Cannes Film Market ‘Healthy’ as New Players Fill Streaming Giant Void

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Predictions of the Marche du Film’s death were greatly exaggerated. While indie film prices have come back to earth after big-spending streaming giants rattled the ecosystem a few years back, industry players told TheWrap, the market at Cannes was buzzing this year from start to finish.

“A lot of times, people associate activity with the big players spending a lot of money and buying movies for big price tags,” Saban Films President Bill Bromiley told TheWrap from France on Friday.

“That can be a little misleading,” said the executive, whose company brought home five films — more than any other distributor to visit the festival this year.

Also Read: The Cannes – Oscar Connection: How Strong Will It Be This Year?

It was a polarizing year at Cannes, with no shortage of hemming and hawing about the state of affairs in the coastal haven. The headlines and soundbites came in waves saying anything from “Cannes is dead” to “Cannes needs to change” to “Cannes change is here.”  And depending on whom you asked, the market was abysmal or doing just fine.

Still, acquisition news seemed to come fast and furious out of the gate — and included at least two bidding wars that climbed into the eight figures.

And while recent big spenders like Netflix and Amazon were quieter, and The Weinstein Company MIA altogether, several major new players stepped up to make a big splash in acquisitions.

Saban started scoring on day two, taking the Gerard Butler psychological thriller “Keepers” and the Keanu Reeves romantic thriller “Siberia.” The spending spree continued with the ensemble romance “Berlin, I Love You” with Kiera Knightley and Helen Mirren, Nicolas Cage’s “Between Worlds” and the historical action film “Viking Destiny.” 

Also Read: Is the Cannes Film Festival in Decline? Not to the French

Two rich deals came after all-night bidding (a welcome sight after the frigid pace of the market at Sundance): for Karyn Kusama’s follow-up to “The Invitation,” a cult-and-cop thriller starring Nicole Kidman called “Destroyer” that went for a reported eight figures to Megan Ellison’s Annapruna Pictures.

And Universal paid a reported $20 million-plus for North American rights to the star-studded spy caper “355” with Jessica Chastain, Lupita Nyong’o, Fan Bingbing, Marion Cotillard and Penelope Cruz. The studio beat out several studios for the yet-to-shoot production, including suitor Amazon Studios. Sales rep FilmNation also sold many international territories in million-dollar deals, an individual familiar with the negotiations told TheWrap.

“Climax” sold to A24

After a splashy showing at February’s Berlin Film Festival, Global Road made good on its promise to be an active player under new boss Rob Friedman. The studio, rebranded and expanded from Open Road, paid an undisclosed amount for rights to a new take on “The Secret Garden” starring Colin Firth and Julie Walters. The film came fully financed from Studiocanal.

There were also a few sacred cows to be had. Magnolia Pictures took Hirokazu Kore-eda’s
“Shoplifters” only 24 hours before it won the festival’s highest honor, the Palme d’Or.  A24 nabbed Gaspar Noe’s dancing horror fever dream “Climax,” well before it would land him the top honor in the Directors’ Fortnight section. “BlacKkKlansman,” which won Spike Lee the Grand Prix, was presold to Focus.

Focus also scooped up Asghar Farhadi’s opening night film “Everybody Knows,” starring real-life couple Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem. Sony Pictures Classics took the devastating awards hopeful “Capernaum” from director Nadine Labaki. Both deals were a reported low-seven figures.

Bleecker Street won the brutal survival story “Arctic” with Mads Mikkelsen. Tom Quinn’s Neon made its first ever Cannes purchase with the horror tale “Border,” from the author of  “Let the Right One In.”

Also Read: ‘Shoplifters’ Wins Palme d’Or at 2018 Cannes Film Festival

The streaming companies weren’t entirely absent. While Netflix publicly ghosted the festival in April after bylaws were changed to require a French theatrical release for all competition films, Ted Sarandos’ team couldn’t resist buying a bit of prestige.

The streaming giant bought “Happy as Lazzaro,” which premiered in competition and was awarded Best Screenplay for Alice Rohrwacher, as well as Lukas Dhont’s “Girl,” which won the Camera d’Or for best first film and best actor for star Victor Polsterin the Un Certain Regard section.

