EXCLUSIVE UPDATE: Amazon Studios is finalizing a deal pegged at $12 million for U.S. and other rights to The Big Sick, sources say. This might not be fully papered until morning bu UTA Independent, which is brokering the sale but it is shaping up to be the first big one on the ground at 2017 Sundance and one of the largest deals in Park City, period. Amazon was believed to be the frontrunner when Deadline wrote the first story of the deal when three bidders were involved and posting 8-figure offers, and it looks like they will wind up with a relationship film that many feel has breakout potential. The other final bidders were Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions, and Fox Searchlight. The deal comes with that giant minimum guarantee, as well as other points including theatrical release and P&A commitments.
This is another statement buy for Amazon Studios, which last year had the most successful performing Sundance deal with Manchester By The Sea, for which it paid $10 million for North American rights. For Amazon Studios, this was a full court effort that involved chief Roy Price, WW head of motion pictures Jason Ropell, head of maketing and distribution Bob Berney, head of production Ted Hope and head of business affairs Josh Kramer. For that money, Amazon gets U.S. as well as UK, France and Germany.
EARLIER, Jan 21, 6:54pm: EXCLUSIVE: The first big deal on the ground in Sundance is getting close. Three bidders are near 8-figures for The Big Sick, the Michael Showalter-directed film that stars Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano, and Anupam Kher. This has been going on since last night. Word on the street is giving an edge to Amazon Studios, but there are two others still vying. All day, the rumor has been that Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions, Focus Features as well as Fox Searchlight and Paramount (not part of it anymore) have been at it, in the hunt for U.S. and other rights.
The dealmakers — led by UTA Independent — have asked the finalists to make a last and best bid by 8:30 pm Sundance time. They are looking for around $15 million for U.S. and some European rights; Canada and some other territories were sold already by FilmNation, which financed the picture. This one should wrap up soon, even if the final deal doesn’t get that high. I believe that Sony is still in the mix, but am not sure which is the other. So this could go any one of three ways.
Amazon scored the first big deal at last Sundance, paying $10 million for Manchester By The Sea, a film which is squarely in the Oscar race and has grossed close to $40 million with a bang up distribution job by Roadside Attractions. But the clout of Sony is clearly another viable option for the filmmakers. The Big Sick premiered Friday evening at Eccles, and numerous distributors came out crunching numbers. The film is produced by Judd Apatow, Barry Mendel and Ben Browning, and written by Emily V. Gordon and Nanjiani based on their real love story. Pakistan-born comedian Kumail and grad student Emily fall in love, but struggle as their cultures clash. When Emily contracts a mysterious illness, Kumail must navigate the crisis with her parents and the emotional tug-of-war between his family and his heart.
This one should wrap up tonight. After all, numerous other hot titles have premiered today. A big sale certainly gets the acquisition part of the festival off to a strong start. Stay tuned.