On Saturday night, Amazon Studios placed the winning bid of $12 million to acquire The Big Sick, marking one of the largest deals in the history of the Sundance Film Festival.
The film, starring Silicon Valley star Kumail Nanjiani, and based off of the real life story of him and his wife, centers around a couple who struggle with being from different cultural backgrounds, but decide to get married only when the woman falls into a coma. The Big Sick also stars Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, and Ray Romano, and was produced by comedy genius Judd Apatow. Michael Showalter, most known for writing/directing Hello My Name is Dorris, served as director for the comedy.
Sony, Focus Features, Fox Searchlight, Paramount Pictures, and Netflix were also attempting to acquire the comedy, and many of them submitted their bids on Saturday night along with Amazon. According to reports, many of the companies submitted 8-figure bids (aka over $10 million).
This is the first acquisition made by Amazon Studios this year at Sundance. Last year, they acquired Gleason, Weiner-Dog, and Manchester by the Sea. The latter has obviously proved to be worthy the investment, with Manchester by Sea gaining multiple award nominations, and a Golden Globe win for Casey Affleck. Amazon paid $10 million for distribution rights for Manchester by the Sea at last year’s Sundance festival.
The news of the bidding war is encouraging for indie filmmakers, as traditional theatrical distribution is becoming more rare for independent features. Some distributors, most specifically as Netflix, have been expressing interest to move into day-and-date releases (aka releasing films in the theaters the same day as streaming sites). Amazon has expressed their opposition to this, in the past stating that they want to allow their films at least a month in theaters before they make the films available on Amazon Prime. The Big Sick will most likely follow this distribution strategy.
Both Amazon and Netflix, prior to the start of Sundance, expressed that their acquisition strategy would be to acquire offbeat, independent features, as they believed much of their audience desired to see such content. Amazon has even launched a self-distribution program called Film Festival Stars (which works via Amazon Video Direct), so that independent filmmakers who cannot obtain theatrical distribution for their content at the festival, can at least get it on the Amazon streaming site.
Eric Orme, the head of Amazon Video Direct, said the following prior to the start of the festival:
Prime Video customers have shown an affinity for independent film and we want to increase our depth of selection in this category. We recognized that the majority of films screened at major film festivals don’t secure full service distribution deals and Amazon Video believes these high-quality films deserve an opportunity to be made available to a large audience.
Stay tuned for more updates on The Big Sick, as well as the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.