Amazon Studios brought the rousing period drama “Cold War,” directed by Oscar winner Pawel Pawlikowski, to the competition after acquiring it last summer.

Before the Marche du Film opened, experts warned us the buyers would be cautious. But that doesn’t mean stagnant, Bromiley concluded.

“There are a lot of projects out there, and we had to dig a little deeper this year. That’s been for the past few years, it used to come a lot easier. But the market is very healthy on the domestic side, and obviously our sales reflect that,” he said.

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Neon Lights Up Sundance With Big Money, Big Acquisitions

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Film distributor Neon has rocked an otherwise sleepy Sundance Film Festival, leading with four acquisitions so far, including a headline-grabbing $10 million sale for tech thriller “Assassination Nation.”

That splashy sale turns out to be only $2.5 million paid by Neon, but the point is the same. Indie buyers faced an aggressively changing marketplace as they headed to the festival, making many unsure as to who would buy and how much they would spend. Neon has been shining brightest in acquisitions so far.

Neon’s game plan seems to building a slate from scratch with as many purchases as possible, one individual with knowledge of the market told TheWrap, chasing a similar business model as Oscar-winning indie darling A24. That studio spent two years ramping up its slate until finding success with Alicia Vikander’s “Ex Machina” and Brie Larson’s “Room,” before branching into original production with 2017 Best Picture winner “Moonlight.” 

Also Read: Neon Acquires Tim Wardle’s ‘Three Identical Strangers’

That’s not a shabby blue print for Neon, founded last year by Tim League and Tom Quinn. Of course, a blank check combined with League’s experience is dynamite for Neon — he’s one of the best-known exhibitors in the country, having co-founded Alamo Drafthouse theater chains and toying with his own distribution label, Drafthouse Films.

Quinn has displayed creative taste and intuition for commercial appeal throughout his career, at Magnolia Pictures then running TWC-Radius with Jason Janego. He was also an early experimenter with day-and-date releasing.

“Tom Quinn is one of the best,” said The Weinstein Company President David Glasser of the executive, who used to run TWC’s successful hybrid label Radius, told TheWrap. “He’s great at management, and very smart about distribution and creative. When you get a guy like that, he’s a force to be reckoned with.”

A24 adheres to traditional acquisition models — in the past, the company headed to Sundance and other film festivals to buy films. Last year, A24 bought Casey Affleck’s “A Ghost Story.” And now, Neon is doing exactly that.

But while film dealss like “Assassination Nation” might sound splashy, Neon came out on the conservative side — putting up only $2.5 million for domestic rights in a co-release agreement with Joe and Anthony Russo’s AGBO, another insider familiar with the deal said. The Russos now need to sell $7.5 millionaire in international rights to complete the deal. A thriller about a murder rampage over social media starring the actor who played “It’s” Pennywise the Clown seems a pretty safe bet for the U.S. at that price.

Also Read: Neon Takes Domestic Rights to Police Brutality Drama ‘Monsters and Men’

“They target films that brand themselves,” the second insider said.

Neon also bought Reinaldo Marcus Green’s “Monsters and Men,” Tim Wardle’s “Three Identical Strangers” and Coralie Fargeat’s “Revenge.”

A24 is also highly successful with horror films and thrillers — “The Witch” is one of the company’s highest-grossing films to date, which could have served as inspiration for Neon to buy “Assassination Nation” and potentially some others screenings in the Midnight section.

What’s interesting about Neon is that they aren’t buying films in a specific niche — “Assassination Nation” is a tech thriller,” while “Monsters and Men” is a police brutality drama and “Three Identical Strangers” is a documentary about three triplets separated at birth reuniting years later.

Neon has quickly become one of the bigger players in Hollywood. The company is hot off their success with “I, Tonya,” which just scored three Oscar nominations including one for Allison Janney and Margot Robbie. And it’s not a surprise that “I, Tonya” changed the game for the indie company. The Academy Award-nominated figure skater biopic sold out of September’s Toronto International Film Festival. Netflix offered just under $10 million at the time, a couple million over a bid from Megan Ellison’s Annapurna. Neon won out.

