Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Sunny Outlook for Studios at Sundance

Several years ago, the Sundance film festival established an Industry Office to assist film industry attendees at the fest, many of whom are buyers scouting for films to acquire. That was an apparently reluctant acknowledgment of what everyone already knew: the festival had become a marketplace as well, and a frenzied one at that. Companies routinely overpaid for movies that later flopped.

Well, get ready for hyperinflation. This year, the studios - or, more precisely, their specialty "arthouse" units - have an additional motivation to buy films: the writers strike. If that strike continues for another few months, which is quite possible, the studios will have nothing new to put in their pipelines. That means nothing to exhibit, nothing to release on DVD, and no profits to offset the cost of all those idle employees (at least, the ones who don't get fired).

That would take the strike to a whole new level, and the prospect of those shortfalls would lead to massive layoffs and finally start driving the parent conglomerates' share prices down. So - expect a lot of motivated buyers at the festival. That's good for indy filmmakers, but not so good for writers - or, ultimately, for the studios, when many of those same movies underperform next year.

BTW, if you're going to Sundance, I'm doing a presentation on the strike: Monday, January 21, 2008, 11:00 am, at Queer Lounge, 608 Main Street (base of Main St.).

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