With how much of a presence Searchlight has been at the Sundance film festival there was a curious eye on how the studio would look on the management of Disney and this is the first real litmus test for how it would be in a new era. This would be first-time people would see if Searchlight would still operate as the fantastic indie, the filmmaker-driven studio that they are known as in the industry.
Sundance as a whole this seemed like the year that most of the bigger premiers such as Minari, Zola, The Last Thing He Wanted and many others. Another factor that played a role was that studios were burned by last year’s festival with many of the films purchased not being able to make an impact on the awards circuit or at the box office. This year studios were much more prudent and wise with their spending putting the focus on quality over quantity.
With Searchlight, in particular, they seemed as they were very selective with what they put their resources behind. When you look at what Searchlight has for their upcoming slate apart from The French Dispatch they don’t have the film that they can push their resources for the upcoming awards season so you would naturally think they would go after a film that could fill that void films like Ironbark, Uncle Frank, Palm Springs, and The Father. They instead choose the thriller The Night House starring Rebecca Hall.
The film comes as a choice to likely appeal to a much broader audience and this film will hopefully have longevity in the theater and do well in box office terms. Thrillers particularly lower budget ones always have upside especially well-done ones. With the likes of Antlers and Wendy, they do have a diverse portfolio of films and a film like The Night House adds to that. Searchlight I’m sure is hoping that they would be hoping for a similar to The Gift but on a much larger scale due to their better distribution
Now for Hulu, they have had quite a successful festival, this was the first time they made a very big impact on the festival with two high profile purchases in Bad Hair and Palm Springs. Much like Searchlight, Hulu is under Disney leadership and is looking to add high profile films as Netflix and Amazon Studios do on a regular basis.
The first of their being Bad Hair, the follow up from Justin Simien who broke out with his directorial debut Dear White People which spanned off to create a wildly successful Netflix series. Audiences are craving much more diverse content as we saw this past year how audiences quiet enjoyed films like The Farewell and Us. I’m sure Hulu is hoping that this film will resonate with audiences a lot a very smart a unique plot makes it stand out from the rest of the pack.
Now the big splash for Hulu came as a record-setting joint deal with Neon pictures acquiring the rights to the Lonely Island produced comedy starring Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti. This was the most interesting deal of the festival not only cause of the amount of money they paid but also the partnership between a streamer and an indie production and distribution company who is vying for theater real estate. This has the potential to be a comedy that shines stands in a time in which mainstream comedies are becoming less and less.