“The difference now is that people believe,”  said one top dealmaker who spoke to TheWrap on the condition of anonymity.

“With ‘I, Tonya,’ Neon did what A24 did with ‘Spring Breakers,’” the individual said. “Except ‘Tonya’ is going to smash ‘Spring Breakers’ in lifetime box office.”

A spokesperson for Neon did not respond to TheWrap’s request for comment. TheWrap has also reached out to Netflix and Annapurna for comment.

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After ‘I, Tonya,’ 30WEST Skates Into Majority Stake Deal With Distributor NEON

Read on: Deadline.

BREAKING: 30WEST has acquired a majority stake in NEON, the upstart distribution company formed by Tom Quinn and Alamo Drafthouse’s Tim League. The two parties got into an altared state after kindling a relationship on the awards season sleeper I, Tonya, the Craig Gillespie-directed black comedy which was acquired out of Toronto. The film broadens its release heading into the Winter Olympics, a timely slot for a film about disgraced Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding…

Neon & 30WEST Land ‘I, Tonya’ For $5 Million: Toronto

Read on: Deadline.

EXCLUSIVE: After three all-night negotiations, Neon and 30WEST tag teamed to skate off with a deal for I, Tonya, the Craig Gillespie-directed black comedy about the epic fall from grace of Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding. Sources peg the deal at around $5 million, and Neon’s Tom Quinn and Tim League will make a strong play for the film in Oscar season. The Steven Rogers-scripted film stars Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan and Allison Janney, and came into the festival as…

Toronto Film Market: Indie Distributors Struggle as Netflix, Amazon Look to Dominate (Again)

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Hollywood begins jetting to Toronto this week for glittery premieres and awards-season jockeying — but the indie film market is under siege with fewer traditional players and the ongoing threat of deep-pocketed streaming giants.

This year’s TIFF sees theatrical release companies pivoting from conventional acquisitions (STXfilms), recovering from Sundance failures (Fox Searchlight) or outright disappearing (Broad Green Pictures).

“Audiences are smart, they have content being thrown at them in every direction,” one distribution executive told TheWrap, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “It’s great news for filmmakers, but it’s bad news if you have both a bad movie and bad marketing. A lot of folks are mad and distressed because we can’t fool the customer anymore.”

Also Read: ‘Mudbound’ Trailer: Netflix Enters Oscars Race With Southern Racial Drama

The writing has been on the wall for the independent film economy since 2015, when Netflix showed up at Sundance and started buying completed features to upload for its subscribers. Amazon followed a year later with the theater owners in their pocket, promising full theatrical runs to sweeten the pot before they’d let Amazon Prime Video users watch at will.

The two companies spent big in Sundance this year, with Netflix acquiring titles like Dee Rees’ “Mudbound” ($12.5 million), Marti Noxon’s “To the Bone” ($8 million) and the Toni Collette-Molly Shannon comedy “Fun Mom Dinner” ($5 million).

Amazon, meanwhile, swooped up titles such as “The Big Sick” for $12 million — a success story as it approaches $50 million at the domestic box office — as well as the four-hour Grateful Dead documentary “Long Strange Trip” ($6 million) and Jenny Slate’s ’90s comedy “Landline” (mid-seven figures).

That’s raised the overall price of films on the market — and not all of those bets have paid off.

In fact, some of the fallout has been severe: Broad Green Pictures, run by hedge-fund brothers Gabriel and Daniel Hammond, pulled the plug on their 3-year-old production operation in August. Their plan to partner with the likes of enigmatic filmmaker Terrence Malick for festival titles (“Knight of Cups” and “Song to Song”) then to expand to tentpole films after little more than a year in existence proved to be too ambitious.

Open Road Films, which enjoyed a lengthy victory lap for its 2016 Best Picture winner “Spotlight,” just sold to Tang Media Partners after its joint owners AMC Theatres and Regal Entertainment posted a combined $98 million in losses.

Also Read: TheGrill 2017 Welcomes Paramount’s Megan Colligan, Lionsgate’s Sandra Stern and Beatriz Acevedo of Mitu

“It’s not as devastating as it sounds — those companies pop up every couple of years and drive up film prices,” a top indie sales executive said of the company. “But it‘s not healthy for our business at the end of the day, it‘s diminishing.”

