If the high altitude, cold weather, and bad economy weren’t enough, this year’s Sundance Film Festival is also about to find itself affected by the potential SAG strike. Turns out a number of the films up for sale at Sundance, which kicked off yesterday, were made with SAG waivers, meaning the indie producers received waivers from the actors’ union to film since they were making the movies without studio involvement. Now that decision could backfire. The studio subsidiaries — Miramax, Fox Searchlight, Sony Pictures Classics, and Focus Features — are all having intense internal discussions over whether they can purchase a film made with a SAG waiver. What any of these four buyers decides is unknown. It will depend on how independently they act from their studio bosses and how stringent those bosses are on towing the company line. It’s also difficult to identify which films up for sale were made with SAG waivers. Some sources say sales agents behind the films may not tell buyers the truth. “No one has compiled a master list,” says one source. “This could be very messy.”
This fallout could benefit three very formidable buyers: Lionsgate, Summit Entertainment, and Overture. All three are independent studios, not linked to the AMPTP, and are therefore free to buy whatever film they like, waiver or no waiver. They might get some pretty deep discounts if many of their competitors are out of the running. The terrible economy and diminished buyers were already going to make Sundance a very different festival. We’ll see what kind of wrench this SAG waiver issue throws into the whole matter. Stay tuned for updates.