The 2021 Sundance Film Festival may turn out to be just like previous incarnations of the fest in at least one way…huge paydays for acquisition titles. Today, we have the first big buy of Sundance 2021, and it’s for the potential breakout hit Coda. The crowd-pleaser sold to Apple for more than $25 million, which is big numbers for the movie. Clearly, Apple wants to make a statement at the festival, establishing a long-term presence at Sundance as a buyer. This is likely the first of many purchases this year, so sit tight, as more may very well be coming before the fest is done…
Deadline has the details in their exclusive:
In the first big deal of the 2021 virtual Sundance Film Festival, Apple has landed worldwide rights to CODA, for a number just north of $25 million. That sets a new a Sundance acquisitions record — above the $22.5 million that Palm Springs received last year from Hulu/Neon. But this time, all the premiere watching and all night auctioning was done far from the slopes of Park City. It came down to a pitched battle between Apple and Amazon.
Writer-director Siân Heder’s coming-of-age drama is about a high school senior who is the only hearing person in her deaf family and is torn between holding together that unit or seeking her own dreams. The film premiered opening night in the U.S. Dramatic Competition. Buyers loved it, and it became clear yesterday that its value to distributors was heading into the stratosphere, after receiving glowing reviews and reaction from buyers. Multiple offers were on the table and brought the bidding close to Palm Springs territory. That was the Andy Samberg-Cristin Milioti movie that broke the Sundance sales record last year with $22.5 million.
The film (the title’s acronym is for Child of Deaf Adults) centers on Ruby (Emilia Jones), the only hearing person in her deaf family. When the family’s fishing business is threatened, she finds herself torn between pursuing her love of music and her fear of abandoning her parents. The pic is based on the award-winning French hit La famille belier. Jones is a real discovery and the film is a bonafide crowd pleaser with heart and awards potential. Heder has captured the fishing scene in Boston, and the love of classic Motown and Joni Mitchell and Marvin Gaye, whose songs are broken down and connect you to the messages within them, and why they resonate with the characters navigating difficult circumstances. Most importantly, it creates a real way into the world of a mother, father and son who were born deaf, and when the film transports the audience to how these deaf characters experience the world without sound, and try to appreciate the bright singing talent of a cherished daughter they can’t hear, the results are what they build Best Picture candidates out of. Numerous buyers discussed the film with me yesterday and were saddened when the numbers shot past what they could spend as it became clear this would be a world rights deal with a streamer.
Stay tuned for more on Coda…