Change is also afoot at STXfilms, where Bob Simmonds’ would-be mini-major will premiere Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut “Molly’s Game” in Toronto — a title acquired at the script stage in Cannes two years ago. These days, STX seems to be banking on movie stars and mid-budget fare like Melissa McCarthy’s dark puppet comedy “The Happytime Murders” and Amy Schumer’s “I Feel Pretty.”

Other indie perennials have a lot more on the line: The Weinstein Company has a pricey Oscar campaign to launch for the Thomas Edison vs. George Westinghouse drama “The Current War,” and made such a fumbling mess of recent releases like Alicia Vikander’s “Tulip Fever” that The Atlantic even covered it. 

Focus Features will likely have an eye out for potential acquisitions, but the Universal shingle has its own ambitious slate slate of original movies to release. That includes awards hopefuls like “Victoria & Abdul” with Judi Dench and Daniel Day-Lewis’ final acting performance this Christmas in an untitled Paul Thomas Anderson film.

Sony Pictures Classics remains a market stalwart, and could easily come away with titles in addition to its rollout for the awards-bait Armie Hammer drama “Call Me By Your Name.”

Also Read: ‘Patti Cake$’ Disappoints While ‘Wind River’ Opens Solid at Indie Box Office

There also may be trepidation for a company like Fox Searchlight, which paid a steep $10 million in Sundance for “Patti Cake$” to stave off streaming competiors — only to see the feel-good hip hop romp about a white teenaged girl in New Jersey who wants a rap career gross just $597,000 in limited release.

“What’s interesting is that there was an audience for ‘Patti Cake$,’ but it was young and urban,” one sales agent said. “There wasn’t even a social media presence for that project. Think of what would that film have done in the hands of Neon or A24?”

Indeed, 5-year-old upstart A24 trotted out “Moonlight” at TIFF last year and it (eventually) won the Best Picture Oscar. The company has a minimal, too-cool-for-school vibe in both its taste and the way it connects to audiences. For the sleepy but well-liked Sundance drama, Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara’s “A Ghost Story,” A24 marketers opened up pop-up boutiques to sell the bed sheets Affleck’s character wore in character as a ghost.

Tim League and Tom Quinn’s Neon, which released its first film last spring, has a similarly sexy brand that keeps sellers believing that streaming is not the Goliath to the limited theatrical David.

Still, both old and new companies in the indie world face challenges pitted against Netflix and Amazon — and their willingness to spend big even without the promise of a payoff at the theatrical box office.

Streaming platforms also offer producers protection against financial loss  — Netflix CCO Ted Sarandos definitively told TheWrap earlier this year that “no one has ever lost money” making a movie with him.

But the streaming giant’s model for features often fails to catch — or hold — public attention. Take this year’s Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner, “I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore,” a quiet crime drama that won raves for star Melanie Lynskey and first-time director Macon Blair. Netflix released the film less than a month after Sundance — and it promptly disappeared from consciousness.

Also Read: Oscar Season Hits Toronto: 25 TIFF Movies With a Lot to Prove

Consumers are trained to follow the linear cycle of theatrical release, including plenty of runway for promotion (yes, even for indies, especially those with big names attached).

“One of the things I think is going to have to happen for those folks to compete is they will need to play to their unique strengths: a theatrical first focus, unique distribution and marketing capabilities and strong talent relationships,” said Matt Thompson, a partner at law firm Sidley Austin who represents indie distributors like Neon.

“They’ve got to get in early with whoever the producer, director, rights holder is on the film, if at all possible before it gets seen by others,” Thompson added.

A veteran distribution exec agreed. “We have to brand our service, make a consumer-facing product and use social media to stay alive,” the exec said. “And the movies have to be better than they use to be.”

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‘Ingrid Goes West’: Neon Founders Discuss Sundance Bidding War for Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen Instagram Stalker Pic (Video)

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Elizabeth Olsen and Aubrey Plaza wore the same black and gold dress to the L.A. premiere of their two-hander “Ingrid Goes West” Thursday night, poking fun at the life-stalking-via-Instagram plot of their dark comedy that won over the Arclight Hollywood crowd with the same “rapturous reception” that it got at Sundance this past January.

