Sundance ’16: Netflix, Amazon and Magnolia shop for docs

A slew of documentaries are leaving Park City with distribution deals in place with outlets and distributors such as Netflix, Amazon, Sony Pictures Classics, Magnolia Pictures and Dogwoof. (Pictured: Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You)
January 31, 2016

As the 2016 Sundance Film Festival draws to a close, a dozen docmakers are leaving Park City with distribution deals in place.

Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg‘s Grand Jury Prize winner Weiner – which looks at Anthony Weiner’s unsuccessful bid to become New York City mayor in 2013 – secured UK distribution as well as international sales through Dogwoof and Scandinavian distribution with Non-Stop Entertainment.

Sundance Selects picked up the North American rights ahead of the festival and will give the doc a limited theatrical and VOD release on May 20. Showtime has the U.S. TV rights.

London-based Dogwoof is also working with two other Sundance docs. The company has the UK rights and international sales rights for Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato’s HBO-backed Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures, and is handling the UK release and international sales for Brian Oakes’ Sundance Audience Award winner Jim: The James Foley Story, which HBO will also air on television in the U.S.

Dogwoof is also handling international sales for Richard Linklater: Dream Is Destiny, Louis Black and Karen Bernstein‘s doc about the Boyhood and Dazed and Confused director.

Meanwhile, streaming sites Netflix and Amazon snapped up several titles in Park City, including two docs apiece.

Netflix acquired Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady’s Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You from PBS and American Masters Pictures. Music Box Films will release the film theatrically in June ahead of the U.S. TV premiere on PBS in the fall and Netflix’s SVOD premiere.

The streaming platform also picked up Bonnie Cohen and John Shenk’s teen bullying doc Audrie & Daisy and will premiere it globally this year.

The Lovers and the Despot

The Lovers and the Despot

Not to be outdone, Amazon did two doc deals during the festival. The SVOD platform reportedly snagged the Brett Ratner-produced Author: The JT LeRoy Story (pictured) for US$1 million, according to The New York Times.

The company also took all theatrical, on demand and streaming rights for Clay Tweel’s Gleason, about NFL player Steve Gleason, and is partnering with Open Road Films to open it theatrically this summer.

Meanwhile, Werner Herzog’s Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World will get a theatrical release through Magnolia Pictures, which snapped up worldwide rights to the doc during Sundance. The filmmaker –  back in Park City after 10 years - discussed the doc in a press conference as well as a ‘TimesTalks’ discussion with The Look of Silence director Joshua Oppenheimer.

Magnolia also bought worldwide rights for British filmmakers Rob Cannan and Ross Adam’s The Lovers and the Despot. The doc is about a pair of South Korean film stars who were kidnapped by the North Korean regime in 1978 to serve as film-loving dictator Kim Jong-il’s personal movie makers.

In addition, Magnolia picked up the North American theatrical rights and world rights outside of North America (excluding Australia and New Zealand) to David Farrier and Dylan Reeve’s Tickled, about a journalist investigating a”competitive endurance tickling” competition. HBO took the U.S. television rights to the film.

German filmmaker Thorsten Schütte’s all-archival look at the life of avant-garde rocker Frank Zappa, Eat That Question: Frank Zappa In His Own Words, sold to Sony Pictures Classics early in the festival. The distributor took worldwide rights, excluding France and Germany.

Finally, the Slamdance Film Festival favorite The Million Dollar Duck went to Discovery-owned cable net Animal Planet and Lionsgate.

The deal covers the U.S., Canada and the UK, and will see Animal Planet handling television rights while Lionsgate has theatrical run, digital home entertainment and packaged media rights.The Brian Golden Davis-directed doc won Slamdance’s Audience Award and Jury prize.

The Sundance Film Festival kicked off on January 31 and closes today (January 31).

UPDATE FEBRUARY 5: Following the festival, distributor The Orchard picked up all North American rights to Roger Ross Williams’ A&E IndieFilms-produced doc Life, Animated. The film earned Williams a directing prize during Sundance.

UPDATE FEBRUARY 16: London-based distributor Dogwoof has acquired the international rights – excluding North America, Australia and New Zealand – and UK distribution for Roger Ross Williams’ Life, Animated. The British distributor also picked up the international rights to Robert Greene‘s Kate Plays Christine, which received the U.S. documentary Special Jury Award for writing at Sundance.

With files from Manori Ravindran

About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news reporter at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joins the rs team with journalism experience following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.