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Sundance 2011: Three acquisition targets come to the fore

January 21, 2011 |  4:24 pm

Margin

The Sundance Film Festival has been under way barely for 24 hours, but already a few titles have caught buyers' attention and could yield deals in very short order. At least three movies have shown to screenings packed with acquisition executives and are in play as of Friday afternoon. A quick breakdown of their distribution pros and cons follows.

"Margin Call"
Working for it: J.C. Chandor's Black List script (he also directed) comes with a stellar cast that includes Kevin Spacey and Zachary Quinto, an ominous tone and a topicality that could make it an awards player for the right distributor.

Working against it: A few distributors at the Friday morning screening noted that, despite the surface feel of a thriller, the film is more of a character movie, which could limit its box-office upside.

"Silent House"
Working for it: Chris Kentis and Laura Lau's follow-up to "Open Water" was hailed by buyers for its scares, its atmosphere and its clever conceit (the whole movie looks to be shot in one take). It also has an up-and-coming actress in Elizabeth Olsen.

Working against it: A surprise ending could divide viewers. The American public has been inundated with low-budget horror flicks in the past few years. And horror titles might not be in vogue among Sundance buyers after last year's big buy, "Buried," fizzled at the box office.

"The Guard"
Working for it: Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle star in this dark comedy from John Michael McDonagh involving cops and drug smugglers, which has drawn plaudits from distributors for its comic sensibility and its sense of place.

Working against it: "In Bruges," another Irish black comedy starring Gleeson (and directed by McDonagh's brother Martin) premiered in Park City and flopped. And the accents could make this a tough sell to mainstream audiences.

--Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Kevin Spacey in "Margin Call." Credit: Sundance Film Festival

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