Ice Follies: Your Hollywoodland correspondent is freezing off her extremities at the Sundance Film Festival. There has been a lot of talk that the festival would be even more frenzied than usual thanks to the writers' strike, with the idea being that a lack of product in the pipeline would lead the Weinsteins of the world to make crazy deals.
Now, of course, the Directors Guild of America might have upended that conventional wisdom. The DGA has settled with the studios, and the question is whether this means that the writers, too, will soon settle and end the strike. That doesn't seem like an unreasonable bet even though the directors' deal—while a big improvement in some respects over what had been offered to the writers—is not one that will cause the champagne to be uncorked at the Writers Guild.
Attorney Jonathan Handel, who's been watching the negotiations closely, says the DGA deal provides a bit more than double what the studios were paying for downloads. The writers wanted a much bigger bump than that. But more importantly, many writers won't like the deal on material that is streamed over the Internet. In simple terms, the studios are offering a formula that works out to about $1,200 a year for programs that are streamed. That is far more than the $250 figure offered in the Writers Guild negotiations. But the writers want the number of viewers to factor into the payment so that they benefit from success.
It seems that the directors' deal is just good enough and just bad enough that it could split the writers, which would probably mean that the Writers Guild will end up accepting it.
So, will the buyers at Sundance bank on that? Hard to say. But many claim to doubt that the buyers will overspend as much as expected. They say the hysteria peaked last year and that this will be a time for caution, given the fact that buyers fared so badly last year.
As Anne Thompson wrote in Variety, 2007 was the worst year ever in terms of box-office results for films that were snapped up at Sundance. Twenty films were bought for $53 million. So far, 14 have been released and grossed $34 million. Among the failures: Grace Is Gone, bought for $4 million. So, while it's easy to get caught up in festival hype, the buyers might remember that result. Maybe they should wear buttons reading, "Grace is gone and the money's gone, too." (link)