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1998 Sundance Film Festival Buzz
The Latest from Park City (January 23)

by Richard Schwartz

PARK CITY, Jan. 23 - As things begin to wind down in Park City, a look at the latest news:

The acquisitions continue. October Films snapped up Lisa Cholodenko's "High Art" for about $700,000 while Live Entertainment bought the compeitition entry "Pi" for about a million. However, the busiest executive, as usual, has been Miramax head Harvey Weinstein, who began the festival bidding by grabbing "Last Stop, Wonderland" for a reported $6 million (though some say the actual offer may have been lowered after the initial screening). Miramax then spent $8 million on the Australian comedy "The Castle" and nearly $2 million on the hitman flick "Jerry and Tom." All the high-ticket buying is stunning industry observers who had predicted a slowing of purchases in light of last year's box-office failures by many top Sundance performers. Things are also looking up for "Snitch" and "Slam"..

In addition to all of the facilities and transportation adjustments made in light of last year's complaints, another Sundance addition has filmmakers smiling this year. In an effort to reach out to the Utah community, Sundance is screening a number of entries at multiplexes in neighboring Salt Lake City and Ogden. But those happiest about the local showings seem to be the directors, who cheer an opportunity to see how their picture plays before a "real" audience rather than an industry crowd. Said "Miss Monday" director Benson Lee, "I had better questions at the Q-and-A session (after the film) in Salt Lake City than I did in Park City"...

In other festival news, Cannes organizer Gilles Jacob this week named director Martin Scorcese to head the jury for the May festival. Scorcese follows other Americans who have served in the same capacity, including Francis Ford Coppola and Sydney Pollack...

One surprise among the hundreds of journalists covering Sundance was Pultizer Prize-winning historian Garry Wills. The "Lincoln at Gettysburg" scribe, who has also contributed comprehensive studies of film and popular culture, is working on an article about the proceedings for Atlantic Monthly. Wills was last spotted trading perspectives with fellow historian and noted documentarian Ken Burns, whose "Frank Lloyd Wright" is a documentary entry...

Robert Redford barely makes it to his own festival but it was announced that he will travel to Madison, Wis. in October to accept the "Golden Cheesehead" award as part of the Madison Film Festival and Wisconsin Sesquicentennial celebration. Must mean he's cheering for the Packers this weekend, too.

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