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The Sundance Film Festival isn't just a place to see great movies, it's also a place where those movies are part of big business deals. More than simply screening movies to be judged on their quality, that quality can also help independent films land distribution deals with major studios, and the quality of Mindy Kaling's movie Late Night just made a massive deal as Amazon has shelled out $13 million to be the platform that brings this movie to the public.
There are always a few films every year at Sundance that instigate a bidding war and the word is theat's what happened here, as four different companies were reportly fighting over Late Night. Sundance only barely just got started so this could be a harbinger of things to come.
Late Night screened Saturday morning at the festival in Park City, Utah. The deal was announced later that day, which shows just how quickly these things can move and how sought after this movie was.
Late Night was produced and written by Mindy Kaling and she also stars as the only woman in the writers room of a late night television show. It co-stars Emma Thompson and John Lithgow and was directed by Nisha Ganatra.
The $13 million deal isn't the biggest in Sundance history, but it's close. In 2016 Fox Searchlight paid $17.5 million for the rights to Birth of a Nation. It is, however, the most Amazon has paid for a movie. It paid $12 million for Kumail Najiani's The Big Sick. That film went on to gross over $40 million and earned its writers an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay.
The deal is also the biggest ever for a film that only includes U.S. distribution rights. All the deals that have been larger have included some foreign distribution.
I certainly noticed the portion of Film Twitter attending Sundance praising Late Night in a big way as soon as the screening concluded. A lot of people felt it was a strong movie and several seemed quite sure some studio would be snatching it up quickly. That certainly happened.
In recent years, streaming services like Amazon and Netflix have been major players at Sundance. They both are basically swimming in money and thus can afford to spend it on projects like this. Netflix's big purchase two years ago was the Dee Rees directed, Mudbound, for $12.5 million that went on to earn four Oscar nominations. In a statement, Kaling, via CNET, said that she's spent a lot of money with Amazon, so it was nice to see the company return the favor.
This likely won't be the last big deal at Sundance, the festival still has a week to go and that means there are a lot of movies left to be seen.