Amazon writes Sundance's first big check for Mindy Kaling movie

Amazon Studios, one of the few deep-pocketed studios led by a woman, seals a reported $13 million deal for Late Night, a movie written and directed by women.

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Mindy Kaling wrote and stars in Late Night, directed by Nisha Ganatra

Emily Aragones

In the first major sale of the Sundance Film Festival, Amazon's Hollywood arm has won the rights to stream -- and likely screen -- the Mindy Kaling comedy Late Night in the US this year. 

"It seems fitting that this film written by, directed by and focused on women will be shared with the world by a studio that is anchored by another incredible female," Kaling said Sunday in a statement. "Also, I have spent a fortune on Amazon, so it's nice to see them reciprocate."

Amazon Studios is run by Jennifer Salke, a veteran television executive who shepherded hits at NBC such as This is Us. 

At a reported $13 million, it isn't quite the biggest Sundance deal ever. In 2016, the studio Fox Searchlight agreed to a record high $17.5 million for the rights to slave rebellion drama The Birth of a Nation, which subsequently flopped. But it tops Amazon Studio's own $12 million deal for The Big Sick that same year, and Netflix's $12.5 million agreement for Mudbound last year. 

For more than three decades, the movie industry has come to Park City, Utah, to tromp from one snow-covered cinema to the next, hunting for independent film's shiniest gems. Thanks to online video companies' swelling budgets, Netflix, Amazon and other companies have become some of the festival's most aggressive bidders in recent years, hoping to scoop up next year's Oscars catnip or a prestige-building hit.

Late Night, which stars Kaling as a young comedy writer hired to diversify the all-male writers' room of a late-night talk show, also stars Emma Thompson and John Lithgow. Kaling wrote and produced the film, which Nisha Ganatra directed. 

Salke called the film an "incisive workplace comedy" that "reinvents tropes about women." 

"We too rarely get to see female characters this complex, flawed, and unapologetically ambitious," Salke said in a statement Sunday. 

Originally published Jan. 26 at 2:04 p.m. PT. 
Updated on Jan. 27 at 10:15 a.m. PT: With comments from Kaling and Amazon Studios. 

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