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1998 Sundance Film Festival Buzz
The Latest from Park City (January 18)

by Richard Schwartz

PARK CITY, Jan. 18 - What's making headlines around the Sundance Film Festival:

The distribution deals continue to roll in. A dozen-plus films entered the festival having already secured distributors, and Sony Pictures Classics made news on the eve of Sundance by picking up Brazilian director Walter Salles' "Central Station." Now comes word that Miramax Films has acquired the Dramatic Competition entry "Next Stop, Wonderland" for a price reported to be around $6 million dollars. The romantic comedy stars up-and-comer Hope Davis as a single woman in the Boston dating scene. "This movie is smart, original, funny and incredibly satisfying," said Miramax L. A. president Mark Gill, who brokered the deal in his first move since being named to the top spot. "We think it will perform very well in art houses and cross over very nicely to commercial theatres as well"...

Also acquired over the weekend was Irish film "I Went Down," directed by Paddy Breathnach and starring Brendan Gleeson of "Braveheart." TSG Pictures, a subsidiary of Shooting Gallery films, secured the rights to the World Cinema selection. In addition, Arrow releasing purchased the British film "Under the Skin" for stateside distribution...

Sundance's midnight screening series is enjoying unprecedented success. Having locked up a sponsor for the first time ever, the late-night showings at the Park City library are playing to near-capacity houses. The line for "Orgazmo" begin building two hours before showtime and many hopefuls were turned away at the door per fire marshall's orders. "Safe Men" was greeted warmly as well. Expect more hysteria for Wednesday night's screening of "Blood Guts Bullets & Octane," a low-budget laugher by former local news promotions producer Joe Carnahan. Carnahan and his cronies have been scuttling about Park City wearing all sorts of "Blood Guts" paraphernelia and generating serious heat for their film...

Roger Ebert didn't show up this year, citing a growing frustration with Sundance following last year's festival. Ebert, among others, voiced complaints over congested crowds, poor screening facilities and lack of parking (his car even got towed). This year, though, Sundance officials have done their best to answer some of those complaints. The number of films have been reduced while screenings were increased, free round-the-clock shuttles are helping serve transportation needs and the festival headquarters has been moved to the central location of the Shadow Ridge hotel. Most impressive, however, has been the debut of the new Eccles Theatre, a 1300-seat hall that will host a number of fesival premieres. Both the comfort and acoustics of the Eccles, which will also serve as a fine arts center for the adjacent Park City High School, have quieted many of Sundance's critics...

Frances McDormand dropped into town Sunday primarily to pick up the Piper-Heidsieck Award for Independent Spirit, but she stuck around long enough to enjoy the premiere of John Raffo's "Johnny Skidmarks" at the Eccles. McDormand co-stars with Peter Gallagher and John Lithgow in the film, which looks to be a noirish thriller in the spirit of last year's "L. A. Confidential."

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