Five Sundance Film Festival Hits Through The Years
January 26, 2013 7:08 AM EST
Over the years, the Sundance Film Festival has featured films that have gone on to be both box office hits and cult phenomenons.
Films like "Memento" and "Saw" caused a stir at the annual event and went on to make a major impact on the film industry. Others, such as "Little Miss Sunshine" and "Precious," were poised for Oscar glory.
Here are five of the most successful films that premiered at Sundance.
Quentin Tarantino's debut feature, "Reservoir Dogs," took the festival by storm in 1992. Though the film, which stars Harvey Keitel and Tim Roth, went on to gross a modest $2 million at the box office, it become one of the most talked-about films of the '90s and established Tarantino as one of the most exciting new directors in the film industry.
Following the film's premiere at the festival, Jami Bernard of the Daily News likened the audience's reaction to the crime drama to that of "The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station," the 1895 silent film that featured a train coming toward the audience that set off panic.
"People were not ready for it," she said.
Kevin Smith's first feature film, "Clerks," was introduced to audiences during the 1994 Sundance Film Festival. The black-and-white indie comedy earned Smith the festival's Filmmaker's Trophy and established him as one of the most promising new directors in Hollywood -- quite an achievement for a film set almost entirely in a convenience store.
According to Indie Wire, Smith's entertaining personality came through during the film's Q&As and earned him a fan base. Among those fans was mega producer Harvey Weinstein, who acquired the film for Miramax.
The film went on to earn $3 million at the box office (almost triple its budget) and has been referred to as the "filmic equivalent of a garage band."
'The Usual Suspects'
Before Bryan Singer helmed box office sensations like "X-Men," he was raking up accolades at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival. That year, Singer debuted "The Usual Suspects."
It's impressive ensemble cast, which includes the likes of Kevin Spacey and Gabriel Byrne, and a jaw-dropping twist ending made the dark comedy one of the most talked-about films of the '90s. Spacey and screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie went on to earn Oscars for the heist film, while then-newcomer Benicio del Toro caught the attention of audiences.
The high school-set "Napoleon Dynamite," starring Jon Heder, made its debt as part of Sundance's 2004 lineup.
The low-budget comedy scored major distribution deals with Fox Searchlight Pictures and Paramount Pictures at the festival and eventually earned $44 million at the box office.
The quotable film, directed by Jared Hess, also went on to top the DVD sales charts and acquired a cult following.
In 2010, Entertainment Weekly listed Napoleon as one of the 100 Greatest Characters in the Last 20 Years.
'The Blair Witch Project'
Not only is "The Blair Witch Project" one of the most financially successful films to come out of Sundance, it's also one of the most profitable movies ever released. It didn't hurt that filmmakers Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez successfully convinced audiences at the festival that the film was a compilation of real footage.
Following its debut at the festival in 1999, the film earned a $1 million distribution deal with Artisan.
One of the first found-footage horror flicks, "The Blair Witch Project," which was made for a reported $35,000, went on to gross $140 million at the box office.
The film is considered one of the most Influential Sundance Movies.
Of course, for every "Sex, Lies and Videotape," there are a few films like "Happy, Texas" that shine at the festival but fail to find an audience. Films like "Buried," "Grace is Gone" and "Hamlet 2" shined following their Park City debut but tanked at the box office.
So far, Sundance 2013 has seen the debut of a number of promising films. The comedy "The Way, Way Back," starring Toni Collette and Steve Carell, has been making waves, as has the drama "Mud" starring Matthew McConaughey.
Another breakout project is the riveting drama "Fruitvale," based on the true story of the death of Oscar Grant, who was shot by a police officer on New Year's Day in 2009. The film has already sparked Oscar talk for stars Michael B. Jordan and Octavia Spencer.
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