Also Read: ‘Ingrid Goes West’ Sundance Review: Aubrey Plaza Is a Social-Media Stalker to Relish

As TheWrap reported from Sundance at the time, “‘Ingrid Goes West’ follows Ingrid Thorburn (Plaza) a mentally unstable young woman who becomes obsessed with Taylor Sloane (Olsen), a social media ‘influencer’ with a seemingly-perfect life in Venice, California. When Ingrid decides to drop everything, and move to the west coast to befriend Taylor in real life, her behavior turns unsettling and increasingly dangerous.”

Neon’s Tim League, actors Billy Magnussen and Aubrey Plaza, director Matt Spicer, actor Elizabeth Olsen, and Neon’s Tom Quinn at the Arclght in Hollywood on July 27, 2017. (Michael Kovac/Getty Images)

Also Read: O’Shea Jackson Jr. on How His Batman Obsession Landed Him Role in ‘Ingrid Goes West’ (Video)

The dark comedy drew consistent laughs from the packed house at the Arclight’s Theatre 10 on Thursday night, with co-stars Pom Klementieff and the standout Billy Magnussen joining the procession of star talent.

O’Shea Jackson Jr. is off shooting a “big Hollywood movies,” per director Matt Spicer, and could not make it.

Before the screening, Neon founders  Tim League and Tom Quinn addressed the audience, beer in hand. They revealed how anxious they were to convince Plaza (who also produced the film), Spicer, and the team from CAA to sell them the U.S. distribution rights.

“We’re having this conversation (after the Friday night screening at Sundance), I’m very nervous, we’re trying to do our best and express our love of this film, ” League said. “We’re realizing that these guys are so damn smart. They know how to market this film.”

League turned to his colleague Quinn and said, “We have to work with these guys.” They rolled out their best offer and the rest is history.

Quinn and League also shouted out strategist Darin Pfeiffer, who produced the L.A. premiere that swamped the Arclight plaza.

For a peek inside the theater, watch the full  introductions above, including Plaza and Olsen vamping in their matching attire.

Also Read: Neon Acquires Sundance Hip Hop Biopic ‘Roxanne Roxanne’

After the screening guests — including Chris Pratt, Darren Criss, RJ Mitte and singer Inas-X — headed over to Avenue for the party. (Pratt got a taste of being hunted himself, fending off a professional autograph hound following him as he walked down Sunset Boulevard.)

Clothing designer Kelly Cole spun the after party, where Svedka and Kim Crawford wines were poured.

Neon releases “Ingrid Goes West” on Aug. 11 in New York and Los Angeles, before platforming to other markets throughout the rest of the summer.

Writer’s Disclaimer: The co-screenwriter, David Branson Smith, and I worked together on an unscripted TV project over 10 years ago.  That has nothing to do with the reason why I think “Ingrid Goes West” is going to be  a breakout movie of the summer. 

Related stories from TheWrap:

Aubrey Plaza Stalks Elizabeth Olsen in Trailer for Sundance Hit ‘Ingrid Goes West’ (Video)

‘Ingrid Goes West’ Acquired by Neon at Sundance

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Matthew McConaughey’s ‘The Beach Bum’ Parks Itself With Neon, Vice Media for US Rights

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Neon and Vice Media have teamed up to buy U.S. rights to writer-director Harmony Korine’s “The Beach Bum” starring Matthew McConaughey as a rebellious but lovable rogue named Moondog.

The film, a follow-up to Korine’s 2012 indie hit “Spring Breakers,” is due to begin production this fall with a theatrical release planned for 2018.

LeGrisbi Productions’ John Lesher, Anonymous Content’s Steve Golin, Iconoclast’s Charles-Marie Anthonioz, Mourad Belkeddar and Nicolas Lhermitte will produce. The film is executive produced by Tom Quinn and Tim League for Neon, and Shane Smith, Eddy Moretti, and Danny Gabai for Vice Media. Rocket Science is handling international sales, after introducing the film in Berlin in February.

