relationship with his father-turned-manager is examined. It’s a story of familial bonds and ambition crafted by Chon, who has proven himself a master of this kind of tangled relationship drama in films like “Blue Bayou” and “Mrs. Purple.”


Cast: Justin H. Min, Sherry Cola and Ally Maki
Director: Randall Park
Sales Representative: WME/UTA
Why buyers are detouring: Park’s directorial debut is the kind of charm that feels destined to be a Sundance hit. The coming-of-age story follows a Bay Area cinephile named Ben, who runs a movie theater even as he wants to check off titles on his Criterion Collection watch-list or hang with his best friend Alice at the local deli. When his girlfriend Miko moves to New York for an internship, he’s left to figure out what he really wants out of life. Warning: This may leave you craving pastrami on rye.

A still smaller voice

Director: Luke Lorentzen
Sales Representative: Submarine/CAA
Why buyers are detouring: It’s hard not to get emotional when thinking about the pressure on healthcare workers in the early pandemic days. The religious documentary centers on an aspiring hospital chaplain who begins a year-long residency for spiritual care at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital in 2020 and 2021, during one of the deadliest periods in US history. Through the process, she discovered the best way to offer emotional support to patients was to look deep within herself. Don’t forget the tissue.

Sometimes I think about dying

Cast: Daisy Ridley, Dave Merhage, Brittany O’Grady, Megan Stolter
Director: Rachel Lambert
Sales Representative: CAA
Why buyers are detouring: Fran (Ridley) is a woman who, as the title suggests, likes to think about death. Her unhealthy habits are challenged when she meets Robert, a new colleague who seems destined to make a new friend out of Fran. After years of pandemic-related isolation and working from home, it’s a meet-cute story that feels almost nostalgic.

Om: The Cult End of the World

Director: Ben Brown and Chiaki Yanagimoto
Sales Representative: Submarine / Season Five
Why buyers are detouring: Did the title alone hook you? The compelling documentary about the doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo takes a relentless look at the warning signs and horrific behavior that eventually led to its designation as a terrorist organization. At the center is Shoko Asahara, who started a seemingly innocuous yoga school in Japan Not even 10 years later, the group – whose name means Supreme Truth – masterminds war crimes, including the deadly 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway.

the passage

Cast: Franz Rogowski, Ben Whishaw and Adele Exarchopoulos
Director: Ira Sachs
Sales Representative: SBS/WME
Why buyers are detouring: Sachs is no stranger to delighting audiences at Sundance; “Passages” is the director’s eighth film to debut at the festival. Described as a story about “the messiness of life,” Rogowski and Huisha play a same-sex couple whose longtime partnership is disrupted when a woman has an affair. So, the other begins an extramarital fling of her own, showing little jealousy as she successfully regains her husband’s attention. Will they reconcile, or will their marriage run its course?

Beyond Utopia

Director: Madeleine Gavin
Sales Representative: submarine
Why buyers are detouring: It may be the most politically-charged documentary in a festival filled with politically charged non-fiction films. “Beyond Utopia” follows various families as they risk everything as they try to escape North Korea in hopes of finding a better life away from the brutal regime. The footage of their treacherous journey is what will get people talking, but Gavin’s candid interviews with brave asylum seekers linger long after the lights go out.

Flora and Son

Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Eve Hewson, Jack Raynor, Oren Kinlan
Director: John Carney
Sales Representative: The Fifth Season/WME/FilmNation
Why buyers are detouring: Carney is a master of blending memorable music and emotional uplift in films like “Begin Again” and “Once.” Her latest effort is the story of a single mother (Hewson) who finds a way to reconnect with her estranged son (Kiln) by working together on some bangers. It’s a journey that leads him to form a bond with a hunky guitar tutor (Gordon-Levitt) through a series of Zoom lessons. It’s this kind of star power and relatable storyline that can help the film spread at a time when indie films are getting the cold shoulder from moviegoers.

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