As the economy takes its toll on Holly­wood, the Sundance Film Festival has also felt the sting, said Bob Tourtellotte in Reuters. The last 12 months have seen the closure of several studios’ independent film divisions, and many favorites from last year’s fest failed to perform at the box office. Due to the “financial doom and gloom,” many companies that usually set up shop during the 10-day event in Park City, Utah, pulled out entirely. Local business was down 30 percent to 40 percent, and “hotel bookings were down 12 percent.” So aspiring filmmakers last week arrived for the festival’s 25th edition with modest expectations.

Even those expectations were disappointed, said Ty Burr in The Boston Globe. Since the studios had less money to spend, few films came out of the festival with a surefire chance of being hits. One was Brooklyn’s Finest, a cop drama directed by Training Day’s Antoine Fuqua and starring Richard Gere and Don Cheadle. Several films secured smaller distribution deals than they would have in the past, including An Education, a coming-of-age drama adapted by Nick Hornby and starring Peter Sarsgaard. Many other films won’t open in theaters at all; instead they’ll find distribution on cable, the Internet, or video-on-demand services. So filmmakers with fantasies of being signed by a big-time studio were disappointed. But “if you cherished the small, there were rewards.”

In that sense, this Sundance was everything the festival should be, said Owen Gleiberman in Entertainment Weekly. Quieter and less crowded, the festival felt not only “more serene and inviting”
but more like it did a decade ago, when the glitz was less important and the ­movies themselves were “front and ­center.” Even with an air of economic ­caution hovering over the world of independent film, Sundance’s mission remains the same: “Not just giving birth to individual films, but giving rise to the vast, unpredictable careers that those movies then launch.” Keep an eye on directors Lee Daniels (Push) and Robert Siegel (Big Fan), whose films are bound to make news in the years to come.