Also Read: Cannes 2017: 14 Directors to Watch, From Bong Joon Ho to Todd Haynes (Exclusive Photos)

“We’ve been huge fans of the singularly talented Harmony Korine for a very long time now,” Quinn and League said in a statement. “Together with our good friends at Vice we’re tickled to death to launch ‘The Beach Bum,’ which promises to be a wild, crazy and intoxicating piece of cinema.”

Vice Chief Creative Officer Eddy Moretti said: “Harmony is like family to me, and to all of us at Vice for over a decade. And finally we can work together creatively on his most ambitious, hilarious, and oddly existential film.”

The deal, one of the first announced out of this year’s Cannes Film Festival, was negotiated by NEON and CAA on behalf of the filmmakers.

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Sundance Hit ‘Beach Rats’ Has a #BuryYourGays Problem – But It’s Not Backing Down

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Despite rapturous reviews out of last month’s Sundance Film Festival, writer-director Eliza Hittman’s drama “Beach Rats” was the focus of intense scrutiny for a brutal act of violence and the implied death of a young gay man targeted through a cruising website.

This realistic depiction of a hate crime was problematic for some early audiences at Sundance, where the film earned Hittman the festival jury prize for Best Director.

“As a gay man I found this intensely difficult to watch, I was really writhing in my seat,” one audience member told Hittman at a Q&A following the first screening in Park City. “I’m really angry to see this story told yet again, in a way that makes me feel almost hopeless for so many of my brothers,” he added.

But Hittman was unapologetic — both at the screening and in a subsequent interview. “I’m interested in taboos as a filmmaker, and I think that that will always be challenged by a male audience,” she told TheWrap on the day of her packed second screening (which was attended by former First Daughter Malia Obama).

Also Read: Neon Acquires Sundance Award Winner ‘Beach Rats’

“I don’t want people to walk out of the movie talking about what they’re going to have for dinner,” she added. “It doesn’t really expand or challenge what you think about the world.”

At the first Q&A, though, Hittman admitted that she was “caught off guard” by the offended filmgoer, whose response was influenced by the fact that she is not a gay man herself. “Coming from outside this world do you ever question, ‘Should I be telling this story? Am I doing it justice?”” he asked.

“Do I need permission? Who do you ask for permission to tell a certain story?” she wondered aloud from the stage. “A lot of my very favorite challenging films about women have been written and directed by men. Having grown up in Brooklyn in a household that was incredibly homophobic … I didn’t feel it was out of my realm, or out of my wheelhouse,” she added.

She bluntly told the audience member, “People who are looking for films with very straightforward messages should watch after-school specials.” She also explained that her protagonist faces a specific and harrowing sort of pressure that can lead to destructive behavior.

Also Read: ‘Beach Rats’ Sundance Review: Closeted Teen Hangs With the Bros in Affecting Drama

Harris Dickinson, Credit: Jana Cruder

“Beach Rats,” which will be released later this year by Tom Quinn and Tim League’s upstart distribution label Neon, follows a twentysomething named Frankie (newcomer Harris Dickinson) who navigates his father’s terminal illness, a fragile romance with a local girl and the men he has sex with in the brambles of the beach. It’s safe to say that Frankie has a type — an older, shadowy male sex partner he pursues throughout his escalating identity crisis.

But one of his suitors is a sweet, age-appropriate boy and — spoiler alert! —  he’s the one lured by Frankie and a group of straight friends who rob him and leave him much worse than they found him.

Not only does the scene conjure the dreaded #BuryYourGays television trope of brutalizing LGBTQ people, it directly invokes the many cases of men using gay hook-up apps like Grindr to commit crimes — and it’s used as a plot twist that struck some audience members as exploitative.

Hittman admitted that she was “a little bummed” by the feedback she got at the first Q&A in Sundance. “I understand the film is powerful and is going affect people,” she said.

Also Read: Jack Henry Robbins Hopes Porno Comedy ‘Hot in Winter’ Will Spur Climate Change Debate (Video)

The director later wondered if the fact that she’s a woman affected the audience’s resistance to the raw storytelling she prefers.

