'There's no question people were cautious and were being more cautious than ever about the marketing of the film,' says the co-head of the Independent Film Group at UTA, Richard Klubeck, who negotiated the $5m sale of worldwide rights on Chuck Palahniuk adaptation Choke to Fox Searchlight.
'They came to each screening more sceptical and were looking for reasons not to buy.'
'You can get stung at Sundance, so you need to be smart about acquisitions and as a result it was a much more careful market on the buying side,' says The Weinstein Company (TWC) co-chairman Harvey Weinstein. 'In terms of quality, the documentaries were brilliant, Roman Polanski: Wanted And Desired being one of many.'
TWC paid approximately $600,000 for international rights to Marina Zenovich's film, which sales chief Glen Basner will introduce to buyers at the EFM in Berlin.
Documentaries dominated the headlines for the first few days and it was not until the fifth day that a slew of deals allowed everybody to breathe a collective sigh of relief.
The flurry of activity was led by Focus Features' $10m play for worldwide rights to the Steve Coogan comedy Hamlet 2, from Andrew Fleming, a late entry into the festival that earned a rapturous reception following its world premiere on January 21.
Shortly after that, Sony Pictures Classics entered the fray when it acquired Courtney Hunt's illegal-immigrant drama Frozen River (which won the dramatic Grand Jury Prize) for low to mid-six figures.
The distributor took out its purse on two more occasions, for Jay and Mark Duplass' The Puffy Chair follow-up Baghead and Jonathan Levine's The Wackness, which was arguably the most popular narrative film of the festival (it won the dramatic audience award).
By the time buyers flew out of Salt Lake City, nearly $30m had changed hands.
'It was an unusual festival in that there were a lot of films we liked and there weren't that many we were passionate about,' says ThinkFilm's head of theatrical Mark Urman.
ThinkFilm had not closed a deal by the end of the festival, but Urman says the company is still pursuing several titles.
Haste does make waste and much of this cautious approach had to do with prices.
'A lot of movies are financed by funds these days and they have requirements that often have nothing to do with the marketplace,' suggests Urman.
'There are price tags placed on films that are based on projections that are often unrelated to what people are prepared to pay for them. There were companies who could afford to pay big money but paid very moderate prices because they took the time to run the numbers and took their time before buying.'
After a protracted chase, Paramount Vantage paid in the region of $1m for worldwide rights, excluding the UK, to Nanette Burstein's much-fancied documentary American Teen. Vantage president Nick Meyer believes the film will travel.
'We got a movie with a great film-maker we want to be in business with, who's told a great story that we believe will resonate with global audiences,' Meyer says.
'We went to Sundance ready to acquire the right movie for us. I wouldn't say we were ultra-cautious. If we love a movie, we have a business that we run here and we have to marry the two, so you look at a movie's potential.'
The Headline deals at Park Bity
uFocus Features paid $10m for worldwide rights to Hamlet 2.
uFox Searchlight paid about $5m for the world, minus several territories, on Choke.
uOverture Films paid $3.5m for North American rights to Henry Poole Is Here.
uParamount Vantage paid $1m for the world, excluding the UK, for American Teen.
uSPC paid low seven figures for North American rights to The Wackness, low six figures for North American rights to Baghead and low-to-mid six figures for US rights to Frozen River.
uLiberation Entertainment and Red Envelope Entertainment paid low-to-mid six figures for Kicking It. Liberation took North American and Central American theatrical, DVD and ancillary rights. Red Envelope took North American DVD rights. Espn bought worldwide TV and digital distribution rights.
uHBO paid $1m for domestic rights to Roman Polanski: Wanted And Desired. TWC paid $600,000 for international rights.