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Here's what happened to last year's Sundance fest movies

Mark Caro [The Chicago Tribune]

A whole bunch of movies you've never heard of will be debuting at the Sundance Film Festival, which runs for 10 days in Park City, Utah. A year from now, some of them may be among your favorites for 2007.

Here's how a sampling of last year's Sundance premieres fared:

Little Miss Sunshine. This was the rare Sundance comedy loved equally in and away from the mountain air. After its rousing premiere, Fox Searchlight paid a reported $10.5 million for it (a Sundance record), and it has gone on to gross close to $60 million in North America while racking up so many end-of-the-year kudos that it's a probable Oscar best picture nominee. PopMatters review

An Inconvenient Truth. The Al Gore global warming movie, picked up by Paramount Vantage (nee Classics), became the year's most popular documentary ($23.8 million gross) -- as well as the most honored and talked-about. PopMatters review

The Illusionist. This Edward Norton-starring magician movie was pooh-poohed at its Sundance premiere, and its primary financier, Bob Yari, wound up releasing it under his own banner. Nice move: It became one of the year's sleepers, grossing close to $40 million. PopMatters review

Wordplay. This crossword puzzle documentary was warmly received at the festival and beyond, drumming up a decent $3 million for IFC Films.

Half Nelson. Respected by festivalgoers though ignored by the awards jury, this drama about a crack-addicted schoolteacher grossed a modest $2.7 million for ThinkFilm. But Ryan Gosling's performance has received much end-of-the-year recognition and could be Oscar nominated. PopMatters review

Quinceanera. The festival jury and audience gave top honors to this ensemble drama about the mostly Mexican-American and gay residents of a changing Los Angeles neighborhood. Back in the real world, reviewers liked it while art-house audiences nudged the box office up to $1.7 million.

God Grew Tired of Us. Winning the top jury and audience documentary awards was this emotionally potent depiction of Sudanese "lost boys" who wind up in the U.S. It opens, finally, Friday.

The Science of Sleep. Director Michel Gondry's dreamlike follow-up to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind never broke out, grossing $4.7 million after Warner Independent paid a reported $6 million to $7 million for the rights to English-speaking territories. PopMatters review

Sherrybaby. This drama about a recovering drug addict mother made a measly $199,000 but did earn Maggie Gyllenhaal a Golden Globe best-actress nomination.

A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints. Despite mostly positive reviews, a couple of Sundance awards and a cast topped by Robert Downey Jr. and Rosario Dawson, this New York mean-streets drama barely cracked $500,000 at the box office.

Right at Your Door. This much-hyped, post-9/11, dirty-bombs-in-L.A. thriller didn't kill 'em at Sundance but nonetheless reportedly fetched almost $3 million from Lionsgate. The distributor has yet to give it a U.S. opening date despite releasing it in the UK last September.

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