Sundance Big Deals: “Don Jon’s Addiction” and “The Way, Way Back”

Scarlett Johansson and Joseph Gordon-Levitt meet cute in "Don Jon's Addiction."

I usually don’t like to spend a lot of time writing about all the deals that are made at Sundance, mostly because a) it’s really boring for readers (unless you’re really deep into the business side of the industry) to just keep listing “Oddball Distribution just paid $2 million for the foreign rights to ‘Thoughtful Indie Film’” and b) the list of Sundance films that went for high prices at the festival and then flopped when they hit theaters is legion.

Nevertheless, I couldn’t ignore these two deals. One is for Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s writing and directing debut, “Don Jon’s Addiction,” which generally got very good reviews (though with warnings that they’re going to need to do some editing to get it down to an R from a possible NC-17). According to Deadline, Relativity Media won a bidding war by paying $4 million for the distribution rights along with a huge $25 million print and advertising commitment. In an interview with Deadline’s Mike Fleming (a good interview, by the way) a few days ago, Gordon-Levitt said he envisioned it as a wide release summer comedy, implying he didn’t see it as a Sundance indie opening on the art house circuit in October. It looks like Relativity is willing to buy into his vision–like really, really buy into it. The deal for the rights alone isn’t historic, but the whole package with the P&A money turns this into one of the biggest in Sundance history. So congratulations, Mr. Gordon-Levitt, and see you at the multiplex this summer.

Meanwhile, another movie set off a bidding war after screening yesterday afternoon. “The Way, Way Back” is the directorial debut of Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, who shared the best adapted screenplay award last year for “The Descendants.” The duo also wrote the script for the film, which is being described as a type of coming of age film, with a teen coming of age at a summer beach town where he has a job at a water park. The movie stars Sam Rockwell, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, Maya Rudolph and Liam James. According to Deadline, Fox Searchlight is about to close a deal where they’ll pay $10 million upfront, plus print and advertising. There will also be foreign rights, and when all is said and done, THIS may be the richest deal in Sundance history.

Now hopefully these movies will do well at the theaters, or next year everyone at Sundance will be scared, and that’s no fun.

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