“One thing that is challenging for me as a female filmmaker is, you get a little bit pigeoned into telling a certain kind of teen female story,” she told TheWrap, noting that her first feature, 2013’s “It Felt Like Love,” was told from the perspective of an adolescent girl facing similar and crushing pressure.

Kim Yutani, senior film programmer for Sundance, isn’t surprised by the strong reactions that Hittman’s film has generated. “The fact that she suggests her lead character has done something completely unforgivable is hard to comprehend because over the course of the film Eliza has built a character and made us understand him — and even really like him — in his deep struggle with himself,” Yutani wrote in an email to TheWrap.

“Internalized homophobia that results in violence against the LGBT community is difficult to process, and Eliza’s artistic exploration of this reflects a reality that is particularly painful to see represented on screen,” added Yutani, who previously worked for LGBTQ festival OutFest.

Also Read: ‘Icarus’ Director on Helping Anti-Doping Expert Flee Russia (Video)

Hittman added that “Beach Rats” was based on real-life incidents in New York City. “I’ve had friends who have been attacked walking around certain areas of Brooklyn, and been totally knocked out. I’ve had people who have had Grindr experiences,” she said. “I’m aware of all the types of violence that exist, and I’ve read about them and processed them. I think [the victim in the film] represents many types of victims.”

There is no shortage of real-life incidents that mirror those of “Beach Rats.” On Monday, a Texas man was charged with robbery and kidnapping at gunpoint using Grindr to find his four victims. Last November, a string of five incidents in Florida were all tied to young men lured into dates, only to be greeted by armed robbers, one of which saw a young man beaten in the face with a baseball bat.

The same month in London, 41-year-old Stephen Port was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of four gay men he drugged to the point of overdose and raped using hook-up apps.

Regardless of the early feedback, “Beach Rats” is as controlled, confident and unflinching as its filmmaker. Just consider her words when introducing her film for the first time.

“This is a tough movie,” she told the crowd. “But you guys look tough.”

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2017 Sundance Film Festival Awards: The Complete Winners List

Neon Acquires Sundance Hip Hop Biopic ‘Roxanne Roxanne’

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Upstart distributor Neon has acquired buzzy hip-hop biopic “Roxanne Roxanne,” TheWrap has learned.

Upstart distributor Neon, the shingle formed by former RADiUS co-head Tom Quinn and Alamo Drafthouse’s Tim League, has also acquired Sundance films “Ingrid Goes West” and “Beach Rats.”

“Roxanne Roxanne” tells the true story of the most feared battle MC in early-’80s NYC. Roxanne Shanté was a fierce teenager from the Queensbridge projects with the weight of the world on her shoulders. At age 14, she hustled the streets to provide for her family and was well on her way to becoming a hip-hop legend.

Also Read: Sony Classics Picks Up Global Rights to ‘Brigsby Bear’

The film premiered Jan. 22 at Sundance to rave reviews.

Written and directed by Michael Larnell, “Roxanne Roxanne” stars Chanté Adams, Mahershala Ali, Nia Long, Elvis Nolasco, Kevin Phillips and Shenell Edmonds.

“Roxanne Roxanne” is produced by Nina Yang Bongiovi (“Fruitvale Station,” “Dope”), Mimi Valdes (“Hidden Figures,” “Dope”), Forest Whitaker (“Dope”) and Pharrell Williams (“Hidden Figures,” “Dope”).

See Video: ‘Roxanne Roxanne’ Director on Shooting in Notorious Queensbridge Housing Project

Neon will release their first film, Nacho Vigalondo’s “Colossal,” the sci-fi action film starring Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis that premiered at last year’s Toronto Film Festival. “Colossal” was featured in Sundance’s Spotlight sidebar and will be released theatrically on April 7.

WME Global negotiated the sale.

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Neon Acquires Sundance Award Winner ‘Beach Rats’

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Tom Quinn and Tim League’s upstart distribution label Neon has acquired the Sundance hit “Beach Rats.’

The intense cruising drama landed Eliza Hittman the festival’s directing award in the U.S. Dramatic competition at the annual award ceremony held on Saturday.

