It appears the market has corrected itself.  Or, at least the independent theatrical financing and distribution market has.  

Beginning with some notable buys out of Sundance ("Buried," "Waiting for Superman," "Winter's Bone"), a number of players have picked up this slack after prominent distributors such as Miramax and, for a short time, Apparition have fled the scene.  This year's Toronto International Film Festival contented that trend with IFC Films, Roadside Attractions and a cash-infused The Weinstein Company making big noise on a number of buzzed about titles.  Standing on the outside or unwilling to take significant chances with questionably commercial material were Focus Features, Summit Entertainment and CBS Films (Fox Searchlight picked up Terrence Malick's "Tree of Life" for 2011).

What often gets lost, however, is that many of these deals are not as large as they are boasted about in the press and most of the distributors are still counting on DVD, on demand and, in some cases, international markets to make the venture profitable.  With that in mind, here's a rundown of the 12 biggest buys (so far) and some realistic expectations for their eventual releases.  It might make you think twice about investing in indie cinema in this day and age.

"Dirty Girl"
Buyer: The Weinstein Company
Critical Response: Mixed to positive
Release Date: 2011
Potential: $5-10 million domestic and a long afterlife on cable and DVD.

"Rabbit Hole"
[Review]
Buyer: Lionsgate    
Critical Response: Very Positive
Release Date: December
Potential: $40 million domestic and key Oscar nominations including best picture.

"Insidious"
Buyer: Sony Worldwide (likely Screen Gems)
Critical Response: Positive
Release Date: 2011
Potential: $40-50 million domestic and a potential new franchise.

"Meek's Cutoff"
Buyer: Oscilloscope Laboratories
Critical Response: Positive
Release Date: First half of 2011
Potential: $1-2 million and lots of best of year lists…but in Dec. 2011 (which makes the case to do a limited release this Dec.).

"Submarine"
[Review]
Buyer: The Weinstein Company
Critical Response: Very Positive
Release Date: 2011
Potential: $5-10 million domestic, a long afterlife on cable and DVD and lots of critical acclaim (which means it's theatrical ceiling will be overhyped to unrealistic levels).

"Everything Must Go"

Buyer: Lionsgate/Roadside
Reviews: Mixed to negative
Release Date: 2011
Potential: $1-2 million and a quick on demand and DVD release.

"Super"
[Review]
Buyer: IFC Films
Critical Response: Mixed
Release Date: 2011
Potential: Egad.  It could go either way.  $300,000 in only a few markets or a surprising $2-3 million gross.  Place your bets.

"Cave of Forgotten Dreams"
Buyer: IFC Films
Critical Response: Mixed
Release Date: 2011
Potential: $800,000.  Even with the 3-D it's gonna be hard to get people to see Werner Herzog explore a cave.

"Beautiful Boy"
Buyer: Anchor Bay
Critical Response: Mixed to Negative
Release Date: 2011
Potential: $1 million and a quick DVD release.

"Barney's Version"

Buyer: Sony Classics
Critical Response: Positive
Release Date: TBD
Potential: $5-7 million depending on awards season love.  Could be more depending on where it lands in the Oscar mix.

"The Conspirator"
[Review]
Buyer: Lionsgate/Roadside
Critical Response: Negative
Release Date: Spring 2011
Potential: In and out.  Will be amazing if it makes $1 million.  This is almost a straight to DVD campaign.

"Peep World"
Buyer: IFC Films
Critical Response: Mixed
Release Date: 2011
Potential: $2-3 million, at best. It has an intriguing ensemble of stars and a dramedy concept, but did anyone see how "The Romantics" did last weekend?  'Nuff said.

Quality flicks still looking for love: Mike Mills' "Beginners," John Carpenter's "The Ward," "Julia's Eyes" and "Tabloid."

[Note: Kevin Spacey's "Casino Jack" and the drama "Sarah's Key" were both acquired before the festival began.]
 

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