“Beach Rats” stars British import Harris Dickinson as a lost middle-class youth in Brooklyn with a dying father, a tentative new romance with a young girl and a late-night habit of cruising for older men online. UTA represented the filmmakers in the deal.

Also Read: 2017 Sundance Film Festival Awards: The Complete Winners List (Updating Live)

The film elicited strong reactions during its screenings and subsequent Q&A’s — even former First Daughter Malia Obama saw it during an under-the-radar trip to the festival.

Neon also scooped up the female hip-hop drama “Roxanne, Roxanne” and the Aubrey Plaza-Elizabeth Olsen film “Ingrid Goes West” at Sundnace — both award winners on Saturday for breakthrough performance for star Chante Adams and screenwriting for Matt Spicer and David Branson Smith, respectively.

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‘Ingrid Goes West’ Acquired by Neon at Sundance

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After a number of competitive bids Tom Quinn and Tim League’s new distribution banner, Neon, have acquired the U.S. distribution rights to Sundance breakout, “Ingrid Goes West,” following the world premiere on Friday night.

Directed by Matt Spicer and starring Aubrey Plaza (“Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates,” “Parks and Recreation”) and Elizabeth Olsen (“Avengers: Age of Ultron,” “Martha Marcy May Marlene”).

Based on a script by Spicer and David Branson Smith, the dark comedy also stars O’Shea Jackson Jr., Wyatt Russell, Billy Magnussen, and Pom Klementieff.

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“Ingrid Goes West” follows Ingrid Thorburn (Plaza) a mentally unstable young woman who becomes obsessed with Taylor Sloane (Olsen), a social media “influencer” with a seemingly-perfect life. When Ingrid decides to drop everything, and move to the west coast to befriend Taylor in real life, her behavior turns unsettling and increasingly dangerous.

“Ingrid Goes West” marks Spicer’s feature directorial debut. He recently co-wrote Flower, along with Max Winkler who will also direct. The film is a twisted coming-of-age comedy starring Zoey Deutch, Adam Scott, Kathryn Hahn and Tim Heidecker, which Spicer will also produce alongside Rough House Pictures and Diablo Entertainment. Along with Winkler, Spicer will write the recently announced Rocketeer sequel for Disney.

Star Thrower Entertainment and 141 Entertainment financed and produced.

Producers include Jared Ian Goldman, Star Thrower Entertainment’s Tim and Trevor White, 141 Entertainment’s Adam and Robert Mirels, and Aubrey Plaza.

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Mary Solomon, Rick Rickertsen and Allan Mandelbaum executive produced.

CAA represented the US rights and negotiated the deal.

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Anne Hathaway’s ‘Colossal’ Director on Balancing Humor, Domestic Abuse (Exclusive Video)

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Nacho Vigalondo knew that he had a challenge on his hands when he was making the Anne Hathaway sci-fi thriller “Colossal.”

“You’re dealing with real-life elements like domestic abuse, for example, and toxic relationships,” writer-director Vigalondo told TheWrap’s Steve Pond at Sundance on Saturday. “And, at the same time, you’re making a lot of jokes and making the effects.”

The film, which screened this week at the Sundance Film Festival, stars Hathaway as a woman who discovers that severe catastrophic events involving a Godzilla-like creature are somehow connected to the mental breakdown from which she’s suffering.

Dan Stevens, Jason Sudeikis and Tim Blake Nelson co-star.

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“I’m really happy about how the movie is being received,” Vigalondo said. “Because if the movie wasn’t talking properly about this stuff, they would be throwing stones at my head right now.”

Nahikari Ipiña, Nicolas Chartier, Zev Foreman, Russell Levine, Dominic Rustam and Shawn Williamson produced Colossal,” while executive producers include Jonathan Deckter, Garrett Basch, Justin Bursch, Chris Lytton, Lee Jea Woo and Vigalondo.

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Last May, Voltage Pictures, the production house behind the film, was sued by Toho, the Japanese production company that created “Godzilla.” They claimed that the company used copyrighted images of the famous movie monster to sell “Colossal.” A settlement was reached between the two parties.

The film is due to be released this year by the new indie distributor founded by Radius co-founder Tom Quinn and Alamo Drafthouse owner Tim League.

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